The football season is over, players have gone on holiday and the tedium of transfer rumours have officially started, if not prematurely, with the transfer window not actually until July 1st. So, what to do until August when it all kicks off again? Spend time with loved ones? Take up a new hobby? Me and Mat – who is the subject of this very interview – were going to take up fencing over the summer, but that idea seems to have fallen by the wayside. Instead, maybe you could sort out that home improvement that you’ve been needing to finish, but haven’t had the time to do so?
Of course, the answer to the above questions is a resounding “no.” Now that the 2012/13 season has passed and we’ve lived and breathed its every emotion, it is time to review what happened and chew on every little incident from every team. Now, I’m only one man, I can’t talk about every team as that would be impossible. Instead, for the next month, we shall be hosting fan reviews on here, where we interview a willing volunteer who answers our questions about their team. Fifth in line to be interviewed, is Mat Batchelor, a Leicester City supporter and co-owner of this very blog, who will be talking about “that” match against Watford, Anthony Knockaert’s goal against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground, Lloyd Dyer’s six pack and a lot, lot more. This is what Mat had to say:
1) On a scale of farce to ten, how has this season ranked for you?
I would have to say 6. Yet again Leicester City failed to achieve their target of promotion. Despite some very memorable moments (mentioned below), I don’t think these detract from the fact the club is now many more millions of pounds in debt and in my eyes no further on as a team. I’m not saying the team is “that bad” but I don’t see where that investment has gone? Players’ wages I guess…
2) On paper, Leicester had maybe the most potent strike force in the league last season. David Nugent is a classy player as we’ve seen and Chris Wood looked sensational when he arrived in January. Where have things faltered?
Nugent is an excellent player and in my opinion Premier League quality when given the correct service. I think this was lacking towards the end of the season possibly explaining his ‘dry spell’. Chris Wood was acquired in order to add something different to what Vardy / Waghorn offered. He was on fire after his first few games and even scored on his debut. Sadly, he, along with the rest of the team lost form at the wrong time. Towards the end of the season he looked lethargic and half the player that we signed in January. That said, he has only been with the club for a few months, so I am hopeful he can start the 2013/14 campaign all guns blazing!
3) Jamie Vardy, Marko Futacs and Jermaine Beckford all look likely to leave this season. Which strikers would you look at not to just improve the strike force superficially, but for reasons relating to squad depth as well?
The three strikers mentioned below have one thing in common. At this level they aren’t proven goal scorers. Beckford is perhaps the only exception to this, given that his goal tally in his Premier League campaign with Everton reached double figures. In my opinion we need a striker that has bite and tenacity. Billy Sharp is a personal favourite of mine. Give him the correct service and he will score goals.
4) … and where else would you strengthen the squad?
Everywhere! No, in all seriousness I think we certainly need another solid centre back, especially now ST Ledger will be departing the King Power in the summer. I also think we need a left back as soon as possible. How Paul Konchesky manages to hold down a first team place is beyond me. I might need to get Prof Brian Cox on the case to explain this one to me. I love Brian. I also think we need a forward thinking midfielder, someone who can grab the game by the scruff of the neck and take it to the opposition. Someone like Neil Danns would do nicely! Oh wait…
5) Nigel Pearson is in his second spell at Leicester. After failing to get promotion, should he stay or should he go?
This is indeed Nigel’s second spell with Leicester. I think he deserves more time, at the very least 15 games. While we didn’t set the league on fire last season we did finish in the top 6, albeit in an unconventional manner. At times we played some very nice football and with one or two signings and we shouldn’t be too far away!
6) If you could combine the best components of each player at Leicester to turn them into a super player, what would you pick? You’re allowed two components per player, so for example: Nugent’s finishing, Knockaert’s technical ability, Wes Morgan’s forehead, Kasper Schmeichel’s massive hands and so on.
My ‘Leicester City Super Player’ would consist of Andy King’s footballing brain, Ben Marshall’s kicking ability, Wes Morgan’s strength, Jeff Schlupp’s speed, David Nugent’s goal scoring ability, Knockaert’s trickery and Lloyd Dyer’s 6 pack.
7) Anthony Knockaert has enjoyed a good start to life in England, even drawing admiring eyes from clubs in the Premier League. With a bit more refinement, he could be one to build a team around. His end to the season in the play-offs visibly gutted him. How important is it that the manager keeps faith with him, and do you see Leicester eventually playing to his needs? Is he that good?
Anthony Knockaert is without doubt the most exciting player to join Leicester City in many years. He gets the ball out wide and had one thing in mind, dribble and run forward. It is so refreshing to see someone of his ilk at the King Power Stadium. I have been watching so-called “wingers” cut inside or turn back on themselves for too long and not just for Leicester City, I can’t help but find it immensely frustrating! Theo Walcott’s performance against Brazil recently springs to mind.
Knockaert has bags of technical ability that’s for sure, but he certainly knows how good he is. He is cocky and arrogant but loveable all the same. His only downfall is that he does lack pace and relies solely on his quick feet and trickery to beat players. I think this is why he isn’t playing in the Premier League (yet). As a measure of his ability, I couldn’t see him being poached by a top 6 Premier League club but I could definitely see a Premier League club perhaps a Sunderland or Villa making a cheeky offer.
8) It may still be painful, but can you describe the emotions of those last minutes against Watford? Who were you with, where were you, what was the atmosphere like where you were?
The last few minutes at Watford were the strangest in my time supporting Leicester City. I would start by saying that on the night Watford were the better side and deserved to go through. However, when we were presented with a penalty in injury time, I like every other Leicester fan went into meltdown, complete pandemonium. We were one kick away from reaching Wembley, where we would of course slaughter either Palace or Brighton 7-0 and complete our return to the Premier League. How wrong we were, it took under a minute for Knockaert to miss the penalty and for Watford to score. Never have I felt an emotional swing like that one. Fortunately I couldn’t get a ticket and had to watch the game on T.V. with my family. I had to go for a long walk and practice deep breathing exercises. It’s unbelievable to think that there is so much emotion involved in a stupid game of football. I guess this is why we all love the beautiful game so much!
9) On a happier note, what was your best moment of the season?
The best moment of the season without doubt was Anthony Knockaert’s winning goal against local rivals Nottingham Forest on the last game of the season. I genuinely have goosebumps writing this as I reflect on that moment. Both teams had to win to secure a place in the play-offs which made it feel so much more special.
It had been 20+ years since Leicester beat Forest in their back yard. To do so under the circumstances made it very special indeed. A moment I will look back on in 20 years’ time and remember with great delight. Thank you Anthony!
Onward and upward for 2013/14 – “When you’re smiling…”