Friday, 30 August 2013

Foxes Bag Hammond in Shock Transfer Move

Leicester City have announced this evening the arrival from Southampton, midfielder Dean Hammond for an undisclosed fee on a two-year contract.

The unveiling of Hammond as a Leicester City player has come as a shock to many Foxes supporters, who believed there were no plans for Nigel Pearson to add to his squad. The City manager has been seen to limit the number of signings as he looks to limit the wage bill following the introduction of the Financial Fair Play scheme last season.

Indeed, Hammond becomes only the second new face at the King Power Stadium this summer, with Zoumana Bakayogo the only other new recruit at the Foxes during this transfer window. Hammond is nonetheless a welcome addition to the youthful City midfield, the 30-year-old offering promotion experience following his stint with the Saints.

"We're really pleased to be able to add a player of Dean's quality and experience to the squad," said Pearson, "As well as having played a considerable number of games in his career, he also arrives with promotion credentials and will be a very positive influence on the squad both on and off the pitch."

Hammond will wear the number seven shirt following the departure of Ben Marshall to Blackburn Rovers during the week.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Nigel Pearson has the right ideas

Nigel Pearson's Foxes have made a very solid start to the new season and have conceded just one goal so far in what many anticipated to be a rather tricky opening month of league fixtures.

Leicester City have made their best start at this level in sixteen years. Not since the Premier League days, under Martin O'Neill, have the Foxes made such an audacious start. That season, 1997, saw City's first forays into European competition since the 1960s and the beginning of one of the most celebrated periods in the club's history.

Let's not get carried-away on this record - only three league games have gone and the stories of the new football term are yet to begin unfolding, after all - but Pearson has made small alterations that yield much promise for what is to come.

The manager used pre-season not as a cheap goal-scoring exercise but a practice in fitness and in new ideas, not least the changes in formation that have seen Leicester turn from a team without a 'Plan-B' into one with not just one, but two alternatives to Pearson's favoured 4-4-2 formation.

Whilst he has dallied with the idea of a 4-3-3 formation in previous years, this is the first time we have seen Leicester under Pearson field the 3-5-2 so favoured by O'Neill over a decade ago, the formation that propelled City to so much success under the stewardship of the Ulsterman.

It is pleasing to see that, without changes in personnel, Pearson and his backroom team have not rested on their laurels. The team have clearly been put to work in the off-season to adapt to the new strategies and it has paid-off on the pitch. Two away wins from two, plus a goalless draw at home to the always-fancied Leeds United, is proof enough that City have started this season on the right foot.

Whilst the 3-5-2 is not to the pleasing of all - not least the ousted Anthony Knockaert, an unfortunate casualty as City look to full-backs, not wingers - it has allowed the team's best players to flourish. Richie de Laet is the prime example, his pacey wing-play now unburdened from defensive duties to trouble the opposition defences much more readily. It allows the Foxes a greater width in their play and tightens an often criticised midfield, allowing Andy King more freedom to push forward and support the front duo.

Meanwhile, a different flavour of 4-3-3 as tried-out against Derby County at the weekend allowed three orthodox strikers the opportunity to bite into the game, with Jamie Vardy the most reinvigorated character of this still-emerging season. His promising pre-season has carried-through to the new league campaign and he was unlucky to be unable to claim the winning goal against the Rams on Saturday afternoon.

Whatever the fans' opinions of these new systems, one thing cannot be denied: the one-dimensional nature of last year's Leicester City, found out in January of last season and undone to such damaging effect in February and March, has been addressed and improved. The Foxes have three dimensions after all.

The players will be cheered that they will have new opportunities and be bhoyed by gaining such a promising start to the season. That, in turn will have pleased the manager and his team.

And that should please the Blue Army, too. After all, they have often been vocal in their criticisms of Pearson's tactics but he has answered those calls for new ideas and for that Leicester's supporters should be grateful.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Conclusions from the Summer That Wasn't

It has been a rather slow summer for the Foxes' faithful this time around, with next to no news emanating from the King Power Stadium since that gut-wrenching season finale at Vicarage Road in mid-May.

Only the signature of unlikely man Zoumana Bakayogo on a free from Tranmere Rovers has sated the appetite of the hungry Blue Army, as Nigel Pearson has adjusted to a rein-tightening role following the introduction of the new Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. Indeed, it has been the departure gate that has made the news, with Jermaine Beckford's hefty salary finally removed from the wage bill. He joined Bolton Wanderers and Leicester are likely to have made a heavy loss on the £2 million-plus paid to Everton by Sven Goran Eriksson two summers ago.

And how different it was back then. Not only was Eriksson's summer spending spree, lending a now-outmoded moniker 'Big Spending Leicester' to the club, a complete contrast in terms of the shift in personnel, it was also different in terms of the optimism amongst the City fans. With a huge list of big names arriving on wages to match, and an entertaining friendly against Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid Galacticos the climax to pre-season festivities, Leicester were favourites for promotion and riding the crest of a wave. How soon that was to be undone by woeful performances and dire results, Eriksson sacked by October and Nigel Pearson reinstated a fortnight later to steady the ship.

Today, criticisms of Pearson can be heard on the terraces and read about on forums, not least after yesterday's friendly defeat at Northampton Town. What many Leicester City fans seem unable to appreciate is the unimportance of results in pre-season and the underdog reputation of their club: the Foxes are never better than when they are unfancied at the start of the year. Those quiet mid-table predictions will do just fine if it hampers the rampant optimism and expectation of the 'favourites' tag.

Quietly is how Leicester do it best. Pearson assembled a squad of young, talented and dedicated players last season and they have gelled to form, on their day, one of the most formidable sides in the Championship. They ran out of steam last year, undone by the hype and praise which comes from topping the table and only clinching a play-off spot on the last day of term, in one of those wonderful moments that football fans live for. That they came within one kick and twenty seconds of a Wembley play-off final - for the second time under Pearson's stewardship, lest we forget - is something the Blue Army should be grateful for. Blaming Pearson - and calling for his head in pre-season - is hardly logical or worthwhile.

That is why I have bought my season ticket for next year and why I am quietly hopeful of more good things to come. Pearson has used those pre-season friendlies to apply new ideas from the training ground and improve fitness across the squad. He has introduced a new formation to give Leicester a plan 'B' and allowed players to challenge themselves against lower opponents in order to increase their understanding of the game. Five young strikers found the net at some point, whilst others failed to do so against the combined €100 million-plus of Monaco: so what? Every player has received valuable game-time in the build-up to what will be another roller-coaster of a season.

And if - if - City scrape into the play-offs again, let's just hope it'll be third-time lucky for Pearson's Foxes. 

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Important Travel Information for Supporters

Leicester City Football Club has issued an important statement regarding travel to the King Power Stadium for fixtures during the first half of the 2013/14 Sky Bet Football League Championship season.

Due to roadworks on two arterial routes into the city centre, the club have advised supporters to use public transport and allow extra time for their journeys to fixtures at the King Power Stadium. Some of the works will continue into the New Year.

The roadworks are comprised of three schemes which will see Narborough Road, Aylestone Road and the M1/M69 interchange at Junction 21 all affected until at least November this year. Details of the works affecting Foxes' fans follow the summary map below.

At Junction 21, the Highways Agency will be closing lanes and slip roads at different times to add additional capacity for traffic entering and leaving Leicester. Their work should be completed by the end of October.

At the Asda Island, the roundabout which forms the congested junction for traffic leaving the motorway to join the A5460 Narborough Road into the city centre, plus traffic bound for Fosse Park and the south of the county, Leicestershire County Council are making safety improvements to see additional lanes for city-bound traffic, new traffic signals at Fosse Park Avenue, and improved access to the Narborough Road South West Service Road. Any journey through the area will be subject to delays until at least the end of November, with work not expected to be completed until January 2014.

Finally, the creation of a 'bus corridor' on the A426 has already seen closures to Lutterworth Road at its junction with Soar Valley Way and rolling closures are ongoing until the end of October. There is a signed diversion along the outer ring road to Saffron Lane, but on match days the delays are anticipated to be severe. Ironically, bus services are also affected by this work: see the relevant bus operators' websites for details of changes to your usual route.

To compound the misery of matchday motorists, a new residents-only parking scheme has been set-up in the area between Narborough Road and Fosse Road North, near the junctions with Upperton Road, and the car park on the old Filbert Street ground has been deemed in contradiction of planning law and has been closed.

For more information on the closures, and to find out how to get to the King Power Stadium, see our Stadium page which has advice and plans for home and away supporters.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Exclusive car spotted in King Power Stadium car park

A highly exclusive, limited edition car has been spotted in the car park at the King Power Stadium.

The 500bhp Benarrow PB5 car - registered as 37 BEN with a list price of €270,000 - has been previously spotted in Monaco and was parked amongst the players' cars during Leicester City's home fixture against Sheffield Wednesday.

The mystery of who the Audi-based car belongs to is yet to be solved, but whoever owns the car is part of a highly exclusive club: only three of the German-engineered vehicles have been produced.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Club owners buy King Power Stadium

Leicester City's Thai owners have further increased their stakeholding in the football club with news today that they have purchased the King Power Stadium.

With their name above the door on an existing sponsorship deal and the majority shareholding of the club, the Srivaddhanaprabha family have furthered their commitment to the club with a £17 million investment to purchase the remainder of the stadium from Teachers, an American pension fund who acquired the ground when the club entered administration in 2003.

The stadium deal, which sees ownership transfer not to the football club but to King Power Holdings, frees £1.5 million in annual rental that the Foxes were paying to Teachers and makes the King Power group and their owners the sole creditors of the club.

It is unknown how much the Srivaddhanaprabhas have invested in the club and how much they have offered as loans.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

City loan for Spurs youngster Kane

Leicester City have secured the services of Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane, on loan until the end if the season.

The 19-year-old, whose season loan deal was cancelled by loaning club Norwich City last month, has previously seen success in the Championship. He scored nine goals during a stay in Millwall last year.

Leicester manager Nigel Pearson is delighted to have secured the services of the England youngster.

"He's a player we know quite a lot about and I am delighted," he told the BBC, "He can play as wide striker or as a central striker. He is a decent size as well and gives us another option in forward positions.

"If you are going to bring players in on loan they have to have a hunger for success and I am confident we have another player coming into our ranks who will bring a lot of positive qualities to the squad.

"Hopefully he will bring goals and a fresh impetus. It keeps the competition really keen."