Finding a Who are You? candidate is not always easy. With Leicester City it was a cinch. Not one but two possible interviewees replied in quick succession with offers to leap into the hot seat. It seemed wrong to turn either Sunil Parmar* or Chris Moore** away so here is the first part of Salut! Sunderland’s first WAY double-header of the season … the second instalment will appear tomorrow
Salut! Sunderland: Can’t think of a better place to start than SuperKev. He’s now your first team coach How is he doing and what do think of his career?
Sunil: Quite well I think considering it’s his first foray in to coaching. Seems to be a secondary assistant at the moment to pass on the messages while the boss is in the stands. Recently we’re struggling to score but I don’t think that’s down to Super Kev; more so down to the tactics we’re playing and it’s hard enough to create chances as opposed to score any that come our way. Very admirable career. Prolific in his heyday and one of those ‘natural’ finishers. Glad he got to end his career with Leicester. My first memory of him is his goal against us in our first Premier League game at the then Walkers Stadium. Scored an absolute screamer. And obviously the final memory of his playing days ended at Leicester so it’s nice how things work out sometimes.
Chris: As we haven’t scored for 4 games it could be argued that he isn’t doing too well !! However that’s down to lack of chances rather than his influence . I understand he is a good influence around the place & the team have a lot of respect for him. Obviously he had a great career especially with you, although he usually scored against us whoever he played for. He was a lethal poacher & I would have loved him to have played for us when he was at his peak.
*** Sunderland and Foxes fans: Guess the Score at https://safc.blog/2014/11/phew-internationals-nearly-over-so-guess-the-score-as-sunderland-visit-leicester/
Nigel Pearson: decent, unspectacular playing career and perhaps no more than a steady managerial record until his second spell with Leicester and the manager-of-the-month awards and impressive title-winning promotion. Your assessment?
Sunil: Best manager since Martin O’Neill, no doubt about it. Still has a long way to go to match O’Neill’s records with us but going the right way about it. I think Leicester fans have a fair bit to owe to him and thank him for getting us back to the Premier League after many unsuccessful seasons of trying. Can be very stubborn as I’m sure you’ve seen in the media, but same with his tactics too. Some questionable decisions so far in the Premier League but can understand that it’s a massive learning curve for him. I didn’t expect him to get it perfect straight away and I think other fans need to realise this. Even the best managers in the world don’t get it right sometimes.
Chris: I was disgusted with the way he was treated when he was forced out of the club, & delighted when he came back. Overall I think he has done a great job from rescuing us from our only season in the 3rd tier to taking us back to the top after a 10 year absence. As a lot of the squad have signed new long term contracts I think he is obviously rated by the team, & although we are having a rough patch after the euphoria of beating Utd 5-3 I think he will turn it round. certainly since his return I have rarely had reason to doubt team spirit.
And what do you make of your Thai owner with the impossibly long surname?
Sunil: An impossibly long surname which I can say and spell without looking so I’m proud of that! He’s backed us financially and seems to be unlike other foreign owners in football right now. Kept faith with Pearson when we suffered a terrible run towards the end of the 12-13 season. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we’ve seen where we are now. Perhaps other owners should take note to stick with your man sometimes. They’re not the kind to make knee-jerk reactions and seem to have their heads screwed on so far. Glad they’re here and hope they stay for a while because they seem to do business the right way; they predominantly stay out of on-pitch matters but still do the work behind-the-scenes.
Chris: Milan Manderic always said he would leave the club in safe hands when he left & he appears to have done so. The new owners have poured an awful lot of money into the club both on players & in the stadium & at the training ground . They appear to be here for the long term & like most City fans I am extremely grateful to them, & I hope they get there reward with Leicester eventually becoming established back in the top flight.
Leicester is often seen as having become an Asian city, yet we had the unsavoury Wayne Brown affair (the player who announced to team-mates he had voted BNP). Tough question: has football become less racist and do Leicester attract significant support among ethnic minorities?
Sunil: I’m surprised others know about the Wayne Brown incident! Caused some fuss at the time but that’s long forgotten by City fans these days. From my own point of view, I think football has become less racist because of the sanctions that can be handed out. In this country, at least. Unfortunately you still get some unsavoury incidents around Europe but when it comes to Leicester, I don’t hear any racist comments whenever I’m at a match. Can’t remember a time where I have at a match to be honest. Although I don’t live in Leicester, I still see a lot of younger people wear Utd + Liverpool shirts whenever I visit the city. Hard to give an answer to this without doing some deeper research!
Chris: Wayne was rightly dropped from our team due to play Cardiff in a Championship play off semi final & never played for us again. ( he had been playing well for us & with him I think we would have beaten Cardiff ). I think football is less racist than it used to be, although I still see racist abuse occasionally at some games. There are more ethnic minority City supporters than there used to be, but given the size of Leicester’s ethnic population probably nowhere as many as there should be .
Tell me your honest thoughts about whether Leicester will get through the season without suffering the relegation that befalls so many promoted sides
Sunil: I think we’ll be fine. Even if it does end up being a tight-run thing and takes us to the final days of the season. Important thing is that the fans don’t turn on the team and that the squad stays together. I don’t want to go back through the last 10 years of trying and failing to get back to the Premier League and experiencing copious amounts of instability which isn’t fun to go through. It’ll be tough for this season but if you’re a fan that expected any different then perhaps lower the expectations. There are many sides that look set to struggle as well but we’re not getting points off teams that will inevitably be around us at the end of the season. This needs to change.
I think we are likely to finish in the bottom 5 this season, but I think we will be just good enough to survive which always had to be the first aim.
And where are your strongest and weakest in the current squad?
Sunil: Strongest – midfielders (currently). We’ve got some real talent here – Cambiasso, Drinkwater, King, Mahrez. The latter is a joy to watch when he’s running at players. Tricks and skill and a typical winger. Unfortunately not playing much these days though!
Weakest – full-backs. Not been impressed with Ritchie De Laet this season so far. Needs to improve a lot if he’s to keep his spot in the side.
Chris:We obviously have a fairly consistent keeper in Schemical, & a quality experienced head in Cambiasso who I think will have a major part to play for us this season. Our lack of creativity worries me at the moment & we seem to be creating very few scoring opportunities.
Your highs and lows of supporting the club?
Sunil: Being promoted back in to the Premier League and winning the Championship. Cup Final win over Tranmere in 2000. Beating Forest a couple of seasons ago to get in to the play-offs (and prevent them doing so in the process). 5-3 victory over Man Utd. All many highs which will be remembered for a lifetime.
Lows – relegation, going in to administration, losing play-off semi-finals, O’Neill leaving, Peter Taylor coming in and essentially breaking the soul of the club.
Chris:Having been a fan for over 50 years now, there have been plenty of both. My all time favourite high has to be when Steve Walsh scored the winner against Derby in the 1994 play off final.
Having been to Wembley to watch us lose 5 consecutive major finals, I just knew then that I was at long last going to see MY team win at Wembley. I was like a kid on a pogo stick for about 5 mins after he scored & my eyes were unashamedly full of tears of joy ! This high was closely followed by Steve Claridge scoring such a late late goal against Palace in the 1996 play off final & him scoring in the 1997 League Cup Final against Boro to win us our first major trophy for 33 years. Journeys to watch us play in Europe were also special.
Possibly the worst all time low for me was when we lost 3-1 to Man Utd in the 1963 FA Cup Final. Hard to believe now but City were red hot favourites to beat Utd & were even favourite to do the League & Cup double at Easter. That’s side was the best City team I have ever seen but sadly they just didn’t turn up that day & even Banks had a shocker. For the other lows they don’t come much worse than a terrible day at Stoke in 2008 when I saw us go down to the third tier for the first time in our history. I’ll never forgive Ian Holloway for that ! Add to these two any FA Cup Final or semi final defeat, League Cup or Play off final defeats.
And how conscious are you of the club’s history?
Sunil: I’d like to say fairly conscious. I know a fair bit of the club’s recent history but would probably need to do some homework going back. Dad’s a Leicester fan so I do love hearing stories of his fan experiences through 70s onwards.
Chris:I am very conscious of our history. We have always been regarded as a fairly smallish club as we are obviously not in a very big City, but we have produced some great players & great players have wanted to join us. Alan Clarke chose to join us in 1968 rather than Man Utd for a then British transfer record fee of £150,000 even though United had just won the European Cup, & Keith Weller wanted to join us in 1972 from Chelsea even though he had been the Blues top scorer that season & they had just won the European Cup Winners Cup. Not being one of the really big clubs has always made anything we have won or achieved seem that much more satisfying for me.
We are the only club to have been to 4 FA Cup Finals at the old Wembley without winning once, & to win the Cup just once is still a lifelong ambition. We are also the only club to have come back from 3-0 down in a major Wembley Final .It was against Glen Hoddle’s Swindon in 1993. In one of the most amazing fightbacks I have ever seen we levelled it at 3-3, but being typical Leicester when then lost 4-3 due to a hotly disputed penalty. In probably our best decade we reached 3 FA Cup Finals & 2 League Cup Finals between 1961 & 1969, & in the 1992 -2000 period we reached we appeared at Wembley 7 times in major finals. We are also one of the very few teams who have reached the FA Cup Final & got relegated from the top flight in the same season!
* Sunil Parmar on himself:
Bit about myself. Name is Sunil Parmar. Been supporting City since Dad took me to a match in 1996/97 season. First match was against your rivals Newcastle. I live and work in Bedford. Used to have a season ticket but a combination of work/uni prevented me from going to matches regularly. Now try and go to as many as possible with my dad and brother (also City fans).
** Chris Moore on himself: I am now semi retired having worked as a surveyor in a number of diverse roles throughout my working life. I live in Leics & as a season ticket holder I continue to watch City home & away as much as possible. My son was introduced to the joys & lows of supporting the club at an early age, & he has remained as keen as I am ever since even though he has to come from London to watch home games.
In theory I should be a Man Utd fan as the first game I saw was Utd V West Ham at Old Trafford when my parents lived in Cheshire. I would have had a far more legitimate claim than the guys who live in Bournemouth, Birmingham or Bristol etc ! But I was born in Leicester so there was only one club for me & I have been addicted since 1961 when is my first game. As very genuine fan knows once a club is in you blood you have had it no matter what, as a friend of mine once brilliantly put it ” Its like a never ending love affair “. Certainly my beloved Leicester City have given me some the highest possible highs of my life & also some of the worst possible lows!
Interview: Colin Randall ……. to be continued
Football clubs are not as big as we’re led to think.
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