I'll teach Leicester how to stay up, says Marc Albrighton
After so long at Aston Villa, the Foxes' new signing knows what it takes to survive in the Premier League
Sunday 10 August 2014
Inevitably, the pristine shirts lining the walls of the Leicester City dressing room in the King Power Stadium seem symbolic. After 10 years away, the Foxes are back in the Premier League, ambitions fresh, hopes unsullied. The shirts are hung back to front, showing the names with whom City's future has been trusted.
With the season not yet begun, though, some of the names are new. One is Marc Albrighton, who sits on the bench next to his shirt, leaning forwards or back, looking to the left or the right, according to the command of the photographer. His arrival from Aston Villa, on a free transfer, has been overshadowed by the fellow a couple of pegs along, the £8 million former Brighton striker Leonardo Ulloa, yet his recent experience of relegation scraps might be particularly relevant in the long months ahead.
History suggests Leicester will need all the help they can get. Of the 65 teams promoted to the Premier League before this season's influx, almost half were relegated after a single season. Leicester's promotion is their fourth. So far they have suffered two instant failures, along with one stay that lasted six years, after Martin O'Neill took them up via the play-offs and four times finished in the top 10.
This time City arrive on the back of a record-breaking title-winning season in the Championship under Nigel Pearson, who signed Albrighton more for his ability to supply crosses for Ulloa, David Nugent and others rather than with a relegation fight in mind. Nonetheless, he will encourage the 24-year-old winger to share what he learned in a Villa side for whom drop-dodging has become an annual event.
He will be able to tell them first that it is an unenviable fate. "The last couple of years were horrible," he said. "It was a scrap but we were where we deserved to be in the table. Because of what the club had done in the past the expectation levels are sky high but the squad we had was not as good as the squads they had in the past.
"It is different at Leicester. We have a squad high on confidence but without the same expectations. There is no pressure on us and a belief that we can do well. Some teams struggle but there are others like Swansea who come up and take the Premier League by storm and that's your inspiration." But what qualities set apart the survivors from the sides who sink?
"You have to work harder to keep the ball in the Premier League and try to keep it for long periods. When you've not got the ball you need to be organised and stand tall and make sure everyone is doing his job properly.
"Leicester won promotion as an attacking side and that will not change but you will come up against sides who will keep the ball and you need to keep your shape and maintain your concentration.
"You need to be picking up points against the teams in mid table and in the bottom half because not only are you gaining points yourself you're taking them off your rivals.
"That's something Villa did not do. At Villa we performed better when the pressure wasn't on us and managed to take points against the top sides and without those we could easily have gone. But you can't rely on beating the big sides."
The role of the crowd, he says, is important. Villa's poor home form was not helped by supporters who were not slow to voice their disillusionment.
"If the fans here can get behind us even if we make a bad start to a game – because that's when you need them most – they can make a big difference.
"It is not nice to have 40,000 people groan at you when a pass goes astray, although if it's me I'll groan with them because I'm my own biggest critic. But at the same time it gives you a lift to hear people cheering."
Albrighton sees his move to Leicester as a moment to galvanise his career and to come out of his shell. A former England Under-21 international once seen as a new Tony Morley, he had been attached to Villa since he was eight years old and felt he needed a change.
"When you are at the same place of work for 16 years you become part of the furniture," he said. "People still saw me as that young lad from the youth team.
"To come to a new club and be seen as someone with a bit of experience makes me feel a lot better.
"I am naturally quiet, not one to go around shouting. To get my opinion heard was quite hard at Villa but when you come to a new club with experience you can pass on you need to become a bit more vocal and if something needs to be said, if it can help the team to win a game, I'm prepared to speak up."
2003/04 Promoted: Portsmouth (ended first season up in 13th) Leicester City (18th, relegated) Wolves (20th relegated)
2004/05 Promoted: Norwich City (19th, relegated) West Brom (17th) Crystal Palace (18th, relegated)
2005/06 Promoted: Sunderland (20th, relegated) Wigan (10th) West Ham (9th)
2006/07 Promoted: Reading (8th) Sheffield United (18th, relegated) Watford (20th, relegated)
2007/08 Promoted: Sunderland (15th) Birmingham (19th, relegated) Derby (20th, relegated)
2008/09 Promoted: West Brom (20th, relegated) Stoke (12th) Hull (17th)
2009/10 Promoted: Wolves (15th) Birmingham (9th) Burnley (18th, relegated)
2010/11 Promoted: Newcastle (12th) West Brom (11th) Blackpool (19th, relegated)
2011/12 Promoted: QPR (17th) Norwich (12th) Swansea (11th)
2012/13 Promoted: Reading (19th, relegated) Southampton (14th) West Ham (10th)
2013/14 Promoted: Cardiff (20th, relegated) Hull (16th) Crystal Palace (11th)
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