Date:Monday December 13 2010
"Yuki, give us a wave; Yuki, Yuki, give us a wave," cried the L1 boys during Saturday's victory over Doncaster at the Walkers. Sure enough Abe obliged, saluting his new adorers with a quick flourish of the hand.
You know you've settled in alright when you're getting wave requests.
For the diminutive midfielder, a summer move to Leicester perhaps wasn't in the line of thought as he jetted off to South Africa with the rest of the Japan squad.
But sure enough the Walkers was his eventual destination after a successful summer with his international team mates, as Abe became the first Asian player to satisfy the club's recently acquired Thai owners.
Early-season jitters from City under Paulo Sousa certainly didn't help Abe adapt to the unfamiliar demands of English football in the Championship. Substitute appearances were commonplace to help the star settle into his new surroundings, few of which drew gasps of delight from the Blue Army.
Foreign players have a habit of taking their time to acclimatise in England, but in a Leicester side which was free-falling in painful fashion, patience for Abe was somewhat thinner.
Arguably the most important moment of his development for Leicester so far - and arguably the event which turned around his fortunes - was Sven-Goran Eriksson's arrival at the club. City were a train wreck under Sousa, forging a deeply unwanted environment for Abe in his bid to make the grade.
But Eriksson's faith in the tenacious midfielder has since been proved fully warranted as Abe, aided by Richie Wellens and Andy King in the middle, has quickly turned the tide to become a mini Walkers cult hero.
His natural qualities are already plain to see; hard-working, quick and comfortable on the ball, and his work in front of the back four has certainly not gone unnoticed.
Wellens has already admitted he has been impressed with the start Abe has made in the English game, perhaps empathetic praise given that the role the Japanese international currently plays is a similar one to which Wellens performed last season.
There should be no doubts that Abe's inclusion in the first team is currently getting the best out of his central team mates. Andy King is enjoying his most productive season yet in front of goal, while Wellens himself has fully repaid Eriksson's license with some fine creative displays in the middle of the park.
On the surface it seems that the capture of the industrious midfielder was one of the few positives left over from Sousa's rein. That is, of course, assuming he played a part in his signing.
Regardless, with Japan almost certain to come knocking for the Asia Cup in January, Eriksson will have to call elsewhere in his squad to replace Leicester's midfield dynamo for a month. Matt Oakley should act as an able replacement, but the popular Abe will certainly be missed.
Date:Monday December 13 2010
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|Leicester City||1||-||1||Man Utd|
|Leicester City||1||-||0||Crystal Palace|
|1. Man City||14||9||2||3||+16||29|
|2. Leicester City||14||8||5||1||+8||29|
|3. Man Utd||14||8||4||2||+10||28|
|7. Crystal Palace||14||7||1||6||+5||22|
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