Date:Tuesday March 14 2006
He may only have scored the one goal and been a first team squad member for a few months but Chris O'Grady is already being held up as an example to others.
First it was manager Rob Kelly and now it is coach Ray Graydon who says 'I've watched Chris very closely in the few weeks that I've been here. He is on the training pitches morning, noon and night.
Speaking on the Official Leicester City website he added that O'Grady 'wants to be part of it and you get the impression that he will do anything to get involved.
'He is a great example to all the other young players at the club. If they follow his blueprint then they wouldn't go far wrong.'
What a change it all is for O'Grady who was sent out on loan to Rushden and Diamonds and returned a more rounded and accomplished player but also one determined to make his mark and to take his chance.
O'Grady always had ability but he was not particularly big or fast nor was he renowned for his tackling ability.
He's an example because he has worked tirelessly to improve his skills and to neuter his weaknesses.
Legendary goalkeeper Peter Shilton, years ago was exactly the same. When training finished he commandeered anyone who was willing to fire in more shots so he could work on some perceived weakness or another.
So often players with extraordinary natural gifts get nowhere in football because their weaknesses get spotted and their effect gets neutralised by the opposition as a result.
By working so hard on weaknesses people like O'Grady can play a useful part in matches whether it is holding the ball up in the closing 15 minutes and relieving pressure on the defence or grabbing a winning goal in the last couple of minutes.
The fewer weaknesses they have that can be exploited the greater value they are to their club and the more their manager can rely on them to do what is asked.
And reliability is clearly an important factor with Rob Kelly. People who can deliver a performance consistently. O'Grady has proved he can do that and has therefore become a valued part of the squad through sheer hard work and application.
He has also shown he will give of his best whatever the circumstances. Be it a five-minute cameo to run the clock down in the first team, or a match-fitness exercise in the Reserves O'Grady has been seen to give 100%.
Just recently in a second team game against Norwich City Reserves, O'Grady ran himself to a standstill and got a thorough battering.
You would never have known from his attitude whether it was a Reserves match or a major cup final. Time and again he worked shooting positions from nowhere only to be frustrated by good saves, last ditch interceptions or deflections.
O'Grady persisted though and finally won a penalty which he converted to put his team back on the way to a 2-2 draw from a 2-0 deficit.
A couple of weeks later and he was scoring that vital winning goal at Luton. A case of effort bringing its own reward.
A fit of pique or the wrong attitude in the Reserves that night and he might never have been given that chance at Luton.
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