Joe Mattock 'ecstatic' at dramatic exit
It's a fantastic feeling as a fan to watch a young player rise through the youth ranks to become an impressive professional footballer. It's quite another to watch an actual fan playing for their club. As with Richard Stearman, there seems to be some debate over how much of a City fan Joe Mattock actually is and his comments today that he was 'ecstatic' to learn of West Bromwich Albion's interest don't suggest he is a dyed-in-the-wool, true blue City devotee. During his breakthrough into the first team, however, it was still nice that we had a young player forcing his way into the side at a time when passion and commitment seemed to be in short supply.
It was such a refreshing sight at Barnsley that season to see a young Leicester player go on mazy runs down the wing and trying to force a positive effect on the game. Problem being that the raw youngster we saw that day seemingly hasn't made a step of significant progress ever since. He is still the rough-around-the-edges, potentially excellent player that we saw when he first broke through.
Heading into what would turn out to be our relegation season, Mattock vied with Alan Sheehan for the left-back position and neither of them really looked good enough for the Championship despite our superb defensive record. Mattock was often left for dead by quite average players, the nadir being Gary Taylor-Fletcher's goal at Blackpool. Even then, we were still getting weekly signs that Mattock had an awful long way to go to be an excellent footballer, despite early England youth recognition. Indeed, Sheehan's departure to Leeds United and subsequent exile from league action suggests what can happen to promising youngsters.
It wasn't unreasonable to think Mattock might stand out at League One level following relegation. England Under-21 honours arrived and it was fantastic to see a Leicester player wearing the Three Lions again even if it wasn't quite on the scale of Banks or Shilton. Mattock did not stand out last season though. He wasn't awful but he didn't excel either. Again we had one of those moments, as had happened at Blackpool the year before, this time at Hereford where Jennison Myrie-Williams put on a little burst of acceleration and won a blatant penalty following a Mattock lunge. Mattock looked distraught at the time but ill feeling had been building towards him in the preceding games. In a generally formidable team at that level, he sometimes appeared the weakest link.
Heading into this summer, an awful lot of Leicester fans were wondering less about his oft-mentioned potential and looking squarely at how he has actually performed for us - basically, not brilliantly. He failed to enjoy any outstanding games last season and although it's difficult from full-back, Daniel Fox by all accounts was managing that at Championship level with Coventry. Fox may be a couple of years older but if we have got a similar fee for Mattock to what Celtic paid for Fox then it's thank you and goodnight as far as most Leicester fans will be concerned.
Fast-forward to the first game of this pre-season and the rare chance to be within a yard or two of 'our heroes' at Loughborough Dynamo. Very early on, Mattock was twice dispossessed and beaten for pace by a Unibond League player. After heading over to Tamworth for the other game that day and seeing Bruno Berner play to a higher level against slightly stronger opposition, it summarised what many had thought over the summer - that Berner would be better suited to playing left-back for us this season.
Ironically, practically the only Mattock assist I can remember off the top of my head was for Gareth McAuley's header at the Hawthorns when City beat Albion 4-1 under Ian Holloway. That was a decent cross, swirling high up into the box and Mattock instinctively leapt in delight as the ball hit the net. It was moments like that which really made City fans want to like him, moments like his one and only goal in Leicester colours at Huish Park last season, notably struck with his weaker right foot.
Moments such as those have been too few to merit a transfer request being greeted with anything but indifference, sadness or perhaps even anger. The timing was terrible and now City fans are hoping the club can turn it into a positive by re-investing the money in strengthening the squad further.