“So why couldn’t Leicester get a sponsor this season?” a friend asked. At least, that’s what I think he said. What I heard was “Couldn’t get a sponsor eh? Blimey, your lot really are a bunch of talentless chumps these days.” It felt like an accusation, a symbol of Leicester’s demise since the glory days of O’Neil, Heskey, Izzet and Elliot.
Last season when the Foxes’ website offered a choice of three slogans to be emblazoned on the front of Leicester’s new kit, we pondered for maybe a second or two and opted for the fourth and least controversial option; keep it blank.
The blank shirt is somewhat befitting of the new management style at the Walkers Stadium; plain, unassuming, unimpressed by prima donnas or fancy Dans. Nigel Pearson, who will quickly become Sir Nigel if he manages the Foxes to successive promotions, said he was pleased with promotion but in a tone which made you doubt he’s every really been satisfied by anything in life. What is clear is that Pearson’s character is exactly what City needed. He’s installed a backbone in the side that neither Martin ‘Mr Angry’ Allen or Ian ‘Happier than a badger in mating season’ Holloway ever managed.
What’s also different this season is that City start 2009/10 with a sense of optimism and stargazing not seen at the club in over a decade. True, Leicester fans don’t have any stars to gaze upon yet, but the Premiership seems a more realistic prospect than another plummet. Last season was the first time since 2002/03 that the Foxes won more games than they lost.
If it transpires Leicester won’t in fact be challenging for the play-offs or, dare I say it, automatic promotion, then there are many other scores which still need settling. For the first time in five seasons the East Midlands has its three major clubs in the same division and bragging rights are on the line. The only crumb of comfort in 2007/08 for Leicester fans in an otherwise dismal season was watching Derby County’s pathetic displays in the Premier League. Leicester may have been poor that year, but the sheep were record-breakingly dreadful. Meanwhile Forest, having clambered out of League One at the third attempt, are well overdue a kicking.
But there are reasons to be worried. With no new strikers on the books goalscoring responsibilities could fall on the unproven shoulders of Matty Fryatt. The 23 year-old might have managed 27 league strikes last term, be he only netted nine of them after Christmas. Alex Fergusson used to complain that Andy Cole needed five chances for every goal he scored. In 2008/09, the Fryastarter needed six.
Time to keep the faith!