Tag Archives: Leicester City

Premier League Files: Andy Impey

Premier League Career: Queens Park Rangers (1992-1996), West Ham United (1997-1998), Leicester City (1998-2002, 2003-2004)

Andy Impey made 289 appearances during a Premier League career that ultimately spanned 10 seasons. He scored 12 times in the top-flight, playing for London clubs Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United, before finishing his Premier League days with Leicester City in 2004.

Impey made his professional debut for Queens Park Rangers in 1991 and would play for the Hoops for six seasons. He was an auxiliary player who could play either at left-back or on the left-hand side of midfield. Impey’s consistency was shown by his teammates who voted him as the club’s Player of the Season in three consecutive seasons (1993, 1994 & 1995).

Impey stayed with QPR after their relegation from the Premier League in 1996 but he would eventually cut his ties with the club and joined West Ham United in 1997. Harry Redknapp was a fan of Impey’s and was very annoyed midway through the 1998-1999 season when he was sold to Leicester City behind the manager’s back.

Impey was part of Martin O’Neill’s squad that won the League Cup in 2000 and he appeared as a substitute in the final against Tranmere Rovers. Whilst he made over 100 appearances for the Foxes, Andy never quite found the form he demonstrated when he was at QPR. His final Premier League appearance was in February 2004 when Leicester lost 3-1 to Newcastle United at St James’ Park.

Shortly afterwards, he moved to Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest on-loan and the move became permanent in the summer of 2004. He finished his playing days with Millwall and Coventry City before calling time on his playing career in 2006.

In 2015, he rejoined Queens Park Rangers as an academy coach.

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The Managers: Micky Adams

Premier League Clubs Managed: Leicester City (2002, 2003-2004)

In a 19-year professional playing career, Micky Adams made 438 league appearances and experienced the Premier League as a player with Southampton. He made the step into management with Fulham in 1996 and has earned four promotions during his career. Unfortunately, his only full season in the Premier League as a boss ended with Leicester City suffering relegation in 2003-2004.

A Premier League player

Raised from the steel city of Sheffield, Adams made his playing breakthrough with Gillingham in 1978. He came through the playing ranks at the same time as fellow Premier League manager of the future, Steve Bruce and made nearly 100 appearances for the Gills before moving into the top-flight of the Football League, joining Coventry City in 1983. Again, he featured almost 100 times for the Sky Blues but he wasn’t well-appreciated by the supporters or the coaching staff and eventually moved to Leeds United in 1987. He left Coventry before their FA Cup final victory and it was actually the Midlands side that ended Leeds’ hopes of the famous trophy that season in the semi-final stage.

His most productive league spell of his playing days came at Southampton. Operating as a full-back, he joined the Saints for £250,000 in March 1989. It took him 18 months to earn himself a regular place in the team at The Dell. In the inaugural season of the Premier League, he played in 38 of the club’s 42 matches but is in the record books of the league for the wrong reasons. For dissent, he was given the red card in Southampton’s second match of the season against Queens Park Rangers. This meant he became the first-ever player in the Premier League to receive a red card.

His career in the top-flight ended when Alan Ball replaced Ian Branfoot as Southampton manager in January 1994. Ball elected to start Simon Charlton ahead of Adams and he was shipped out on-loan to Stoke City in March. Fulham signed him on a free transfer in the summer of 1994, reuniting him with Branfoot who would help Adams out with his first steps into coaching. However, it would be a real baptism of fire in which he would get the Fulham job as a manager.

91st out of 92

When Branfoot stepped down in March 1996, Fulham were sitting 91st out of 92 clubs in the top four divisions of English football. Relegation to the non-league looked like a distinct possibility so it was to be a real test of Micky’s managerial credentials straightaway.

He kept them up and in the following season, guided the Cottagers back to Division Two as they finished runners-up in the Third Division. His work won him Manager of the Season honours with limited resources to work on in west London.

In September 1997, his reward for starting Fulham’s charge up the divisions was the sack. Owner Mohammed Al Fayed decided to replace him with a higher-profile appointment as Ray Wilkins and Kevin Keegan moved into the dugout at Craven Cottage. That was four months after he had signed a five-year contract to stay on as Fulham boss.

He dropped down a division to join Swansea City but his reign there was short and not positive. He lasted a mere 13 days and oversaw just three games. Adams claimed money that had been promised to reinvest in the playing squad was not forthcoming. Before the season was out, he also had a go at managing a struggling Brentford side in the Second Division but couldn’t prevent them from being relegated. He was dismissed following their relegation with owner Ron Noades deciding to make himself the manager instead.

It is fair to say 1997-1998 was not a good season for Micky Adams.

From Brighton to Bassett

After a short break from management, Micky returned with Brighton & Hove Albion in April 1999. He arrived with the club in financial trouble, having been forced to sell their ground just to keep afloat. The only transfer fee he invested on during his time as Brighton boss was to sign Bobby Zamora for £100,000.

After leading Albion to a mid-table position in his first full season on the south coast, he led them to the Division Three title in 2000-2001 by 10 points. This led to him collecting a second Manager of the Season award. He felt though he had taken Brighton as far as he could and was disappointed to be overlooked for top-flight positions in the summer of 2001 at both Southampton and West Ham United.

In October 2001, he left Brighton to become Dave Bassett’s assistant manager at the Premier League’s basement side, Leicester City. The pair had worked together for six months at Nottingham Forest in 1998 and were brought in to try and rescue the Foxes precarious position. They had mustered just one victory in eight games at the start of the 2001-2002 campaign.

Bassett couldn’t save Leicester. The squad simply wasn’t good enough or confident enough to stay up in the Premier League. Days before their top-flight demise would be confirmed by a home defeat to Manchester United, Leicester confirmed Bassett would move into a Director of Football role and Adams would succeed him as manager. He was in-charge of the club’s final-ever match at Filbert Street which saw them defeat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on the final day of the season.

Despite Leicester propping up debts of almost £30 million on their relegation which led to a transfer embargo, Adams guided the club back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking. Leicester finished runners-up to Portsmouth in the 2002-2003 First Division.

His work received praise from the man who replaced him at Fulham, Keegan. In November 2003, he said: “I have a lot of respect for Micky Adams, who has proved himself at all levels. He has gone into clubs with little or no money to spend and shown he is not afraid of taking on tough jobs.”

A testing Premier League spell

With Leicester’s financial issues, Micky had to rely on loans and free transfers to bring players in ahead of their top-flight return. He did bring the likes of Les Ferdinand, Craig Hignett and Marcus Bent into the club but things were always going to be tough for the Foxes.

A second half collapse at Molineux in October saw them throw away a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 to Wolverhampton Wanderers and it would be the story of Leicester’s campaign. They scored plenty of goals but conceded too many. Despite drawing at home with unbeaten Arsenal, winning 1-0 away at Birmingham and 3-0 at Manchester City, Leicester’s prospects of avoiding relegation always looked grim.

In March 2004, the club made the headlines for the wrong reasons when nine players were arrested for various offences related to an alleged sexual assault on three German tourists in La Manga. Three players; Keith Gillespie, Paul Dickov and Frank Sinclair were all charged but all allegations were later proved to be false. Adams even offered his resignation over the unsavoury incident but this was rejected by the Leicester board.

In his autobiography ‘Micky Adams, My Life in Football’ published in 2017, he admitted: “There is no doubt in my mind that it had an adverse effect on my career. Even though the players did not suffer in the same way, they had other issues that were never brought to light.”

Leicester were relegated in early May after a 2-2 draw with Charlton Athletic and after a poor start to the 2004-2005 campaign back in the Championship, Micky quit the club despite the board again attempting to change his mind. This time though, they had to accept his decision.

Since then, Adams has managed several clubs in the Football League, including Sheffield United, Coventry City, Port Vale and a second spell at Brighton. He ended his football management career in 2015 with Irish side Sligo Rovers.

Since then, he has his own football consultancy business, which has led to him lecturing on the Wales FA pro-licence course and does some part-time coaching for an Under-18 side close to his home in Leicestershire.

Premier League Files: Dennis Wise

Premier League Career: Chelsea (1992-2001), Leicester City (2001-2002)

Before John Terry experienced his rich success as captain of Chelsea, their most successful leader in the pre-Abramovich era was Dennis Wise. The tough-tackling, no-nonsense central midfielder certainly got in the face of his opponents and never messed around in his 20-year career on the football pitch. Whilst third place in 1999 was the closest he got to in the league, Dennis won three FA Cups and experienced European glory through Chelsea’s 1998 triumph in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

Wise first made his name at Wimbledon, joining them at the age of 18 when he left Southampton after falling out with Lawrie McMenemy. Under the tutorage of Dave Bassett, he blossomed and immediately became an important part of ‘The Crazy Gang.’

He played a crucial role in Wimbledon’s run to the 1988 FA Cup final. After producing the delivery of the free-kick against Watford in the quarter-finals, he scored the winner to defeat Luton Town in the semi-finals. Wimbledon played Liverpool FC in the final and were given little chance of causing an upset but the Dons had other ideas. Wise did a wonderful job of containing John Barnes and then, it was his free-kick that was headed home into the net by Lawrie Sanchez. Wimbledon had just dashed Liverpool’s hopes of a second league and cup double.

He remained with Wimbledon until July 1990 when he switched from south to west London, joining Chelsea for a club-record fee at the time of £1.6 million. He impressed immediately, scoring 10 goals in 33 matches despite the Blues finishing mid-table. The arrival of his former teammate at Wimbledon, Vinnie Jones made the Chelsea centre midfield one of the toughest and hardest around in English football. In February 1992, he scored the winning goal at Anfield to spearhead the Londoners to their first win at the home of Liverpool FC in 57 years.

In the summer of 1993, Andy Townsend left for Aston Villa and on the arrival of Glenn Hoddle as manager, Wise was appointed as Townsend’s successor in the captaincy department. He made the FA Cup final again in his first campaign with the armband but this time, it was on the losing side as Chelsea lost 4-0 to Manchester United.

The 1994-1995 season was a miserable campaign for him. Form dipped on the pitch and ill-discipline was shown in the public eye when he was sent off at St James’ Park against Newcastle United for foul and abusive language in September 1994. This earned him a rebuke from Hoddle and he would briefly be stripped of the captaincy after an even further damaging incident in a season of shameful scandals.

In March 1995, Dennis was sentenced to a three-month jail sentence for assaulting a London taxi driver, also being forced to pay £1,200 in compensation. He was given an unconditional bail and eventually, the sentence was overturned on appeal. Many of his legal team were stunned by the sentence handed down and Chelsea stood by him. Managing director Colin Hutchinson said: “We don’t condone what Dennis did but its non-football related and the punishment will come through the courts.” A long-standing thigh injury finished off his wretched personal season as Chelsea finished a mediocre 11th in the table and the only highlight was a run to the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-finals before losing to eventual winners Real Zaragoza. This incident did effectively end his England international career as he wasn’t selected again for another four years.

Wise put behind him a troubled year and began to flourish again when Ruud Gullit arrived at the club, first as a partner in midfield for Dennis, then to manage the club following Hoddle’s departure to take the England job. It was during this period that he finally began to win silverware as Chelsea’s captain. He skippered them to victory in the 1997 FA Cup final against Middlesbrough, repeating this achievement three years later when Aston Villa were beaten in the last FA Cup event to be played underneath the Wembley ‘Twin Towers.’ In-between these two triumphs in his most specialised competition for success, Wise also skippered Chelsea to glory in the 1998 League Cup, 1998 UEFA Super Cup and 1998 European Cup Winners’ Cup. In the final against VfB Stuttgart, it was his wonderful pass that played substitute Gianfranco Zola through to score the winning goal in Stockholm.

His chequered career at Chelsea came to an end in the summer of 2001 when Claudio Ranieri sold him to Leicester City for £1.6 million. Ranieri was seeking to trim the average age of the playing squad. When he left, Dennis was ranked fourth in the club’s appearance history record, featuring 445 times, scoring 76 goals. He was crowned the club’s Player of the Season in both 1998 and 2000.

His one season at Leicester City was largely forgettable. He made just 17 league appearances, scoring once in a hapless team display against Liverpool FC which Leicester lost 4-1. The Foxes were relegated from the top-flight and in July 2002, he was suspended by the club for breaking the nose and jaw of teammate Callum Davidson during a bust-up on a pre-season trip to Finland. Wise was sacked by the club a few weeks later.

His Premier League playing career was over but that didn’t mean Wise dropped out of the limelight. He joined Millwall in September 2002 and became the club’s player-manager a year later. He experienced another FA Cup final but his Lions were no match for Manchester United at the Millennium Stadium, losing 3-0 in 2004. He resumed his playing career solely after leaving The New Den in the summer of 2005, experiencing one more season of second-tier action with Southampton and Coventry City before hanging up his football boots in 2006.

He had time back in management with both Swindon Town and Leeds United and in January 2008, became Executive Director at Newcastle United. His role was being tasked with travelling around Europe and further afield identifying young players and developing the academy. However, Kevin Keegan’s departure in September 2008 after clashing with the board over player transfers saw the fans target owner Mike Ashley and Wise, believing they were behind Keegan’s decision to go. He left his role in April 2009 and disappeared from the game for several years.

In 2017, Dennis returned to our screens, appearing on the ITV reality show ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!” Despite some accusations of bullying from the press at a fellow contestant, he came out of the programme with enhanced creditability and has since contributed occasionally to Premier League coverage on Sky Sports. He has become a regular on Sky’s daily evening chat programme, ‘The Debate.’

Dennis Wise packed plenty into his life and career in football. There was rarely a dull part about one of the game’s most combustive and intriguing characters of the 1990s.

Premier League Files: Danny Simpson

Premier League Career: Manchester United (2007-2008), Blackburn Rovers (2008-2009), Newcastle United (2010-2013), Queens Park Rangers (2014), Leicester City (2014-PRESENT)

Leicester City is Danny Simpson’s fifth Premier League club. A product of the youth academy at Manchester United, Simpson raised his performance levels greatly in the 2015-2016 season, becoming first-choice right-back under Claudio Ranieri as the Foxes stunned the football world to become Premier League champions.

Simpson’s story is like many others in the Leicester squad from that season. It was one where he has had to deal with rejection, disappointment and frustration. However, he never gave in and the rewards came for the full-back from Greater Manchester in that incredible fairytale at The King Power Stadium.

Simpson came through the youth system at Manchester United and gained some useful loan experience at Royal Antwerp in Belgium and then Sunderland when they were playing in the Championship. He made 14 appearances in 2007 as the Black Cats won promotion back to the Premier League with former Red Devil Roy Keane as the club’s manager.

He returned to the United setup in the summer of 2007 and made his Premier League debut for them in October of that year, coming on as a substitute for the injured John O’Shea after 30 minutes in the 4-0 victory over Wigan Athletic. He claimed an assist too, crossing the ball in for Wayne Rooney to score United’s fourth goal that lunchtime afternoon. He signed a new contract and it was clear Sir Alex Ferguson saw him as a player for the future. However, he would be loaned out to Ipswich Town in March 2008, primarily to get more first-team experience.

With Gary Neville and Wes Brown both ahead of him in the pecking order, another loan period followed for Danny in 2008-2009. This time, he would play in the top-flight for Blackburn Rovers and under the tutorage of another former Manchester United title winner in Paul Ince. He played in 12 games for Ince but became a casualty of his sacking in December 2008. Sam Allardyce didn’t rate him and he spent the second half of the season largely on the bench in Lancashire.

His career seemed to be at a crossroads. The breakthrough just wasn’t going to happen at Manchester United, so after another loan spell at relegated Newcastle United, Simpson made the move to Tyneside on a permanent basis. Newcastle paid £750,000 to snap him up full-time in January 2010 and helped the Magpies return at the first attempt to the Premier League.

Ankle surgery that summer kept him out of action until October 2010 but he impressed on his first start of the season in a 2-1 win at West Ham United. He displaced James Perch for the remainder of the season in the right-back role and formed a good partnership with Joey Barton as Newcastle finished comfortably in mid-table in their first season back among the elite.

His best season with Newcastle was in 2011-2012, starting 35 of the club’s 38 league matches as they finished an excellent fifth in the table. He could even celebrate a fabulous 3-0 victory over his former club Manchester United in January 2012 on his 25th birthday. It was a surprise then to see his contract not renewed at the end of the 2012-2013 campaign.

After a year back in the Championship with Queens Park Rangers, Danny started their first game of the 2014-2015 Premier League season at home to Hull City but moved to Leicester City before the transfer window closed. Like fellow teammate and summer arrival Marc Albrighton, he found it hard to break into the first-team on his arrival and played second-fiddle for the majority of the season to Ritchie de Laet.

A similar story looked likely in 2015-2016 as de Laet started the campaign in the right-back role. However, a 5-2 loss at home to Arsenal in September was the catalyst for Ranieri to settle on a more defensively-minded back four. Out went de Laet and Jeff Schlupp and in came Simpson and Christian Fuchs. Apart from a red card in the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in February 2016, Simpson’s ability to keep his position and not venture forward constantly made him a favourite with Ranieri. He only missed two games from the start of October onwards and was a consistent presence throughout as Leicester City wowed the neutrals and their own supporters to become Premier League champions.

Things were very different a year later as the reigning champions struggled domestically and looked to be fighting a relegation battle. Ranieri was sacked and Simpson was among several players criticised for their lack of effort when things got tough. This led to a rather humorous debate with ex-Liverpool FC defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher on Twitter.

In February 2018, Danny Simpson made his 100th Premier League appearance for Leicester in a 5-1 beating by runaway league leaders Manchester City. He is yet to score in his top-flight career but that doesn’t matter. His defensive approach to the game is highly valued and no-one can take away the fact that Danny Simpson is a Premier League title winner – not even Jamie Carragher!

Premier League Rewind: 21st-23rd November 2015

Results: Watford 1-2 Manchester United, Chelsea 1-0 Norwich City, Everton 4-0 Aston Villa, Newcastle United 0-3 Leicester City, Southampton 0-1 Stoke City, Swansea City 2-2 AFC Bournemouth, West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Arsenal, Manchester City 1-4 Liverpool FC, Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 West Ham United, Crystal Palace 0-1 Sunderland

In a season where many surprises were being produced, this was evident on the 21st-23rd November 2015 Premier League weekend. The league leaders were Arsenal going into the weekend but by the end of it, 5000-1 title outside shots Leicester City were sitting top of the pile.

Leicester travelled to Tyneside to face Newcastle United, with Jamie Vardy eyeing up a Premier League record. Midway through the first half, Vardy broke clear to open the scoring and therefore, register a goal for the 10th successive Premier League match. This equalled the long-time record, set by Manchester United’s Ruud van Nistelrooy back in 2003. Further goals from fellow forwards Shinji Okazaki and Leonardo Ulloa ensured Leicester won 3-0 and recorded a fourth successive victory in the process.

Arsenal still could have been top of the table but they endured another difficult away afternoon at The Hawthorns. After taking the lead against West Bromwich Albion, their day fell apart. James Morrison levelled the scores in the 35th minute and five minutes later, club captain Mikel Arteta put the ball into his own net. Arsenal still had an opportunity to equalise in the last 10 minutes, only for Santi Cazorla to slip over and balloon his penalty kick into orbit. The 2-1 victory was West Brom’s third in their last five games.

Manchester City were seen as the title favourites by many and were unbeaten in two months when they entertained a Liverpool FC side that were still finding their feet under Jurgen Klopp. Klopp had only recorded one victory from his first four league matches. However, his side were about to put on a blistering attacking display at The Etihad Stadium. Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino were in sparkling form. Both Brazilians scored and Martin Skrtel hammered home a fourth goal in the second half. Liverpool won 4-1 to move into ninth place in the table. It was a Saturday evening for City to forget and particularly for Raheem Sterling, who was facing his old employers for the first time since his summer move.

Defeats for City and Arsenal meant Manchester United quietly crept into second position with a 2-1 victory at Watford. Memphis Depay gave them an early lead but Troy Deeney’s late spot-kick looked to have rescued a point for the Hertfordshire side. That was until a late winner for the Red Devils with Deeney scoring an unfortunate own goal. It would be their final league victory of 2015 as a dire December would follow for manager Louis van Gaal.

Tottenham Hotspur extended their unbeaten run to 12 matches with a resounding 4-1 victory over London rivals West Ham United, who were missing their influential playmaker Dimitri Payet due to injury. Harry Kane scored twice for the home side. At the wrong end of the table, Aston Villa’s crushing 4-0 defeat to Everton left them bottom with just five points and five points adrift of safety. Sunderland climbed above AFC Bournemouth after a Jermain Defoe goal was enough to beat Crystal Palace 1-0 on the Monday Night Football at Selhurst Park.

What else happened in November 2015?

  • The world is left appalled by a string of terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday 13th November. The Bataclan concert hall, bars/restaurants and the Stade de France are all targeted. 130 people are killed.
  • In tennis, Great Britain wins the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936 after defeating Belgium in the final.
  • Storm Abigail is the first storm to be officially named by the Met Office. It leaves 20,000 people without power and much disruption to many travel services.
  • Alton Towers confirms that human error was the cause behind The Smiler rollercoaster crash in June that seriously injured five people.
  • ITV confirms it will air The Voice UK and The Voice Kids from 2017, poaching it from the BBC.
  • Children in Need raises over £37 million, which is a new record. It is the first time since its launch in 1980 that the legendary Sir Terry Wogan is unable to fulfil presenter duties following a back operation.
  • Turkey shoots down a Russian fighter jet in the first case of a NATO member destroying a Russian aircraft since the 1950s.

Premier League Files: Paul Konchesky

Premier League Career: Charlton Athletic (1999, 2000-2005), Tottenham Hotspur (2003), West Ham United (2005-2007), Fulham (2007-2010), Liverpool FC (2010), Leicester City (2014-2015)

Paul Konchesky featured for six Premier League clubs in a much-travelled career which saw a degree of high and low points. Konchesky was an important figure in the West Ham United and Fulham sides that did so well in the mid-2000s but was ridiculed by Liverpool FC supporters for a horrific spell as the club’s main left-back after signing for the Merseysiders in August 2010. His career has continued until November 2017 when he departed ambitious non-league side Billericay Town.

A lifelong supporter of West Ham United, Konchesky signed for the club as a boy in their academy but he would first make the grade at Charlton Athletic, becoming a trainee with the Addicks in 1997. At the age of 16 years and 93 days, he made his first-team debut in a Division One match against Oxford United, becoming the club’s youngest player to feature at that particular point.

He got a brief flavour of Premier League football during Charlton’s first flirtation with the big league in 1999, coming on as a substitute in a 2-2 draw with Newcastle United, then playing the whole 90 minutes of their 2-0 victory over Wimbledon. That was Charlton’s first victory in 14 Premier League matches but they would be relegated at the end of the campaign.

Konchesky became more of a regular fixture in their second Premier League adventure, featuring 27 times as the club finished ninth in 2000-2001. In 2002-2003, he scored a brilliant free-kick at home to Blackburn Rovers and a cool lob over Chris Kirkland’s head as Liverpool FC were defeated 2-0 at The Valley weeks later. However, frustrated by not playing consistently in his regular left-back role, he submitted a transfer request in the summer of 2003 which was accepted by the Charlton hierarchy.

No offers were forthcoming though and a deal was eventually struck with Tottenham Hotspur for him to go on-loan for the 2003-2004 campaign. After playing 12 times for Tottenham, Charlton recalled him in December 2003 due to a mounting injury crisis and the differences between player and club were resolved.

Paul stayed until the summer of 2005 when the opportunity to play for the club he supported was simply irresistible to ignore. West Ham paid Charlton £1.5 million for his services and he was excellent all season, playing a significant role in the Hammers’ top-10 finish in their first season back in the top-flight after a couple of campaigns in the Championship. He also played and scored in the cracking 2006 FA Cup final against Liverpool FC when his attempted cross flew into Pepe Reina’s goal to put West Ham 3-2 ahead with just over 20 minutes to go. Steven Gerrard equalised and Konchesky was one of three players to be denied by Reina in the shootout as his day ended in sheer heartbreak.

Reunited with Alan Curbishley midway through 2006-2007 when he replaced Alan Pardew, it was clear there were still a few differences between the pair from their Charlton days. Curbishley preferred the more defensively-minded George McCartney in the left-back spot and Konchesky realised his days at the club were numbered. Despite West Ham’s late escape against the drop, he criticised the manager, claiming he made the players unhappy and miserable. He swiftly departed for Fulham in the summer of 2007.

The Cottagers snapped him up for £3.25 million and this was quite probably the best period of Konchesky’s career. You always felt he was a player who needed to feel wanted and he certainly got this at Craven Cottage. In January 2009, he scored a cracking drive from distance at West Ham which won the January Goal of the Month award and was shortlisted for Goal of the Season. His first Fulham goal was one to treasure and it was clear he enjoyed it too. In 2009-2010, he was part of the Fulham side that got all the way to the UEFA Europa League final before narrowly falling short in the showpiece event, going down 2-1 to Atletico Madrid after extra-time.

Roy Hodgson was Fulham manager when Konchesky was at the club and he took him to Liverpool FC when he was appointed the Reds’ new boss in the summer of 2010. Although Mark Hughes wanted to keep him, Paul’s desire to play for one of the biggest clubs in Europe was the deciding factor. He made a £4 million move to Anfield in August but it would turn out to be a nightmare six months on Merseyside.

He looked a pale shadow of the player that had established himself as one of the league’s best full-backs at Fulham and was heavily criticised for a late error at White Hart Lane which gifted Tottenham Hotspur all three points in November. When he was substituted against Wolverhampton Wanderers a month later, the fans cheered his departure from the field of play. It was clear they never took to Konchesky. When his mother rounded on Liverpudlian critics on Facebook, his time was over at Anfield.

One of Kenny Dalglish’s first acts as caretaker manager was to get rid of Konchesky. He was loaned to Nottingham Forest for the remainder of the 2010-2011 season and eventually, got a permanent move to Leicester City. Konchesky admitted later that his time with Liverpool was the hardest period of his career. He said: “One of the toughest, obviously, I went to Liverpool in the summer and when you move teams you think it’s going to be a big thing for you really. It obviously didn’t work out for different reasons.”

He had one final Premier League season with Leicester in 2014-2015, scoring a winning goal against Aston Villa and playing 26 times as Nigel Pearson’s side pulled off an incredible escape against the drop. His contract wasn’t renewed though and he dropped down the league pyramid to wind down his career with the likes of Queens Park Rangers, Gillingham and Billericay Town. He won two international caps during Sven-Goran Eriksson’s reign as England boss.

Paul Konchesky was always a strong and solid performer. He will always have his critics, slightly unfortunately for the tough experience he endured at Liverpool. In his prime with the London clubs though, he was always someone who you could count on to perform at the highest level.

Great Goals: Dennis Bergkamp – Leicester City vs. ARSENAL (August 1997)

The history of the BBC Goal of the Month award has seen some unique feats. It’s most remarkable honour was for the same player to claim the top three positions in the same month. That belongs to Dennis Bergkamp who scored a terrific hat-trick at Filbert Street against Leicester City in August 1997.

The Dutchman had already scored a marvellous effort from the edge of the area in the first half, before adding a second through a dynamic Arsenal counter-attack. Leicester though had shown amazing character to draw themselves level at 2-2 going into stoppage-time before Bergkamp’s final bit of brilliance.

Collecting a well-timed long pass from David Platt, Bergkamp controlled the ball in the air, killing any momentum on the ball from Platt. Two touches took him away from Matt Elliott and then he produced a brilliant finish past Kasey Keller to complete one of the best hat-tricks in Premier League history.

It is unfortunate that Leicester’s double comeback to get a 3-3 draw out of this match is almost virtually forgotten by another piece of Dutch Dynamite from the 1998 PFA Players’ Player of the Year.

Premier League Rewind: 25th-27th October 2014

Results: West Ham United 2-1 Manchester City, Liverpool FC 0-0 Hull City, Southampton 1-0 Stoke City, Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Crystal Palace, Swansea City 2-0 Leicester City, Burnley 1-3 Everton, Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Newcastle United, Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Aston Villa

Nine games into the 2014-2015 season and Chelsea were in pole position to regain the Premier League title from Manchester City. The Blues were still undefeated in the campaign and looking tough to catch for the chasing pack.

On the 25th-27th October weekend, Jose Mourinho took his team to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United. It was a first meeting between Mourinho and Louis van Gaal since the 2010 UEFA Champions League final. There was plenty of mutual respect between the managers in the build-up to this clash but it looked like Mourinho would have the final say. Didier Drogba headed the visitors infront and it looked like the league leaders would hold onto a 1-0 lead at full-time. However, with moments remaining, Manchester United won a free-kick which led to the late dismissal of Branislav Ivanovic. From the resultant set-piece, Robin van Persie thrashed home an equaliser to ensure Chelsea dropped points for only the second time this season.

Their lead over the Red Devils was still a healthy 10 points. Worse still for Van Gaal, his team had won just three from nine matches so far and were languishing in eighth spot in the table. Chelsea’s nearest pursuers were Southampton. They regained second position after Sadio Mane’s goal was enough to beat Stoke City 1-0.

They replaced Manchester City in the top two after the reigning champions fell to a 2-1 defeat away at West Ham United. It was their second league loss of the season. The decisive goal ultimately came from Diafra Sakho, who scored in his sixth successive Premier League match for the club. Despite a wonderful strike from David Silva, City left Upton Park empty-handed and West Ham climbed into the top four much to the delight of Russell Brand. The Hammers’ fan interrupted a post-match interview to congratulate manager Sam Allardyce.

After their 8-0 mauling a week earlier to Southampton, Sunderland’s woes continued. At home to Arsenal, Vito Mannone made two terrible mistakes, allowing Alexis Sanchez to score twice and allow the visitors to leave with all three points in a 2-0 victory. In fact, just six points covered West Ham in fourth position to Aston Villa in 15th. Villa’s fifth successive defeat came on Monday Night Football, losing 2-0 to Queens Park Rangers. Charlie Austin scored a double which was enough to lift QPR off the foot of the Premier League table. Aston Villa had now failed to score in over 500 minutes of Premier League football. Another team struggling were Leicester City. They were now without a win in four games after losing 2-0 to Swansea City.

QPR were replaced at the bottom of the table by Burnley, who lost 3-1 at home to Everton. Veteran forward Samuel Eto’o scored twice for Everton who moved into the top half with back-to-back victories. Sunderland dropped into the bottom three at the expense of their Tyne & Wear rivals, Newcastle United. Having not won any of their first seven games, the Magpies were about to embark on a five-match winning sequence. The second of these came at White Hart Lane, defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1.

What else happened in October 2014?

  • UKIP receives its first MP when Douglas Carswell, who defected to the party from the Conservatives, wins the by-election in Clacton.
  • The SNP confirms Nicola Sturgeon will succeed Alex Salmond as leader of the party after she was the only candidate in a leadership ballot.
  • Johann Lamont resigns as leader of the Scottish Labour Party with immediate effect.
  • Nancy Birtwhistle wins the fifth series of “The Great British Bake Off.”
  • Racing driver Jules Bianchi is left with life-threatening injuries after spinning off and hitting a recovery truck during the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. He will succumb to those injuries in July 2015.
  • EastEnders confirms omnibus editions of the soap from April 2015 will be stopped because of declining viewing figures.
  • IF Elfsborg manager and former Sheffield Wednesday player Klas Ingesson dies at the age of just 46 from the effects of multiple myeloma.

Premier League Files: Marc Albrighton

Premier League Career: Aston Villa (2009-2014), Leicester City (2014-PRESENT)

Leicester City’s incredible Premier League title triumph in 2015-2016 saw plenty of heroes. Whilst the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante stole most of the headlines, there were plenty of unsung players who played such a vital part in the greatest story ever played out in Premier League history.

One of those unsung heroes was Marc Albrighton. The Tamworth-born player figured in every single match that campaign and put in the best performances of a career which has flourished in the colours of the Foxes’ after a frustrating end to his time with Aston Villa. He is also in the Premier League record books for scoring the 20,000th goal in the league’s proud history, achieving this feat against Arsenal in December 2011.

Albrighton could have actually started his career out at West Bromwich Albion, who offered him a trial but ultimately rejected him. Aston Villa took him into their academy at the age of just eight and he would spend the next 17 years within their surroundings. His Premier League breakthrough came in 2009. After featuring prominently in pre-season, he made his debut in the top-flight on the opening weekend at home to Wigan Athletic. Wigan might have won the match 2-0 but this was a proud moment for Albrighton when he came on as a substitute in the second half. A month later, he extended his contract at Villa Park by three years and Martin O’Neill admitted he was impressed by his rapid rate of development.

O’Neill left abruptly before the start of the 2010-2011 campaign but reserve team coach Kevin McDonald had every confidence in Albrighton’s abilities and handed him his first start in the Premier League for the opening day match against West Ham United. Villa won 3-0 and Albrighton caught the eye, setting up two of the goals. His first goal at this level came in a 2-1 loss at Tottenham Hotspur two months later and he also found the target with a clinical finish at home to Manchester United when the home side produced one of the best counter-attacking moves of the season.

He returned impressive figures of five goals in 29 appearances in 2010-2011 and would make Premier League history the following season. In December 2011, he scored the equaliser at home to Arsenal and therefore, scored the league’s 20,000th goal. Albrighton won a £20,000 cheque from the league’s sponsors, Barclays which he donated to his chosen charity, the Acorns Children Hospice.

Although Arsenal did end up winning the match 2-1, Albrighton knew the significance of his strike. He told talkSPORT: “It’s something to tell the kids and the grandkids. It is a massive thing; the Premier League is one of the greatest leagues in the world, if not the greatest, so to score the 20,000th goal is definitely special to me.”

Unfortunately, his form started to fade at Villa and a throat operation in the early weeks of the 2013-2014 campaign didn’t help matters. He had a brief one-month loan at Wigan Athletic to help regain match fitness. After returning, he figured 19 times so it was a surprise that the club decided to release him at the end of the season. Leicester City wasted no time in snapping him up from their Midlands rivals.

Initially, he looked like a spare part at Leicester too and struggled to break into the starting XI on a regular basis. That changed nearer the end of the season when manager Nigel Pearson started to integrate wing-backs into his formation. Albrighton was used frequently in this position and he scored twice towards the backend of the campaign as Leicester rallied from bottom of the table at the start of April and seven points adrift of safety to finish 14th, winning seven of their last nine matches.

Pearson was sacked by the club’s owners in the summer and in came Claudio Ranieri. This could have put another stumbling block in Albrighton’s career in a summer where he was hit by a personal tragedy. His partner, Chloe Fulford suffered the terrible loss of her mother in the terrorist attacks in Tunisia in June 2015. This was a dreadful shock to the entire family and was a reminder that football was a secondary matter. It did seem to inspire Marc onto even greater levels of performance and he scored on the opening weekend in the 4-2 win over Sunderland. He pointed straight to the sky in his celebration. It was clear who he dedicated that goal to.

In 2015-2016, Albrighton was part of a regular four-man midfield alongside the energy of Kante, the world-class talents of Mahrez and the revival in the form of Danny Drinkwater. Ranieri later said: “He is a great worker who embodies the spirit of Leicester.”

Even when he was scarified from the start of the game at home to Swansea to combat with a Vardy suspension, Albrighton came on and made a big impact, scoring the fourth goal in a 4-0 victory which took Leicester closer to Premier League paradise. He became a title-winner a week later after Tottenham failed to beat outgoing champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Albrighton richly deserved his place in the realms of Premier League winners.

There was more personal success for Marc in 2016-2017. He scored Leicester City’s first-ever goal in the UEFA Champions League, scoring inside six minutes of their Matchday 1 3-0 win away in Belgium over Club Brugge. He later scored in the round-of-16 home leg over Sevilla as Leicester reached the quarter-finals in their maiden Champions League adventure. League form did dip though and reports emerged that Albrighton was one of the main figures to meet the Leicester owner after the first-leg defeat to the Spanish side which ultimately led to Ranieri’s shock sacking as manager.

Albrighton was furious and upset. He put out a strong statement, denying his involvement in Ranieri’s downfall. Part of it read: “At the worst time of my family’s life, the manager helped me achieve something I didn’t think in my wildest dreams would be possible. It helped us to be positive about something when everything was negative.

“The first day I met the manager he told me he believed in me; before the last game of his LCFC reign, he told me the same.

“I will never be truly able to thank him for everything he has helped me achieve and the faith he has shown in me and he knows that I always did my best for him.”

Albrighton has rediscovered his title-winning season form in 2017-2018. He set-up two goals on the opening night in a narrow 4-3 loss to Arsenal and has scored for new manager Claude Puel in positive results against West Ham United and Huddersfield Town.

Marc Albrighton has had to work hard for his success. He had to endure some tricky challenges and always come out of them as a tougher person for these experiences. No-one should forget his role in the 2015-2016 Leicester City fairytale and still only 28, he has plenty more football ahead of him.

Great Goals: Shaun Bartlett – CHARLTON ATHLETIC vs. Leicester City (April 2001)

Charlton Athletic were enjoying a comfortable campaign in 2000-2001 and were destined to finish in the top half of the table. On April Fools’ Day 2001, there was no fooling around this shot from Shaun Bartlett which was the rightful winner of the Goal of the Season award.

The Addicks were already 1-0 ahead in this match with Leicester City when this magical goal occurred. Graham Stuart played an inch-perfect pass over the top of the Leicester defence. Bartlett watched the ball all the way on its journey in the air. As it dropped down towards ground level, he hit the strike first-time on the volley which headed straight into the net.

Charlton won the game 2-0 and Bartlett had launched himself onto the Premier League stage in the grand manner.

Memorable Matches: Leicester City 5-2 Sunderland (March 2000)

Goalscorers: Stan Collymore 17, 60, 87, Emile Heskey 34, Kevin Phillips 53, Niall Quinn 75, Stefan Oakes 90

Teams:

Leicester City: Tim Flowers, Matt Elliott, Gerry Taggart, Frank Sinclair, Darren Eadie (Stefan Oakes 56), Steve Guppy, Neil Lennon, Robbie Savage, Muzzy Izzet, Stan Collymore, Emile Heskey

Sunderland: Thomas Sorensen, Paul Butler, Jody Craddock, Chris Makin, Eric Roy (John Oster 71), Alex Rae, Stefan Schwarz, Darren Holloway (Nicky Summerbee 45), Kevin Kilbane, Niall Quinn, Kevin Phillips

Referee: Neale Barry, Attendance: 20,432

Having joined Leicester City a month earlier after falling out of favour at Aston Villa, Stan Collymore was keen to show his doubters wrong. He had his chance infront of the Sky Sports cameras on his home debut at Filbert Street as the Foxes’ hosted Sunderland in an end-to-end contest that saw seven goals and a reminder of his class when he was at his absolute best.

Collymore had already been in trouble with new manager Martin O’Neill for an off-field incident in a hotel during a club training camp break in La Manga. This was his second match for the club and after 16 minutes, he produced a spectacular opening goal. His half-volley from a flick-on by his new strike partner Emile Heskey left Thomas Sorensen completely helpless.

It was always going to be an entertaining contest. Sunderland had impressed many on their return to the top-flight but had the poorest defensive record in the top 10 coming into the match and it was exposed again 10 minutes before half-time. Neil Lennon won possession in the heart of midfield and he played Heskey in. He took one touch and finished in-between Sorensen’s legs.

Peter Reid was not happy with his team’s performance and withdrew Darren Holloway at half-time, replacing him with Nicky Summerbee. They did come close to reducing the deficit when Leicester defender Matt Elliott’s clearance at the near post hit his own crossbar. It was a warning sign to the Foxes but it wasn’t adhered to. Kevin Phillips’ half-volley from the edge of the penalty area on 53 minutes reduced the arrears. It was the 100th goal of his league career and 24th of an amazing individual season that saw him clinch the Golden Boot at the end of the campaign.

Leicester restored their two-goal lead on the hour mark. Lennon chalked up his second assist of the match. His beautiful cross was met by Collymore who directed the ball into the top corner of Sorensen’s net. One thing Reid had installed in Sunderland’s armoury was the ability to respond clinically and he had one of the best strike partnerships in the country at the time in Phillips and Niall Quinn. The Republic of Ireland forward joined Philips on the scoresheet with 15 minutes left. His curling strike would set-up a grandstand finish.

The day though would belong to Collymore. He completed his hat-trick with a striker’s tap-in. The finish was slightly scuffed but he wouldn’t be complaining about that and nor were the Leicester supporters. With time running out, substitute Stefan Oakes added a fifth to ensure the Black Cats’ conceded five on their travels for the second time this season, having shipped five at Everton on Boxing Day.

The sides would finish seventh and eighth at the end of the season. This day though belonged to Leicester and to the maverick that was Stan Collymore.

The Managers: Claudio Ranieri

Premier League Clubs Managed: Chelsea (2000-2004), Leicester City (2015-2017)

On Friday 14th November 2014, Claudio Ranieri’s management career looked all but over. After 28 years in football management, he had just experienced his most embarrassing evening in the game. The tiny Faroe Islands had just beaten his Greece side 1-0 through a Joan Edmundsson strike. At the time, the Faroes were ranked 187 in the world. With one point from four games, Greece’s hopes of qualifying for the 2016 European Championships were all but over. A day later, Ranieri was fired.

Eight months after the Greek nightmare, he was appointed Leicester City manager to the surprise of many, who even mocked the appointment. On Tuesday 3rd May 2016, Ranieri had completed the impossible dream, taking 5000-1 outsiders Leicester to the Premier League title in the greatest story ever told in English football.

The Leicester adventure was cruelly ended less than a year later but Ranieri has won many friends for life thanks to his achievements at the King Power Stadium.

Experience counts

Claudio Ranieri began his managerial career in his homeland during the late 1980s, making his name at Cagliari whom he achieved back-to-back promotions with on a shoestring budget.

Outside of English football, he has managed many of the top clubs in the European game, though his success in terms of honours was limited mainly to cup triumphs. He won the Coppa Italia with Fiorentina in 1996 and the Copa del Rey in 1998 as manager of Valencia. The only titles he achieved were in the second-tier with Fiorentina in 1994 and AS Monaco 19 years later.

Actually, his best win rate ratio came at AS Roma, winning 55.5% of matches during his reign there from September 2009 to February 2011. However, silverware eluded him at the Stadio Olimpico at a time where Inter Milan was the dominant club in Serie A and in the UEFA Champions League under the guidance of a certain Jose Mourinho.

Ranieri has also managed Atletico Madrid, Parma, Juventus and Inter Milan in his career.

‘The Tinkerman’

He was appointed manager of Chelsea in September 2000, succeeding Gianluca Vialli. His first match in charge saw the out-of-form Blues’ recover from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 at Old Trafford with reigning champions Manchester United. He arrived with only limited English language capabilities so communication in the early months between him and the players wasn’t the most free-flowing.

In the summer of 2001, he started to reshape the squad, bringing in the likes of Frank Lampard, Emmanuel Petit and Bolo Zenden, spending over £30 million on new talent for the men from Stamford Bridge. There were some eye-catching results, including a 3-0 away win at Manchester United and 4-0 humbling of Liverpool FC at home but also, shock defeats at home to Southampton and away at Charlton Athletic. Chelsea also lost 5-1 at White Hart Lane in a League Cup semi-final to Tottenham Hotspur. A second successive sixth place finish wasn’t what the club were hoping for. He did take Chelsea to the FA Cup final but even that ended in disappointment, losing 2-0 to Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium.

During his reign in west London, Ranieri was given the nickname ‘The Tinkerman.’ His team selections were at times baffling and inconsistent. Frank Lampard seemed to be the only definite selection on a weekly basis. He had to make the most of his options in 2002-2003. Only one signing was made all season and that was Enrique de Lucas on a free transfer from Espanyol. The club were in financial peril, yet Ranieri achieved UEFA Champions League qualification on the final day of the season. A 2-1 victory over Liverpool FC was enough to earn Chelsea a fourth place finish. It set the Blues up for the financial bounty they were about to receive that summer.

On borrowed time

In July 2003, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea Football Club and things were changing. Chelsea went on a summer spending spree not seen before in the history of football, shocking pundits, journalists and supporters alike.

Ranieri now had a wealth of options at his disposal. He also was on borrowed time. There was constant speculation that his job was now up for grabs and being touted to the likes of England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson. He had to do well in 2003-2004 or face the consequences.

He guided Chelsea to a runners-up position with a Premier League highest points tally for the club and the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. However, that wasn’t deemed good enough by Abramovich and he made a tearful goodbye on the final day of the season to the Stamford Bridge faithful, who really had taken Claudio to their hearts. He was sacked two weeks later and replaced by the FC Porto boss Mourinho.

The impossible dream

Ranieri was quick to accept his mistake in taking the Greece post following the 2014 World Cup. Shortly after being confirmed as Nigel Pearson’s successor at the King Power Stadium, he gave an interview to the Leicester Mercury where he admitted he’d made a bad move.

“I made a mistake when I was manager of Greece. I wanted to look because it is a different job at a club to a national team. I had four matches and for each game I trained the players for just three days. That is 12 days of training. What can I do in just 12 days? I had to rebuild a national team in just 12 days. What could I do? I am not a magician.”

His aim was simple; for Leicester City to claim one more point than they’d managed the previous season. New arrivals included Gokhan Inler, Christian Fuchs and most importantly, N’Golo Kante. Leicester started the season with three wins and three draws in their opening six matches which included a thrilling comeback win over Aston Villa.

The fear was Ranieri would repeat his ‘Tinkerman’ approach from the Chelsea days at Leicester too, but in fact, their team selection was so consistent with the fewest starting XI changes in the league in 2015-2016. His decision to change the full-backs early season worked. Ritchie de Laet and Jeff Schlupp began the campaign but the 5-2 defeat at the hands of Arsenal at the end of September exposed a brutal weakness. From October, into the team came Danny Simpson and Fuchs. Simpson had been discarded by Queens Park Rangers and Fuchs shown the door by FC Schalke 04. Their consistent performances made them two of the club’s unsung heroes.

Even when Ranieri was forced into changes, he came up smiling. When Jamie Vardy was banned following his dismissal against West Ham United in April 2016, Ranieri changed tactic by bringing Schlupp into the team to counteract the pace he would lose from Vardy against Swansea City. Leicester won the game 4-0 and Schlupp was one of the star players on the day.

Even Claudio’s substitutions often worked. Leonardo Ulloa, Andy King, Nathan Dyer and Demarai Gray were often used from the bench. None of them complained. They did the job asked of them and were a full part of this team spirit ethic. Ulloa scored most of his goals from the bench, whilst Dyer’s home debut goal against Aston Villa wasn’t overlooked.

Leicester topped the table on Christmas Day and continued to defy the critics who were expecting the bubble to burst. In February, they went to title favourites Manchester City and blew them away, winning 3-1 and becoming the new team to beat with the bookmakers. This was the day people started to believe that it was their destiny to win the championship.

They entered April on top of the table and secured UEFA Champions League qualification with an away win at Sunderland. Tottenham Hotspur did put the pressure on but their 2-2 draw away at outgoing champions Chelsea handed the title to Leicester City. It was the first time in their 132-year history that they’d won the top-flight title in what has to be considered as one of football’s most incredible stories in our lifetime. Ranieri proved that nice guys do win and that is a rare commodity.

A sorry sequel

The summer of 2016 was always going to be crucial for Leicester. They managed to hold onto the services of Vardy and Riyad Mahrez but Kante did leave for Chelsea. The challenge was great and whilst it was going to be almost impossible to repeat the title triumph, no-one could have forecasted the disastrous sequel after the fairytale moment.

By the end of November, Leicester had lost six times already, picked up just one point away from the King Power Stadium and were only sitting two points above the drop zone. It seemed like the players had stopped playing for the manager, especially after pitiful displays away at Southampton and Swansea City in the first two months of 2017.

Just 24 hours after a narrow 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie, Ranieri was sacked by Leicester’s owners. The decision was brutal, seen as a savage call by the majority of people within the game. The players were accused of getting the manager sacked. A lot of love the club had gained in the title-winning season seemed to have been lost. Ironically, Leicester won their next five Premier League matches in a row and reached the Champions League quarter-finals after the Italian’s departure.

Ranieri is now in charge of French club Nantes and has guided them into a top six position at the halfway point of the current campaign in Ligue 1.

Claudio Ranieri won many hearts for his achievements first at Chelsea and then for the miracle at Leicester. He was hailed as ‘King Claudio’ after guiding the 5000-1 outsiders to the title in 2015-2016 and the Premier League success he enjoyed couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.