There is nothing like a cup defeat to a lower league side to make you sit back and have a moment or two reflecting on your club. So that’s where I found myself last week, after losing in the Capital One Cup to Hull City, having that said reflective moment.
Ten changes to a side that beat Crystal Palace just three days before, the second string was put out as they say. But what a second string it was. With the exceptions of youth players Chilwell and Dodoo there were some big and regular names in the starting line up. and let’s not forget up to the Hull game Dodoo was the competition’s top scorer.
Leicester started with the likes of Schwarzer in goal. Old or experienced, you choose. In defence we had De Laet, who up to recently was a first-team regular, and Benaloune, who has had Serie A experience in Italy. In midfield King started, a Wales International as well as a regular first teamer, alongside Swiss international captain Inler, while up front we had two internationals in Okazaki and Kramaric.
When can any Leicester City fan remember when we had a ‘second string’ full of experience and internationals like that?
And that’s my point, Leicester City have evolved. If you are of a certain age, as I myself am, you can remember the dark ages. Despite City being the only professional club in the county of Leicestershire, support wise we have never been regarded as a ‘big’ club.
For years we had to survive by selling our best players. We had a very good youth set-up at the club along with a good scouting system, and you could argue we still do. This would bring through and find good young prospects that after a few years the club would have to sell just to keep us where we were.
We maybe could have survived without having to sell, but certainly not at the, as was then, first and second division level. More than one manager, on leaving the club, would bemoan the lack of spending power he had whilst being in the hot seat.
Lineker, Smith, Heskey, McCallister, Joachim, Draper – just a few of the names from the past sold to keep the club going. Not through choice but because a so called bigger club came in with an offer we couldn’t refuse.
But times they are a changing. Yes we had money when Mandaric bought us, and to be fair to Milan he wasn’t afraid to splash the cash. On his arrival we suddenly stopped buying in Aldi, and although we couldn’t yet afford Marks & Spencer or Harrods the odd trip to Sainsbury’s wasn’t out of the question.
But when Mandaric sold and Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his King Power Company bought us things suddenly changed. At last Leicester City had billionaire owners. Maybe not in the Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City or Roman Abramovich at Chelsea league but we were defiantly able to play with the big boys now.
Sensible (at times) management both board and playing wise saw us rise to the Premier League and the chequebooks were opened. I can remember when we got promoted to the Premier League for the first time under Brian Little back in 1994 and we bought Mark Draper for £1m, our one and only ‘big ‘purchase’. Now we’re not even looking at players under a couple of million pounds.
Ulloa, Kramaric. Benaloune, Kante, Okazaki, Inler all in the million pound plus gang.
However, the players catching other teams’ eyes are Vardy and Mahrez. Vardy was the most expensive non-league player when we signed him for £1m from Fleetwood Town, while Mahrez cost a fraction of that from French side Le Harve. But they are now worth a lot more than that should Leicester ‘choose’ to sell them.
But there is the key word, choose! Because we don’t have or need to sell our top players any more. At the Tottenham Hotspur game earlier in the season we had £11m worth of talent just sat on the bench. Does that sound like a club that needs to sell to survive?
Both players are on long contracts at the club, Vardy signing a new four-year deal just last summer, and whilst contracts are not worth the paper they are written on these days they do add value to the player if they are sold.
It may be that both these players want to leave, and if as reported Real Madrid really do want Vardy, he personally would find that hard to turn down.
But barring a ‘Gareth Bale’ type offer, Leicester, these days, can afford to say “no, we are not selling”.
It’s a nice feeling.