The Foxes were unable to stop a free scoring West Brom from netting in their 21st consecutive league match, and so began April on a run of four straight defeats. It was the first time that this had happened under Nigel Pearson. Some had seen enough. An irate Cllr Colin Hall declared “The team and manager have lost the plot. We won’t win another game all season. Chickens are coming home to roost.”
In fact, Nigel Pearson’s 50th win as Leicester boss would come just three days later. The Foxes were fortunate to face a QPR side without a win in 12 away matches, but the nature of their 4-0 triumph (it was the Foxes biggest win over QPR since 1984) was exactly the confidence boost Pearson’s men needed.
City made it two wins in two with their first ever league win at Peterborough, a result which meant that at the very least City would seal their highest league position since they were relegated from the Premiership in 2003/04.
Watford were the next team to suffer a thumping from a City side right back in form. The Foxes sealed a 4-1 win despite having Steve Howard dismissed before half time. It was the first time that Leicester had won a league match despite being down to 10 men at the break since a 1-0 victory at the Baseball Ground in September 1995. Meanwhile Jay Spearing’s goal made him Leicester’s 100th goalscorer of the 21st Century.
City secured their playoff spot in typical style. Andy King’s first away goal of the campaign gave his side a 1-0 win. It was the 14th time the Foxes had won a league match by a single goal that season. No Championship team was more secure with a one goal lead than Leicester in 2009/10.
The Foxes ended the regular season with a 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough. Yann Kermorgant opened the scoring with his first ever goal for City in his 23rd appearance. And as the Frenchman breathed a sigh of relief the attention of Leicester fans turned to the playoffs.
The Foxes were in superb form. Five straight wins was the clubs best run at this level since 2002/03, was that an omen? Surely Leicester’s record in the playoffs was something to hold onto. City had emerged victorious in each of the four play-off semi-finals they had contested. They were also the only side in the playoffs to have beaten each of the other contenders during the season, amassing 12 points from a possible 18 in the process.
But Peter Wittingham’s 78th minute free-kick in the first leg with Cardiff was enough to put the Welsh side firmly in control of the tie. Other historical facts began to loom large. The last side to lose a Championship playoff semi-final first leg and still gain promotion had been Bolton Wanderers in 1995. No Championship/Division 1 side had been promoted having lost a playoff semi-final first leg at home. Worse still if Leicester were to reach Wembley without the aid of penalties they would need to win away by two goals. City hadn’t managed that all season.
After a rollercoaster of a match, it would penalties that decided who would make it to Wembley. Dave Herson tells the story from here.
The Nigel Pearson era came to an end.
Pearson left the Walkers Stadium with a win ratio of 51.4% and, by that measure, he was the most successful Leicester manager of all time. Under his stewardship the Foxes won their first league title (albeit the League One title) for 29 years. He also oversaw a new club record unbeaten league sequence of 23 matches.
Amongst other talents, getting the best out of Matty Fryatt was surely one of Pearson’s best achievements. Before Pearson, Fryatt had managed 11 goals in 81 league appearances for Leicester. Under the guidance of the new man, Fryatt netted 38 times in 75 league games. It was a remarkable turnaround.
In Pearson’s place arrived Paulo Sousa, who was to bring a new era of passing football to the Walkers Stadium. A lack of goals at Swansea City, his previous club, caused some concern. Swansea season ticket holders paid on average £17.86 to see their team score a league goal in 2009/10. Indeed, no league stadium in all four divisions in the 21st Century saw more goalless draws in a single season than the eight with took place at the Liberty Stadium in Sousa’s last campaign.
But then the Foxes had hardly been prolific scorers under Pearson, and at least Paulo would have no trouble stewarding one of the meanest defences in the Championship, having himself just coached the tightest back four in the league. Right?
SkyBet offered punters the opportunity to bet on which match would see Paulo pick up his first win: Palace (6/4), Middlesbrough (9/4), Reading (11/2), Burnley (7/1), Coventry (14/1), None (7/1). Only Coventry fans were betting on ‘none’.
No sooner had the pre-season optimism had time to bubble than did it fall flat. As the new look Foxes found themselves 3-0 down to relegation candidates Crystal Palace on the opening day, Foxes fans were left scratching their heads as to how City had suddenly become so sloppy at the back.
When Macclesfield scored three times at the Walkers Stadium just three days later alarm bells started to ring. The 4-3 victory was the highest scoring competitive match at the Walkers Stadium, but it was watched by the ground’s smallest ever crowd (6,142).
A clean sheet at home to then fancied Middlesbrough calmed nerves, but a disallowed Andy King goal (wrongly flagged for offside) meant that Sousa would have to wait longer for his first win as City boss.
But it wasn’t to come at Turf Moor. The last eight meetings between the two sides had produced just seven goals, and the Foxes kept up their side of the bargain by rarely threatening after an encouraging start. City were eventually sent packing with a 3-0 thumping in a match which saw Matty Fryatt fail to even make the bench. It was City’s biggest league defeat at Burnley since 1966.
The Sky cameras watched as City lost again at home to Reading. It was the first time Leicester had lost a match in which Lloyd Dyer had scored. And another disallowed goal from Andy King left fans wondering when City’s luck might change.
City had slumped to their worst start for 16 years. If that didn’t sound bad enough, it was Leicester’s worst start in the second tier since 1919.
A League Cup win a Leeds provided a welcome boost. But City ended August in 23rd place, spared the ignominy of rock bottom by virtue of having scored more goals than Portsmouth.