I’m sure everyone reading this will have their own ideas of their worst Leicester City team, but I’m not interested in cherry picking from different eras, for the purposes of this post the team must have started together.
With this in mind, allow me to present my case for Leicester’s worst ever team. My criteria for this ‘worst team’ follows five rules.
1) It must offer shocking value for money;
2) Any established fan favourites must be passed their best;
3) It should include at least one player who fans have forgotten ever played for the club;
4) Preferably, it should be placed in a setting where failure is almost guaranteed;
5) Few team members, if any, should go on to achieve success elsewhere having played in this side.
The team I have selected featured much of Leicester’s most overpriced talent. Some of my favourites include;
Ade Akinbiyi – £5m
Matt Jones – £3m
Darren Eadie – £3m
Trevor Benjamin – £1.5m
Indeed, the 16 players in the squad that day cost a combined total of £21.75m. To put it in terms of today’s money, that’s nearly 14 DJ Campbell’s.
The line-up included a couple of notable fan favourites. Matt Elliot was the leading light amongst them, but his slide in form was beginning to take shape by the time this match took place whilst Tim Flowers and Andy Impy were not the same players they had been under Martin O’Neil.
The squad’s complete unknown was Kevin Ellison. Ellison played the only six minutes of his Leicester City and indeed Premier League career in this match, coming on as a substitute for Dean Sturridge. Ellison had plucked from the obscurity of Altrincham by Peter Taylor for £50,000. Within nine months he had been shipped to Stockport for a similar fee.
So who did this hopeless collection of expensive underachievers and old boys play? City’s opponents on 17th March 2001 were running away with the league for the second season running. Already 17 points clear, Manchester United’s title surge had been built on an almost impeccable record at Old Trafford.
So how do you break down a side which at that point in the season had conceded just 7 goals at home? Few, I imagine, would respond with Dean Sturridge and Ade Akinbiyi, a pair who between then would furnish City with 17 goals in 69 league starts. The BBC match report finds Ade in good form. Our correspondent notes “for all United’s pressure, Leicester should have snatched the lead when Ade Akinbiyi headed over the bar when well-played from a Darren Eadie cross.” Sigh.
Whilst few would pair Sturridge and Akinbiyi as their dream City strikers fewer still would rely on service to the front two coming from a midfield which included Junior Lewis, Matt Jones and Damien Delaney. Jones in particular would prove an albatross around Leicester’s neck. City won just three of their 16 Premier League games in which the Welshman started, Wales at the time fared little better. Junior Lewis’ four wins in 15 Premier League starts for Leicester in 00/01 was equally uninspiring.
At the other end, the United strikers were looking forward to firing shots Simon Royce, who would keep a meagre three clean sheets in 16 starts for Leicester that season. In front of him the defence included former Oxford United man Phil Gilchrist: a centre-back renowned for wearing his collar up like Eric Cantona, but with a first touch more akin to Eric Odhiambo. This would be his final game for the Foxes.
Amazingly the side held out at the Theatre of Dreams for 88 minutes, even surviving the 70th minute introduction of Trevor Benjamin for Akinbiyi for a surprising 17 minutes. Inevitably the torrent of United pressure finally told, and goals from Solskjaer (via a Dwight Yorke deflection) and Silvestre restored sanity to the footballing world.
So did any of this bunch go on to finer things?
Royce and Rowett moved to Charlton, which was at least the Premier League I suppose. Gilchrist too played top flight football with West Brom. Steve Guppy had an injury blighted spell with Celtic and Akinbiyi eventually found himself in the MLS.
In short then, no.
So there you have it, my pick for the worst Leicester team ever. I’d love to know yours.
The lineup in full; Royce, Rowett, Elliott, Gilchrist, Impey, Eadie, Junior Lewis, Jones (Guppy, 89), Delaney, Akinbiyi (Benjamin, 70), Sturridge (Ellison, 84)
Subs not used: Flowers, Oakes.
For those of you who are interested, here’s the BBC match report.