Date:Monday August 24 2009
The target in Nigel Pearson's opening season as Leicester City manager was fairly simple - promotion at all costs. Now that has been achieved, things aren't quite as simple.
Ascension at the first time of asking was absolutely crucial for chairman Milan Mandaric. The form of Charlton Athletic and Leeds United and presence of Norwich City and Southampton in League One this season emphasise the importance of City's title triumph. While Mandaric backed his manager with continuing loan acquisitions throughout the season to ensure promotion, this season there are many different blueprints that the club can take.
The most interesting is that of Cardiff City, currently sitting pretty atop the Championship table. Comparing the respective departures from both clubs in recent seasons makes for lopsided reading. While the likes of Richard Stearman and Joe Mattock have swapped the East Midlands for the Black Country in exchange for unremarkable income, the Bluebirds have raked in millions from the sale of a succession of talented youngsters such as Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey. The early signs are that Pearson is not desperate to inflate the values of our young players and nor did the club manage to earn the full value that Joe Mattock's potential suggested at one stage. Michael Morrison, Andy King and Max Gradel will all play a part in this season for certain but their initial withdrawal in favour of old heads such as Wayne Brown and Richie Wellens implies that Pearson has full confidence in his ability to reach the top six with this side.
It is, after all, his own. Barely a signing has been made in the past twelve months which has gone unappreciated by an adoring support. There was scepticism when Bruno Berner's proof of fitness resulted in a three-year contract this time last season, but his displays so far this season suggest a stroke of genius from the City backroom staff. It is unclear who boasts the most important role in ensuring our player recruitment is second to none. Either Steve Walsh has identified targets with unerring precision or our coaching staff have been exacting in the day-to-day improvements made on the training ground. The picture is of a well-oiled machine that manages to secure talent on a shoestring and polishes rough diamonds for the greater good of the club. The comparisons are obvious.
There have been so many excellent signings that oversight would be easy. What is becoming clear from the first few games of this season is that the permanent signing of Jack Hobbs from Liverpool in April may well turn out to be among Pearson's finest moments in management, let alone during his time here. Announced before kick-off against Scunthorpe when title celebrations were the main thing on our minds, the four-year contract given to Hobbs looks a masterstroke following the concession of just two goals in four tricky opening matches.
Hobbs' value will surely rocket from the bargain £400,000 City parted with back in the spring. But his increase in value is not mirrored across the squad. Indeed, it could be argued that only Matty Fryatt, signed by Craig Levein in January 2006, has increased significantly in value since Pearson's appointment. The real value in Pearson's management is in our results and the Premier dream looks more achievable at present than at any time since City last fell out of the top tier.
Date:Monday August 24 2009
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