The recent success of my beloved Leicester City sure has been great but it does sadly mean that getting a ticket for any match (without the season ticket credentials) is really difficult. When I knew I’d be returning to England for the festive period I looked at the games available to me. Liverpool at home on Boxing Day was just never gonna happen so my mind turned to West Ham away on the 28th December as a trip up to Newcastle on New Years Day was also out of the question.
It was impossible for me to get tickets for any of those games anyway so my mind turned to the FA Cup and in early-December I was counting on a home tie against a team from outside the top half of the Premier League. My prayers were thankfully answered with Wigan being the visitors.
FA Cup matches are not included in season tickets so it really does make it easier to get a ticket and so when they went on general sale (which the aforementioned Premier League games never did) I managed to snap one up. For only £15 too! Sadly my wife had already returned to Japan so wasn’t around to accompany me and make her long awaited debut at the King Power Stadium.
It’s been FIVE years since I saw Leicester City in a competitive match. Thank god very little has happened during that time away!!! As much as I enjoyed watching them play West Brom in Hong Kong in the 2017 Premier League Asia Trophy, it can’t really be counted as a proper match! This one was against Wigan Athletic who may be near the bottom of the Championship but they do have a rich FA Cup pedigree in recent times having upset Manchester City to win it in 2013 before repeating the feat a couple of years ago in the fifth round.
The 5:31 pm kick off meant a far more relaxing morning but I was very excited about it all and headed off ridiculously early as I wanted to look around the area as much as I could. This mural (below) was on the side of a building near to where the old stadium was located down the road at Filbert Street.
Soon after that the King Power Stadium on Filbert Way (below) appeared albeit with very few people around as kick off was still 2.5 hours away! It’s the opposite in Japan where grounds are already a hive of activity at that time!
With plenty of time to kill I wandered round to the other side of the River Soar to get some photos of the stadium. Even though it was quite a mild day I soon felt the cold when I took my top off for these shots. It also felt a bit strange to not attend a game in a home shirt but having been given the latest pink away one for Christmas I thought I should wear that rather than a retro blue one.
Back on the other side of the river, darkness was approaching so time to get some shots of me outside the stadium. A far cry from all those years I watched Leicester City in the late 80s and the 90s without any thoughts of taking photos at a game! This is modern life though and I was certainly not the only one to be doing such a thing!
The remembrance garden (below) was my next port of call but it wasn’t really what I was looking for.
What I really wanted to do was pay my respect to our much-loved late Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha whose tragic death from a helicopter crash (along with four others) in this area on 27th October 2018 was the darkest day in the club’s history. The memorial garden featured a couple of animal-shaped hedges including an elephant one which is Thailand’s national symbol.
It’s obviously quite a sombre place to spend time pre-match but was an essential one for me on my return after all those years away.
My final stop before entering the stadium was the club shop or the Foxes Fanstore as it’s called! It was a busy place and doing a roaring trade as fans were purchasing all manner of goods. I was of course one of them! The retro section is the one that interested me most but I’ve actually got many of them albeit with some in sizes way too small for me now!
I’m still used to handing my ticket to a person so was not too familiar with how to scan the barcode on the ticket to open the turnstile gate! It took me a lot longer than the average person! After half a decade away it was no surprise to see memories relating to the famous title win of 2016 such as this mural (below) in the concourse.
Finally in my seat (ironically less leg room than in Japan despite the difference in average build!) it was like I hadn’t been away and it soon filled up around me as the players warmed up.
‘The Greatest Showman‘ and ‘Club Foot‘ blasted out as kick off approached and between those two tunes was a video montage of classic goals and moments from over the years to whip the crowd into a frenzy. The screens weren’t even present last time I was in attendance!
It was inevitably a much changed Leicester team from the previous league match with only Chilwell retaining his place at the back behind a load of midfielders as there was no recognised striker on the team sheet. Wigan defender Pearce made a right hash of his clearance from Albrighton’s cross on 19 minutes and put the ball into his own net. That was soon followed up by a good save from Barnes’ shot following some nice inter-passing. Barnes did get on the scoresheet (via a slight deflection) on 40 minutes just moments after Wigan had had a great opportunity to level it.
The second half drifted towards it’s predictable conclusion without much really happening until Wigan thought they’d pulled one back in the 73rd minute but Lowe’s volley was ruled out by VAR in what was my first time to experience it in a stadium. Tense moments and great for armchair fans but not for those present who are unable to see the replays. We just got a photo displayed on the screen after the final decision revealing a knee was a centimetre or two offside!
That really was the end of the away team’s slim chances. It was nice to see N’didi come on for the last 15 minutes or so and it certainly livened things up as he soon charged forward and tumbled in the box but VAR agreed with the referee’s decision of no penalty. Moments later he was left unmarked at a corner but his header went way over the bar.
Leicester really were in control throughout and never had to get out of second gear in front of an impressive attendance of just over 30,000. The game won’t live too long in the memory but I loved the whole match-day experience after such a long time away. Admittedly, winning the Premier League was never a dream as I just could never entertain the thought of us achieving such a thing. As for the FA Cup, it has long been a dream to see Leicester lift it but sadly I’ve never seen us get any further than the quarter finals! Will this be our year?
Final Score: Leicester City 2-0 Wigan Athletic
Click here to read ‘Hong Kong 2017 Pt I: Watching Leicester In The Premier League Asia Trophy’
Click here to read ‘FA Cup R3: Leicester City 1-0 Newcastle United
Click here to read ‘Get Your Kits Out For The Lads – My Leicester City Replica Shirt Collection’
Click here to see ‘My Leicester City Memorabilia’