May 25, 2024

Following consecutive Championship defeats, Jamie Vardy led an intervention to help clear the air among Leicester’s team and review their promotion prospects.

Two weeks are a long time in football. The mood around Leicester City was bleak as they trudged off the pitch in Plymouth in the middle of April, having suffered their second consecutive defeat.

Both games, one against Millwall a few days earlier, played out in a similar manner: two lower-table clubs fighting for their lives against the threat of relegation, sitting deep and seeking to strike on the counterattack.

Leicester gave no reaction. The possession was present, but penetration was insufficient. And when they did get an opportunity, they blew it. The dissatisfaction of spectators in the away end was audible.

Fast forward a few games, and things seem extremely different. Leicester are back on top of the Championship, having fought tooth and nail to get three points against West Brom before cruising to a 5-0 win against Southampton.

The Foxes are presently on the edge of promotion. So what has changed?

The loss to Plymouth marked a watershed moment. From a fan’s standpoint, this was a crisis, and manager Enzo Maresca did not appear to know how to turn the tide.

Step ahead, Jamie Vardy. Marc Albrighton, the club’s iconic talisman for more than a decade, called a players-only meeting to address the team’s present concerns, as he exclusively disclosed to talkSPORT.

“Vards called the meeting,” he explains. “I was surprised by how many guys spoke up. There was a great deal of honesty.

“There was a great discussion about what this [promotion] meant. What it would entail for the club. Every player has a motivation for wanting to be back in the Premier League.”

 

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When asked about the specifics of what was discussed, Marc said, “We felt that at times, particularly in the second half of the season, the guys appeared to be unwilling to take certain risks [in possession].

“We have some outstanding players on the roster. We have some tremendous skill, especially on the wings. Their strength is sprinting at players, getting past them, and putting balls in the box.

When asked about the specifics of what was discussed, Marc said, “We felt that at times, particularly in the second half of the season, the guys appeared to be unwilling to take certain risks [in possession].

“We have some outstanding players on the roster. We have some tremendous skill, especially on the wings. Their strength is sprinting at players, getting past them, and putting balls in the box.

“He’s been a revelation for us,” says Albrighton, smiling. “He is only 20 years old as well. I certainly watched him in the first half [against Southampton] and went to speak with him at halftime.

“I just told him to keep doing what he was doing, both offensively and defensively.” Kyle Walker-Peters tried to get ahead, but Abdul tracked every run and made tackles. That is a compliment to him.”

Whether Leicester can recruit Fatawu in the summer remains to be seen. It has been claimed that if the team is promoted, there is an obligation to acquire the winger, who is now on loan from Sporting, but this may be hindered by the current player registration embargo.

Albrighton, 34, and Vardy, 37, are two additional players whose futures are uncertain this summer, as they are also out of contracts. The pair have a terrific friendship both on and off the pitch, and Albrighton believes it will be a sad day when Vardy ends his Leicester career.

“I see him every single morning,” he laughs. “I think it will be difficult to not see him every morning because he is such a character.

“He’s ideal for a dressing room, which sometimes requires someone like him. It’s not that he doesn’t care about football, but he can make light of any situation.

“He starts conversations, which can help relieve some of the stress of the day. He has his own funny regimens, of course, but he’s a good friend of mine, and whatever happens, the service he’s provided to this football club is unparalleled.”

With his legacy at Leicester already well established, it would be a fitting finale to Vardy’s fairytale if he proved to be the catalyst for Leicester’s comeback and return to the Premier League.

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