(la la la la la la) Ben Marshall
Five games remaining. Five points outside the Championship play-off places. Following what can only be described as an inconsistent season, Leicester City somehow still find themselves with the slimmest chance of making the play-offs for the second time in three years. However, even the most optimistic Foxes fans will struggle to persuade others that promotion is still a possibility, bearing in mind that Leicester's fate this season is no longer in their own hands. Realistically, they must win all of their remaining games, and rely on other play-off contenders slipping up. The latter is possible, as all the teams currently occupying third to eighth in the Championship have struggled for recent form, winning four out of their last ten games at best (Leicester have won five of their last ten). The former is the problem. Nigel Pearson's side have only put up back-to-back wins once this season - something which has harnessed Leicester's success during this campaign.
But regardless of how Leicester's season pans out in terms of league position and play-off possibilities, there is a reason to be optimistic next year - and that's the signing of Ben Marshall.
Marshall's move to the East Midlands was a real accomplishment for Nigel Pearson. Several teams were supposedly interested in signing the Stoke forward in January, although many Leicester fans will probably hold their hands up and admit that they did not know much about Ben Marshall before his transfer. Although previously a Stoke player from 2009, he never started a competitive game for the Potters and spent the last three years on loan at various lower league clubs. After suffering a broken leg in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final in 2010 while on loan at Carlisle United, Marshall impressed at Sheffield Wednesday at the beginning of this season, scoring five goals in 22 appearances, and Gary Megson's inability to keep the 21-year-old at Hillsborough allegedly contributed to the former Foxes manager parting ways with Wednesday earlier this year.
Since penning a three-and-a-half year deal with Leicester City in January, the youngster has already made a real name for himself at the King Power Stadium. In just nine appearances for Nigel Pearson's side, Marshall has scored three superb goals (most notably in the Foxes 5-2 FA Cup quarter-final loss against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge), and also has been credited with three assists. His style of play is incredibly positive, and, although signed predominantly as a winger, has experienced considerable success playing just behind Jermaine Beckford in the middle of the pitch. Marshall's confidence is also sky high, having proven to Nigel Pearson that he is worthy of a spot in Leicester's starting eleven.
What's positive is that Ben Marshall is a Nigel Pearson signing. Due to the timing of Pearson's return to Leicester City, his opportunities to make changes have been limited. In theory, he inherited a squad that wasn't his - with the exception of a few players signed during his first spell with the club, namely Lloyd Dyer, Richie Wellens, Andy King and Steve Howard. That's not to say that Pearson is necessarily unhappy with his squad, but he clearly felt the need to make some alterations in the January transfer window. The addition of Wes Morgan indicated that it was thought that more depth was required in defence. The addition of Danny Drinkwater indicated that a spark was needed in midfield. Both have impressed since signing, and Ben Marshall is no exception to that small group of new signings.
Regardless of what division the Foxes are in next season, there is little doubt that Nigel Pearson has found a player to incorporate into his side, and possibly develop a team around. Players are likely to come and go in the summer to help solidify some consistency at Leicester City, and if Pearson continues to find more hidden treasures like Ben Marshall, next season promises to be one for the Blue Army look forward to. But in the meantime, he could be the catalyst needed over the next five games to spark a dramatic finale to Leicester's Championship campaign.