Lost in…Leicester

Leicester City v Swansea City 

The King Power Stadium / Premier League / 18th April 2015

When I think of Leicester, happy thoughts don’t exactly flood my thoughts. My only visit to the city came back on the first day of the 2009/10 Championship season. Like the start of all football seasons, optimism was in the air, the sun was out, the Swans were back and we even had a footballing legend in Paulo Sousa taking charge of the club for his first league game today – all seemed rosy. What I endured instead was lots of wasps hassling me, a bland new build stadium, a hapless 2-1 loss for the Swans and the debut of the utterly shite Jordi Lopez, who was nicknamed ‘Jennifer Lopez’ by one fan near me within moments of coming on (it was evident within minutes how bad he was). Leicester had been a nightmare.

Welcome to Leicester.

Welcome to Leicester.

On that day, I only had the chance to see a small part of the city, but from the little I did see it didn’t capture my imagination. The thing that impressed me most about the place was the castle-like prison! Perhaps I’m being too harsh on the city of Leicester – it’s not really had much chance to impress. Until today. Today was the day of Leicester v Swansea and I was arriving into the city before 10.30am, so there was a bountiful time for Leicester to win me over before heading to the King Power Stadium.

When formed in 1884, the club were known as Leicester Fosse after the club played on a field by Fosse Road. The club then jumped from Victoria Park to Belgrave Road and then on turning professional went to Mill Lane and then the County Cricket Ground, whilst they sought out a new ground. That new ground would be Filbert Street, where the club would move to 1891 and would remain their home until 2002. Filbert Street was a crumbling, yet lovable ground, but with the club wanting to compete at the top table of English football a new stadium was needed and that was where I found myself heading today: The King Power Stadium, formerly the Walkers Stadium.

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Thomas Cook statue next to Leicester train station.

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The Last Plantagenet – Leicester branch of Spoons.

I rolled into Leicester station just before 10.30am and headed straight out of the station towards the centre, past the statue of Thomas Cook, the famous travel agent who I learned setup his first ever travel excursion from Leicester to Loughborough. Of course, I was distracted quick enough as I came across a Wetherspoons – why not go in I suppose. The Last Plantagenet is your standard Wetherspoons, but there was a nice mix of home and away fans in here on this Saturday morning.

One other thing I had noticed was that they don’t half go on about Richard III in Leicester and this Spoons was no different. Admittedly, I did not get the ‘Plantagenet’ reference in the pub name, as apparently Richard III was the last Plantagenet king of England and stayed in Leicester before his death in the Battle of Bosworth. On that day, Welshman Henry Tudor defeated Englishman Richard III – I was hoping for another Welsh triumph over the English today.

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The Parcel Yard – this place always delivers…

I soon received a text from Chester Mike informing me that him and Martyn were in the Parcel Yard bar next to the station; back up the street to the station I headed. Within the bar, I found Chester Mike and Martyn and a very plush bar indeed with champagne bottles acting as light shades above us. It seemed that the Parcel Yard had good reviews all round – you could say that the Parcel Yard always delivers… (oh dear). There was a whole host of continental lagers and ales on show and I’m baffled now to why I opted to go for Amstell – a lager I don’t even like that much. Soon we were joined by fellow Jack Huw and also Leicester-based Twitter pal Will, who had agreed to join me and the Jack Army for a few drinks in town today.

Ceri and me (top retro away shirt effort there too!)

Ceri and me (top retro away shirt effort there too!)

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Chester Mike, Martyn, myself, Mrs. Egi and Egi enjoying the Barley Mow.

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Me and Leicester friend (but Liverpool supporting) Will.

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Mat, me and Stew (who couldn’t even bothered to put his pint down for the photo).

Next stop was the Barley Mow, just a couple of minutes away from Leicester train station and this proved to be my favourite pub of the day. The pub is a typical, slightly battered city centre pub, but a great one at that. It was here where a large quantity of my Swansea pals were gathering too and after a few weeks without me attending a Swans game, it was good to catch up with everyone. As we were treated to Lincoln City v Eastleigh on the TV (sort of a treat anyway), lots of beer was drunk, lots of ‘banter’ was had and, obviously, lots of double thumbs up photos were taken. The time had flown and soon it was flying past 2pm – onwards to the stadium.

Will was heading back home in the same direction as I was going, so he joined me on the stroll away from the city and towards the stadium. En route we went past that enchanting looking prison and then past the quite impressive Welford Road – the home of Leicester Tigers.

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The home of Leicester Tigers.

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Not so sure why I’m so happy to see a rugby stadium…

Soon the white beams protruding from the top of the King Power Stadium were coming into view and it was time to say goodbye to Will. Turning a corner, the stadium was now dead ahead with a stream of blue heading towards the blue and white exterior of the stadium. For me, the King Power Stadium is a bit like a bigger, maybe slightly shinier version, of the Liberty Stadium. It is fairly decent on the eye, but ultimately it is very bland and lacking in character – probably accusations you could aim at the Liberty too.

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The crowds head towards the King Power Stadium.

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Lost Boyos has arrived.

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Leicester welcomes the Jack Army to their home.

I was soon on the away concourse and with half hour to go until kick-off it was already fairly rammed. One look at the queue for beer told me that a prematch beer in the ground wasn’t going to happen and instead I had a wander of the rather small concourse being a general social butterfly and chatting to some of my fellow Jacks and joining in the prematch chanting (which was largely about Cardiff City for a change…).

By the time I got into the stand, the singing was far more pro-Swansea with the usuals of “Swansea, oh Swansea” and “Hymns and Arias” getting their regular passionate airings. I headed up to the back of the stand with the rest of the lads and from here we had a great view for today’s proceedings.

The stadium is essentially one big bowl like most modern stadiums; there was even once talk of it being called the Walker’s Bowl instead of the Walker’s Stadium, but fans protested against such a name as a) it sounded too much like an American stadium and b) people would derogatorily refer to it as the ‘Crisp Bowl’. Good call.

It was a lovely day here in Leicester and the team’s walked out on to the pitch in glorious spring sunshine. Swansea, 8th in the league, were already level with their all time points record of 47 in the Premier League and a point today would see the Swans break that record. Unfortunately, Swansea were without their two in-form full backs and their first choice striker. On the other hand, Leicester were fighting for their lives at the bottom of the Premier League, although they had hit a bit of form by winning their last two games. It looked like today was going to be tough – and it was.

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The teams come out.

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COME ON CITY!!! (Swansea City I mean of course…not Leicester).

Swansea just never got themselves comfortable in the game. They were sluggish starting and even in the opening seconds Leicester almost found themselves through on goal with the Swansea defence lacking any sort of alertness.

It was generally all Leicester for the opening exchanges, although there were few chances. It would take just 15 minutes for the home team to take the lead though. A long ball into the box was not dealt with by the Swans and eventually the ball fell to Leonardo Ulloa who fired a powerful, low drive past birthday boy Lukasz Fabianski. 1-0.

I have to say that the Leicester fans really impressed me today and they were loud and encouraging throughout the game. It made for a good atmosphere within the stadium, as the Jack Army tried to back the lads too, although admittedly we had a lot less to sing about.

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Match action.

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Match action.

It also occurred to me during the first half that most of the away end was standing up and yet we had had no real bother from jobsworth stewarding. Well, at least I personally saw no signs of heavy-handed stewarding – well done Leicester City.

Swansea did create some chances for themselves with Jonjo Shelvey firing one of his usually accurate long rangers over the bar and Wayne Routledge even getting the ball in the net, only for the offside flag to deny him.

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Swansea’s birthday boy Lukasz Fabianski. Happy birthday to our beloved goalie. “WE’VE GOT A BIG POLE, IN OUR GOAL…”

Fair to say, Swansea were poor, and the only shining light for me had been Jack Cork. I’m starting to believe that Jack Cork may well be the best thing since sliced bread. Before he became a Swan, I regularly claimed that he was remarkably underrated during his times at Burnley and Southampton, yet now he plays for us and I’ve seen him play live regularly, it’s occurred to me that I think I was underrating him too. He’s brilliant! Watch out Gylfi Sigurdsson (also very poor today), your crown as my ‘Favourite Player’ is very much under threat.

Half-time: Leicester City 1 – 0 Swansea City.

Once again, queues for the bar were ridiculous, so my saunter down to the concourse proved a fruitless (well, alcohol-less) venture. Back to my seat I headed, but not before a quick half-time double thumbs up photo posing with the stadium.

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Half-time thumbs up. Not sure why I’m smiling though – we’re 1-0 down you fool!

I was hoping we’d come out for the second half all guns blazing – we didn’t. Far from it. The second half was very similar to the first for the Swans. Andrej Kramaric and Marc Albrighton almost scored for the Foxes but both put their shots wide. Leicester were very much on the front foot.

Then, from nothing, Shelvey forced Kasper Schmeichel to make a good save with a powerful 20 yard drive that looked to be flying in, before Leicester then went on to blow another few half chances. They really should have been further ahead by now.

Chants of “Viva Montero!” began to get louder in the away end as the Swans fans called for their lightning quick winger and soon enough Jeff was on the pitch causing havoc. Sadly, he didn’t see enough of the ball for me, but everything he did do looked dangerous.

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Match action.

Swansea’s Nelson Oliviera (making his first start in place of injured Bafe Gomis) went through on goal and was well denied by Schmeichel. I uttered words I thought I’d never say, “We miss Gomis…” I think it is fair to say that I’m not a lover of Bafe after his comments to the press and lethargic performances around Christmas time (see my Blackburn blog for the height of Gomis hate), but he has started to look a very dangerous striker recently. It’ll take a lot for him to win my full support, but if he’s going to continue to work hard and score goals for my club, I’ll always get behind him when he’s on the pitch.

Schmeichel then also thwarted Jonjo Shelvey again, as Jonjo unleashed a powerful drive from the edge of the box. That would be it for Swansea chances really.

There had been very little to get Swans fans excited, but I did begin to take some sort of joy from watching Leicester’s Esteban Cambiasso. The seasoned Argentinian was absolutely superb! He ran the midfield at times and it just seemed impossible to get the ball off him or for him to misplace any pass. Sadly, he was doing this against the Swans, so it made it hard to revel in his performance too much.

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Match action.

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Match action.

In the 89th minute, it would be Cambiasso who would help make it 2-0 to the Foxes. A curling low freekick from the Argentinian was only scooped away into the 6 yard box by Fabianski and the ball would fall for Welshman Andy King to fire home from close range. 2-0 and the stadium exploded in noise.

Game over. Much deserved victory for Leicester and their fans could clearly begin to smell a chance of Premier League survival, after a rather torrid season until recent weeks.

Full-time: Leicester City 2 – 0 Swansea City.

The Swans performance had not been a good one, but I was equally embarrassed by some of our fans at the end. Now I am more than use to fans baiting each other over the home/away end divide, yet I found it particularly cringeworthy watching some of our fans do this whilst wearing Swansea/Leicester half-and-half scarves. I’m not sure how you can abuse a club’s fans whilst having their name brandished around your neck!

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The Jack Army leaving at the final whistle.

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Happy Leicester fans leaving.

Last time I walked out of this stadium there was a few scuffles between Swansea and Leicester fans. As I had hung around in the ground for a bit post match to avoid queues and to take some photos, I walked out as one of the only Swans fans exiting into a sea of jubilant blue and white Leicester fans. Fortunately, I wasn’t given any stick or abuse and instead a few chatted to me about the game and said how surprised they were by the Swans’ performance today.

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That wonderful castle prison. Still probably my favourite part of Leicester…

Eventually, I got my way back to Barley Mow and the rest of the gang were already in here. “Fosters. On the way,” said the barman as I soon as I approached the bar – amazingly, he had remembered my drink of choice. “Never forget a face or drink.” Fairplay to him.

The only one missing from our party was Chester Mike and just to check he hadn’t been swarmed on by Leicester fans, I thought I better drop him a text to see where he was. The reply I got read as follows:

“Nacl tp pat Rcla”

Cheers Mike. Same to you too. We did eventually find out he was in another pub though.

Just as earlier in the day, the pub was good, the beer was good and the company was good; a good time was had by all day as we analysed our loss and drank to forget about the game. One thing that was taking a pounding though was my accent as people began to scrutinising it again, claiming that in recent months it had gone “all over the place”. I think I need to go back to the Valleys for a bit and ‘top up’ my Welsh accent!

Beers were purchased for the journey back home and I was soon working my way back north to Manchester, this time going via Birmingham/Nuneaton having come via Sheffield on the way down. It was like I was completing a lap of the central of the country! Of course, this route also meant I had to confront one of my newfound fears: Crewe train station. For those who missed it, I basically ended up stranded in Crewe train station for the best part of 5 hours, in the early hours of the morning 3 days before, on my way back from Walsall v Crawley. Once again, a change of trains was required at Crewe this evening, but I managed it incident-free this time

Leicester had been…well, a bit…meh. It’s definitely not one of my favourite away days, but the place didn’t particularly offend me either. Nice prison though. It was great to see all the Swansea lads again, but it was a shame about the Swans’ showing on the pitch; it seems that the Swans never play well here – with or without Jordi Lopez.

Highlights: Barley Mow and Parcel Yard were great bars, Jack Army, Esteban Cambiasso was a joy to watch at times,…lovely. prison in Leicester…, escaping Crewe this time.

Low Points: dull stadium, not a great game, poor Swans showing.

See all my photos from my day out in Leicester here.

One thought on “Lost in…Leicester

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