Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Conclusions from the Summer That Wasn't

It has been a rather slow summer for the Foxes' faithful this time around, with next to no news emanating from the King Power Stadium since that gut-wrenching season finale at Vicarage Road in mid-May.

Only the signature of unlikely man Zoumana Bakayogo on a free from Tranmere Rovers has sated the appetite of the hungry Blue Army, as Nigel Pearson has adjusted to a rein-tightening role following the introduction of the new Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. Indeed, it has been the departure gate that has made the news, with Jermaine Beckford's hefty salary finally removed from the wage bill. He joined Bolton Wanderers and Leicester are likely to have made a heavy loss on the £2 million-plus paid to Everton by Sven Goran Eriksson two summers ago.

And how different it was back then. Not only was Eriksson's summer spending spree, lending a now-outmoded moniker 'Big Spending Leicester' to the club, a complete contrast in terms of the shift in personnel, it was also different in terms of the optimism amongst the City fans. With a huge list of big names arriving on wages to match, and an entertaining friendly against Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid Galacticos the climax to pre-season festivities, Leicester were favourites for promotion and riding the crest of a wave. How soon that was to be undone by woeful performances and dire results, Eriksson sacked by October and Nigel Pearson reinstated a fortnight later to steady the ship.

Today, criticisms of Pearson can be heard on the terraces and read about on forums, not least after yesterday's friendly defeat at Northampton Town. What many Leicester City fans seem unable to appreciate is the unimportance of results in pre-season and the underdog reputation of their club: the Foxes are never better than when they are unfancied at the start of the year. Those quiet mid-table predictions will do just fine if it hampers the rampant optimism and expectation of the 'favourites' tag.

Quietly is how Leicester do it best. Pearson assembled a squad of young, talented and dedicated players last season and they have gelled to form, on their day, one of the most formidable sides in the Championship. They ran out of steam last year, undone by the hype and praise which comes from topping the table and only clinching a play-off spot on the last day of term, in one of those wonderful moments that football fans live for. That they came within one kick and twenty seconds of a Wembley play-off final - for the second time under Pearson's stewardship, lest we forget - is something the Blue Army should be grateful for. Blaming Pearson - and calling for his head in pre-season - is hardly logical or worthwhile.

That is why I have bought my season ticket for next year and why I am quietly hopeful of more good things to come. Pearson has used those pre-season friendlies to apply new ideas from the training ground and improve fitness across the squad. He has introduced a new formation to give Leicester a plan 'B' and allowed players to challenge themselves against lower opponents in order to increase their understanding of the game. Five young strikers found the net at some point, whilst others failed to do so against the combined €100 million-plus of Monaco: so what? Every player has received valuable game-time in the build-up to what will be another roller-coaster of a season.

And if - if - City scrape into the play-offs again, let's just hope it'll be third-time lucky for Pearson's Foxes. 

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Important Travel Information for Supporters

Leicester City Football Club has issued an important statement regarding travel to the King Power Stadium for fixtures during the first half of the 2013/14 Sky Bet Football League Championship season.

Due to roadworks on two arterial routes into the city centre, the club have advised supporters to use public transport and allow extra time for their journeys to fixtures at the King Power Stadium. Some of the works will continue into the New Year.

The roadworks are comprised of three schemes which will see Narborough Road, Aylestone Road and the M1/M69 interchange at Junction 21 all affected until at least November this year. Details of the works affecting Foxes' fans follow the summary map below.

At Junction 21, the Highways Agency will be closing lanes and slip roads at different times to add additional capacity for traffic entering and leaving Leicester. Their work should be completed by the end of October.

At the Asda Island, the roundabout which forms the congested junction for traffic leaving the motorway to join the A5460 Narborough Road into the city centre, plus traffic bound for Fosse Park and the south of the county, Leicestershire County Council are making safety improvements to see additional lanes for city-bound traffic, new traffic signals at Fosse Park Avenue, and improved access to the Narborough Road South West Service Road. Any journey through the area will be subject to delays until at least the end of November, with work not expected to be completed until January 2014.

Finally, the creation of a 'bus corridor' on the A426 has already seen closures to Lutterworth Road at its junction with Soar Valley Way and rolling closures are ongoing until the end of October. There is a signed diversion along the outer ring road to Saffron Lane, but on match days the delays are anticipated to be severe. Ironically, bus services are also affected by this work: see the relevant bus operators' websites for details of changes to your usual route.

To compound the misery of matchday motorists, a new residents-only parking scheme has been set-up in the area between Narborough Road and Fosse Road North, near the junctions with Upperton Road, and the car park on the old Filbert Street ground has been deemed in contradiction of planning law and has been closed.

For more information on the closures, and to find out how to get to the King Power Stadium, see our Stadium page which has advice and plans for home and away supporters.