Our visitors today know that their work is cut out to avoid relegation. Leicester City are a club with a fine history and a reputation for playing good football, particularly since the Jimmy Bloomfield era.
Dave Bassett, who has the difficult task of keeping them afloat, was at our game against Bolton on Tuesday night and I also had an opportunity to speak with him at Jimmy Sirrell’s 80th birthday party last Thursday evening in Nottingham. It was a super occasion with many managers and players past and present in attendance.
Dave is optimistic that his players have responded to his introduction and they were desperately unlucky last Saturday against Chelsea — so an interesting game will be focussed here this afternoon.
We were pleased that, despite the continuing wet weather, we had a crowd over 27,000, with few visiting supporters, for the re-arranged Bolton Cup tie on Tuesday. I have rarely seen a goalkeeper make so many fine last-ditch stops.
Jussi Jaaskelainen was in superb form and prevented a real hiding. This was the third time — League Cup, FA Cup and Youth Cup — that we defeated Bolton in knockout competition this season.
Another bonus was that we didn’t receive any bookings in this game. Glenn made team changes and the performance was a continuation of the smooth passing at Derby the previous Saturday but this time we got some good goal attempts as an end product.
Sven Goran Eriksson was an interested spectator and, later today, we will know if Darren Anderton, and possibly Ledley King, have come back into focus for his England group when they play Holland this week in a friendly. There are some interesting games on Wednesday evening, not least of all Russia and the Republic of Ireland and the Argentinian players at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, a game for which Simon Davies has deservedly been selected.
I do not believe that friendly games of this type, in a midweek when players could do with a rest, are beneficial to any national manager. Just consider the England team where at least eight players who might have been considered for competitive international football when fit or free of suspension, were unavailable.
It was good to see Steffen Freund smiling in the treatment room the other day and offering to attend, wherever possible, functions and prize givings etc whilst he is out of action.
Steffen has been a breath of fresh air this season as he commandeered the holding midfield slot but it has been good to see Tim Sherwood take over that mantle so positively in recent games.
Tim is an experienced campaigner and one of only two players at our club along with Teddy Sheringham, to have a League Championship medal under his belt. Hopefully he will also have a League Cup winners’ medal in two weeks time. Chris Armstrong, another long term casualty, should be playing soon. He has remained positive despite being an onlooker for 12 months.
Supporters may have read of a transfer of a young forward from Wimbledon Football Club called Lionel Morgan. Unfortunately, as I write these notes, the transfer is on hold due to some internal discussions going on at the South London club.
They’ve had much to cope with recently with their Milton Keynes saga and everyone is aware that they are a club fighting the tide as they have many players coming out of contract at the end of the season and are still playing in front of very poor crowds at Selhurst Park.
However, I am hoping that we will be able to succeed in this transfer. We are still actively looking at decent young talent to supplement our existing squad.
Recently I was on a further scouting look at a couple of lower league young players when I had a delightful afternoon sitting next to referee’s assessor Keith Hackett who was a fine referee in his time.
It was so interesting being coached by Keith as the game progressed on the referee’s positioning. He made the point that in the modern game, the positioning of the referee so that he can get from one end of the field to the other is absolutely vital, particularly in the Premiership because of the pace of the game. When teams counter attack, as many do so quickly, the referee can be put under a terrific physical strain to get near the centre of play.
As a consequence of being coached by Keith all afternoon he has invited me, as the longest serving member of the League Managers’ Association, to address a meeting of Premiership referees! I shall take my little black book!
The next couple of weeks are going to be vitally important and we appreciate the continuing support. Cup progress is exciting and important for the Club but we all know that it would be a mark of our progress to gain consistency and improve our current league position.
Enjoy the game.
All the staff who travelled to Leeds enjoyed our excellent, well-earned victory in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday night. The 1-0 win was the third consecutive success away from home this season adding to the scalps of Walsall and Bolton. The one-goal margin hardly reflected the superior play of the Tottenham boys and the winning goal was scored by Jamie Slabber and made by Nicky Wettner, two players who will both be able to play next season in this competition. Congratulations to all the staff in our Academy and of course the players. Their next opponents will be Blackburn Rovers at Tottenham at a date to be announced. In the last round, Blackburn defeated Arsenal 2-0.
D. J. Pleat