Sunday, 31 August 2014

Leicester City - Tottenham in disguise

Leicester is of course the city of Gary Lineker, Alan Smith, pork pies, Kasabian, Showaddywaddy, Engelbert Humperdinck, Stilton cheese, Red Leicester, and salt and vinegar crisps in green packets.

As an Arsenal fan living in Leicester, this match is as close as I get to experiencing what most arsenal fans experience when we play Tottenham and consequently I have many memories of games between the clubs over the years.

First of all, there was Dennis Bergkamp's hat-trick in August 1997, which I'm sure needs no introduction for fans of either club.

Then there was the home match at the start of the unbeaten season, which I managed to get a ticket for. We won the match comfortably 4-0 with goals from Henry, Bergkamp, Pires and Ljungberg and you could see at that point that this was a special side. I tried not to cheer too loudly as I was sitting in the away end.

The away match against Leicester that season was also memorable because it was the match when we sealed the unbeaten season. We went 1-0 down to an offside goal scored by former gunner Paul Dickov, a player who I thought had a lot of potential but who was sold after not being able to cement a first team place due to competition from Ian Wright, John Hartson and the mighty Chris Kiwomya. He never really fulfilled that potential after moving to Man City and similarly failed to become a first-team regular there and subsequently at Blackburn. It was the Leicester fans who probably saw the best of Dickov in two spells there in 2002-2004 and 2008-2010.

That song

Then of course there is that song, the origins of which are lost in time...
We will follow the Arsenal
over land and sea (AND LEICESTER)
We will follow the Arsenal
on to victory
All together now... 

And the bad

There are also some bad memories. I remember watching a turgid 1-0 Leicester win at the old Filbert Street in 1981, going down to a solitary Tommy Williams goal in the days of Frank Stapleton, Graham Rix, Pat Jennings, Alan Sunderland and John Hollins. The most memorable thing from the match for me was the way that Leicester continually showed up Arsenal centre back Willie Young for the lumbering ex-Tottenham oaf that he was.

And there was also a match we lost 3-0 at Filbert Street in November 1983 when a team featuring the likes of Pat Jennings, Kenny Sansom, Graham Rix, Tony Woodcock, Alan Sunderland, Charlie Nicholas, Paul Davis and David O'Leary got turned over and had their bellies rubbed. Leicester fans' favourite Steve Lynex and a couple of unknowns called Gary Lineker and Alan Smith got the goals for the foxes.

Before my time

Fans with longer memories than me may remember a match in 1963 when Arsenal keeper Jack McClelland was sent off and Leicester went on to win 7-2 against ten man Arsenal, as substitutes were not allowed in those days.

In the programme for that match it says of Arsenal that:
They have claimed a great deal of attention lately by signing the Scotland centre-half, Ian Ure, from Dundee. Newspapers have put the transfer fee at more than £60,000, and the strange thing is that the mention of such as sum does not startle us as it might have done a few years ago. We have definitely entered a new era of football values and whatever we may think of them, they have to be accepted.

Today's match

Leicester City should not be underestimated. They won the Champoionship with 102 points last season; that's no mean feat. A win and a loss so far seems to suggest that they have not found transition to the Premier League easy, but this ignores the fact that those two matches were against Everton and Chelsea.

New signing Estaban Cambiasso has won 23 professional honours, including the Champions League, five league championships and four Copa Italias with Inter Milan, and a La Liga title with Real Madrid. Nothing yet for Leicester.

Kasper Schmeichel in goal is one of the top keepers in the Premier League, they are pretty good at the back and they also have a few other players such as Leonard Ulloah, Anthony Knockhart and Rihad Mahrez who can cause a shock on their day.

I've not been able to get a ticket for the match, so I won't be able to jinx the Arse this time and I think we will have enough class to win this one, which is important going into the international break.


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