Ask Foxes fans to compile their all-time Leicester City XI and the chances are that one of the centre back positions would be filled by Matt Elliott. The gravelly-voiced former City captain has been working as a match-day summariser for BBC Radio Leicester this season and whilst I was in the city recently I went along to meet one of my heroes.
Signed from Oxford United for £1.6m, Elliott settled into the team in no time and became a Premier League star under the guidance of manager Martin O’Neill who had a knack for making average to good players play consistently way above their level.
When Matt arrived at the BBC studios I was on hand to greet him, introduce myself and nervously utter some nonsense before we walked into the actual studios together where he was due on air 15 minutes later to give his views on the Monday night Football Forum (6-7pm).
I was then alone with Matt and talking to him about managing Army United and just generally living in Thailand before I realised my error! I was in the company of a Leicester legend and talking to him about something other than his City days! I soon corrected that by bringing up an article by Mark Lawrenson in his Mirror column in 1998 when he said that Elliott was his player of the year. Matt said that he had that cutting and was well pleased to have received such an accolade from an ex-player like Lawro although he did humbly say that he must have been looking for an alternative to the usual stars of the Premier League at that time.
To be fair I thought our meeting was going to be nothing more than asking him for a photo and exchanging a few words (and I would have been more than happy with that!) so to get a few minutes with such a lovely down-to-earth nice guy throughout the evening was an absolute delight.
Once the show had gone off air I was allowed to enter the studio used by him and presenter Ian Stringer to get my photo taken with the man who used to be on my wall in my early 20’s. Yes, I still had pictures of Leicester players in my bedroom at that age!
As he was about to exit he asked me where my car was parked after as if to say we could leave together but I told him I had come by train and joked that if he was passing through Market Harborough then I’d accept a lift!! Sadly he wasn’t but worth a try anyway!
Elliott was an absolute colossus in our defence during his 245 appearances between 1997 and 2005 (though he did play a few of them up front!) but it’s probably his goals (a very respectable 26) that defined his time at the club and here is the Tokyo Fox top 10……Matt Elliott moments!
1. v Tranmere, 2-1 (League Cup Final): 27 February 2000 – The game that ultimately defined Elliott’s time at City as he led the Foxes to victory at Wembley with two very similar goals from corners. Watch it here.
2. Premier League Player Of The Year, Daily Mirror: April 1998 – Former Liverpool defender and BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson said in his newspaper column that Elliott was his player of the year for the 1997-98 season.
3. v Aston Villa, 1-0 (H): 2 February 2000 – A great header in the League Cup Semi Final was enough to separate these teams over two closely fought matches. Watch it here.
4. v Wimbledon, 3-1 (A): 1 March 1997 – Quite possibly the match when Elliott really announced his arrival at Leicester with a brace of goals that helped City “do a Wimbledon” against the Dons at Selhurst Park.
5. v Everton, 2-2 (A): 3 January 2000 – In a televised match, Elliott was playing as a makeshift striker and scored twice in five minutes with goals that any striker would be proud of.
6. v Arsenal, 3-3 (H): 27 August 1997 – Bergkamp took all the plaudits from this game for a sensational hat-trick but it was Elliott who got the first equaliser for City as they clawed their way back from 2-0 down late on before the late, late drama. Watch it here.
7. v Sheffield Wednesday, 1-0 (H): 7 May 1997 – City may have finished 9th in their first season back in the Premier League but that was due to back-to-back victories in the final two games as well as other results going their way. Indeed, City weren’t even safe until the penultimate game against Wednesday when Elliott scored four minutes from time to ensure survival for the Foxes.
8. v Liverpool, 2-1 (A): 13 August 1997 – In the 1980’s City were the bogie team against the Reds and Elliott rolled back the years with the opener at Anfield.
9. Penalties – Rarely the main taker but never afraid to step up to the spot during the League and FA Cup penalty shoot out victories (1999-2000) as well as league games against local rivals Coventry and Nottingham Forest, Elliott (to my memory) blasted each and every one high down the middle. Watch the Arsenal shoot-out goal here (Elliott’s penalty on 2:50)
10. v Newcastle United, 3-4 (A): 2 February 1997 – Elliott’s first goal in a City shirt was an equaliser which set Leicester on their way to a 3-1 lead before the wheels fell off as Shearer helped the Toon Army comeback to win in front of the Sky TV cameras. Watch it here.
Bonus: v Faroe Islands, 1-1 (A): 5 June 1999 – Thanks to his Scottish grandmother, Elliott was eligible to play for Scotland and gained 18 caps whilst scoring a solitary goal along the way but it was the tabloid newspaper headline “PRAT ELLIOTT” the day after he was sent off against the mighty Faroe’s which I most remember!