Sunday, 31 July 2011

Roaring the Foxes to victory: Reflections on pre-season

Despite the fact that Leicester City have created a new bar at which to aim in terms of Championship signings, Los Blancos remain the richest and most powerful football club on Earth, on a par with those at the very top of world football. The Foxes, remember, are still a second-tier outfit.

Yet the might of Real Madrid failed to embarrass Sven Goran Eriksson’s Foxes: that will be something the Swede should find cheering.

This friendly fixture highlighted just how far the football club has come since they won just one of their first nine games last term. Gaining just five points in the first two months of the season, Leicester sat bottom of the league and Paulo Sousa was sacked to make way for Eriksson and what has become a Thai revolution.

Canny loan signings by Eriksson saw him build a team capable of reaching the play-offs, only to miss-out following a poor run of form towards the end of the season. Loan signings returning to their parent clubs left Eriksson with a weak squad and he has done fantastically well, working with Chairman Vichai and Vice-Chairman Aiyawatt Raksriaksorn to tempt Premier League stars to the East Midlands.

It has been an exciting pre-season for Foxes fans who last year had to endure trips to Rotherham, Oxford and Peterborough, with only a visit of Sunderland and a short tour of Slovenia (resulting in the capture of Leon Crncic - remember him?) providing any real interest.

Compare that with this summer, which has seen low-key fixtures against Oadby and Kettering complemented by two tournaments against top sides in Sweden and Austria, culminating in a proper glamour friendly against the biggest side of them all. This pre-season has seen the fledgling Leicester City squad face more competition and challenge than at any point in the club’s history: that can only reflect better in increasing the players’ performance and thus results, particularly in the early part of the season.

The Thai owners have, meanwhile, made the football club an appealing one to quality players and big clubs, in turn enhancing the opportunity for the global sale of merchandise and television rights that came to a head against Los Blancos yesterday.

Those benefits off-the-field, in making a return on the initial investment made by King Power, yield their own returns on the pitch. Greater shirt sales mean more money the club generates internally to spend on better players. We have already seen the effects of this with an improved Fanstore and the introduction of Leicester City concessions in airports and shopping malls across Thailand that will boost income and quickly see the owners make a return on their investment.

Finally, to the fans. That so many visited the King Power Stadium yesterday is a credit to the optimism that surrounds the football club, even if some may have only attended to catch a glimpse from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. Many, however, will have taken the opportunity to see Real Madrid as an excuse to introduce those new to the club, young and old, to the delights of following Leicester City. Whatever their excuse to visit Filbert Way, to see her full to capacity for the first time since 2003 and set a new record attendance was a glorious sight.

With some thirty-odd thousands fanatics and a solid pre-season behind them (that, remember, has seen only narrow defeats to two of the best sides in Europe), there is no doubt that this squad has the ability, preparation and backing to go all the way.

With one week to go until Leicester City take their first steps into the new campaign, it’s time for Foxes fans new and old across the world to get behind their team, support the club into a new era and give Eriksson, the owners and the players their biggest backing to roar them to victory and into the Premier League.
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