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7 Of The Best Players To Ever Play For Leicester

Podcast Blog Post 18

 

7: Gordon Banks

Signed from Chesterfield for £7,000 in July 1959, Banks was part of the side that reached the 1961 and 1963 FA Cup finals before going on to lose to Tottenham and Manchester United respectively. He would clinch silverware with the Foxes in 1964, though, winning the League Cup 4-3 on aggregate over Stoke City before losing 3-2 to Chelsea the following season.

But it was his exploits for Sir Alf Ramsey's heroes in 1966 that would etch him in football folklore, not conceding a goal until a 2-1 win over Portugal in the semi-final before lifting the trophy at Wembley.

Four years later, he made the 'save of the century', somehow keeping out Pele's header in the clash with Brazil in Guadalajara, but Banks would miss the 1970 World Cup quarter-final against West Germany due to illness.

Regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, he was named FWA Footballer of the Year in 1972 and was FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year on six occasions.

John Hutchinson said: "He had uncanny positioning; he was extremely agile and had sharp reflexes. The game I will always remember him for is the 1963 FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Hillsborough, the players at the time said it was like the Alamo. He was absolutely outstanding."

6: Jamie Vardy

A hard-working striker that scored goals at a prolific rate in non-league football with Fleetwood Town, Jamie Vardy has enjoyed a phenomenal last few seasons with the Foxes.

After joining in 2012, the striker went on to became a huge favourite with fans and team-mates in 2013/14 for his typically energetic and all-action displays on the field, showing that he had well and truly found his feet in the division.

As well as winning seven penalties thanks to his pace and willingness to run at defenders, Vardy scored an impressive 16 goals alongside David Nugent in the City attack – including a memorable strike against Queens Park Rangers. It was a similar success story in the Premier League for Vardy too, as he announced his arrival with a brilliant goal to give Leicester City a 4-3 lead in their famous 5-3 victory over Manchester United in September 2014. 

His performance levels reached new heights in the back end of the 2014/15 campaign and his stoppage time winner away at West Bromwich Albion will live long in the memory for all City fans. That form eventually saw him named in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for fixtures against the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia in June 2015.

His international debut then came in Dublin as a second half substitute for England captain Wayne Rooney, while Vardy netted a maiden goal for his nation against Germany – a brilliant front-post flick that helped the Three Lions to a 3-2 win.

That goal came during a sensational Premier League campaign for the striker. Vardy netted 24 times for the Foxes en route to the title, as well as scoring in a record-breaking 11 straight league games. He signed a new four-year contract at City in the summer of 2016, before scoring 17 times for club and country during the 2016/17 season.

5: Riyad Mahrez

Few would have expected the impact Riyad Mahrez would have at Leicester City when he became the Club’s first signing of the January 2014 transfer window at King Power Stadium. 

The Algerian winger scored three goals in the Sky Bet Championship as City booked promotion to the Premier League under Nigel Pearson before again proving invaluable the following year with four strikes to secure the Club’s Premier League status.

But it was during the 2015/16 campaign when Mahrez, with a unique blend of skill and creativity, made headlines across the globe with 17 goals as Claudio Ranieri led the Foxes to a historic Premier League title, the first top-flight success of their 132-year history.

With crucial goals against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, the former Le Havre winger received a host of individual accolades, too, including the PFA Player of the Year, the CAF African Footballer of the Year and a seventh-place finish on the Ballon d’Or vote.

Later scoring four goals in the UEFA Champions League group stage, as Ranieri’s men finished atop of Group G, the Algerian would go on to represent his country alongside Foxes team-mate at the African Cup of Nations in 2017. The French-Algerian made his name with former Club Le Havre in the French Ligue 2, where his performances from the wide right caught the eye of City’s scouts. 

A predominantly left footed player, Mahrez is blessed with natural pace and the undoubted ability to glide past defenders. Before he joined the Foxes, Mahrez made 20 appearances for Le Havre in 2013/14, scoring six times and providing five assists from the right side of midfield. 

 His first Leicester City goal was truly one to remember, as he scored a vital equaliser against local rivals Nottingham Forest at the City Ground back in February 2014. His exploits for City caught the attentions of the Algerian national team, who named Mahrez in their squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. 

4: Gary Lineker 

Leicester-born forward Gary Lineker joined his hometown club after leaving City of Leicester Boys' Grammar School in 1977 and went on to make 194 appearances for the club, scoring 95 goals.

He made his senior debut for the club on New Year's Day in 1979 in a 2-0 win over Oldham Athletic and earned a Second Division winners medal a year later under Jock Wallace. However, Lineker featured just nine times in the top-flight as City were relegated, but they did reach the semi-final of the FA Cup the following season before losing to Tottenham.

Lineker propelled City to promotion back to the top-flight in 1982/83 by scoring 26 goals before forging a prolific partnership with Alan Smith, earning him the top goalscorer crown in Division One with an impressive tally of 24.

Lineker was then sold to champions Everton for a fee of £800,000 before going on to sign for Barcelona for £2.8million in 1986. Boasting 80 international caps, Lineker won the Golden Boot at the 1986 World Cup and also scored 48 goals.

3: Muzzy Izzet

Turkish midfielder Muzzy Izzet signed on loan for Leicester in March 1996 under Martin O'Neill and made an immediate impact, scoring a vital goal against Watford to guarantee a play-off place on the final day of the season. He made the move permanent for £800,000 from Chelsea following City's promotion and went on to make a total of 269 appearances for the club.

A dynamic midfielder, Izzet formed a formidable partnership in the Leicester midfield alongside Neil Lennon and Robbie Savage and helped the club to four successive top 10 finishes in the Premier League as well as clinching two League Cups.

Izzet handed in a transfer request in autumn 2001 following the departure of O'Neill despite having pledged his future to the club, but withdrew his request as the club guaranteed their promotion back to the top flight in 2002/03.

A fans' favourite, Izzet's most memorable moments included a spectacular volley at home to Tottenham and a wonderfully acrobatic overhead kick in a 2-1 win over Grimsby Town at Blundell Park in 2002. Capped nine times by his country, Izzet featured in Turkey's 1-0 2002 World Cup semi-final defeat against Brazil in Saitama. 

2: Keith Weller

Widely regarded as the most talented player to wear a Leicester City shirt prior to this season, Keith Weller signed for the Foxes in 1971 for £100,000 after their promotion to the top flight.

A vital component of Jimmy Bloomfield's team alongside Frank Worthington, Jon Sammels and Alan Birchenall, City never finished above seventh during an eight-year spell that saw some of the most flamboyant football ever played at Filbert Street. Frequently employed on the flank, Weller was equally as effective through the middle and was capped four times for England under caretaker manager Joe Mercer.

Perhaps his most famous moment for the East Midlands club came in a 1979 FA Cup tie against Norwich City, where the winger strode afield with a fetching pair of white tights beneath his kit before scoring in a 3-0 win to silence the crowd.

Five years earlier, he was fined and temporarily transfer-listed after sensationally refusing to return to the pitch for Leicester's encounter with Ipswich Town. Other notable highlights included a hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Liverpool in 1972 and stunning strike against Luton Town on City's way to the FA Cup semi-final.

Weller passed away in 2004 after suffering with a rare form of cancer, aged 58.

Finally LCFC’S greatest ever player: Sep Smith.

Eighty-9 years ago this week, on 31 August 1929, a young 17-year-old, who went on to play for England and to become one of Leicester City’s all-time great players, made his debut for the Club.  His name was Septimus Smith

Leicester City started that season as one of the top two teams in England and it said much for Sep’s huge potential that he was included in the starting line up. Not only did Sep go on to have the lengthiest first team career in the Club’s history playing for nearly twenty years, he also became one of the Club’s most skilful and accomplished players. He was initially an inside-left, then a right-half before he ended his career in the post-war years at centre-half.

As a boy, he played football in home-made boots which were shoes with corks nailed to them to act as studs. Footballs were the blown-up bladders of slaughtered pigs. He lived next door to a farm. He collected hens’ eggs from their nests for the farmer. He also used to deliver milk to the neighbouring houses, pouring milk into jugs from cans.

Smith mentored former Leeds United and England manager Don Revie during his time at Leicester. Revie, who dedicated an entire chapter in his autobiography entitled "What I Owe to Sep Smith" claimed "I'm proud now to think of how much time Sep spent passing on his Soccer knowledge to me. He played a big part in my shaping my career." He also referred to Smith as "an extraordinary footballer," saying "he could place the ball within an inch of a man's toe – [and] that when he lobbed the ball to his winger the opposing full-back felt the ball graze his hair as he tried to strain his neck that extra inch, like a drowning man trying to lift his head out of the water."

He was the guest of honour at the Leicester's final game at Filbert Street (the club's home for over 110 years) in April 2002 and a suite at Leicester's current home ground The King Power Stadium is named after him in recognition of his service to the club

He is 7otb and The Football Hours greatest Leicester player.