As Leicester seek their very first FA Cup trophy on Saturday, Kasper Schmeichel believes the club are in a much stronger position now than when they caught lightning in a bottle to win the Premier League title in 2016.
The Foxes will face Chelsea at Wembley in search of their first silverware since that day this weekend and will resume hostilities with the Blues three days later in their candidacy for Champions League football.
He might not have the drama of that 5000-1 title shot under Claudio Ranieri, but Schmeichel believes games like these reflect the solid foundation put in place to allow Leicester to compete for top honors on a regular basis.
“Without a doubt the club are in a fantastic position,” said the 34-year-old from the club’s £ 100million Seagrave training center which opened in December. “The infrastructure is now in place to start and really start to build.
“It will always be difficult for a club like Leicester to break into the so-called ‘Big Six’, but here we are trying again, we are working really, really hard and doing what we can.”
“ Rodgers comes to the turning point ”
Schmeichel said the foxes had been on a “journey of self-discovery” since that title in 2016.
Ranieri was sacked the following season as the results dwindled considerably, Craig Shakespeare came and went, then Claude Puel tried and failed to turn the tide at a time when the club were reeling over the president’s death. Khun Vichai in a helicopter crash in 2018 outside the stadium. .
But since Brendan Rodgers arrived in early 2019, the Foxes have become a force again, narrowly missing out on Champions League spots as they reached the Carabao Cup semi-finals last season.
“I think one of the big turning points was the arrival of Brendan and gave us that clear identity, focus, direction and leadership that really sets the club up for future success,” said Schmeichel.
“Maybe before we were still trying to figure out if we were a counter-attacking team, a possession team or something in between and we didn’t know if we were coming or going sometimes.
“It has led to some inconsistencies, but now we see two consecutive seasons competing near the top of the league and trying to advance to the finals.”
‘Vichai instilled belief in everyone in Leicester’
While Leicester has come a long way in the past five years, the transformation since the day Schmeichel signed for Championship club Leeds in 2011 is even more extreme.
But a man who grew up watching his father play and win the FA Cup final was adamant he always believed the Foxes would give him a chance to win fame.
“That was the plan,” he says. “When I signed for the club, Khun Vichai told me that we were going to be a challenge and that we would be in the Champions League in five years, and he didn’t strike me as the kind of person who messes around when he said things like that.
“It gave me conviction. That’s what instilled belief in everyone at the club. They really want to invest in the club and make it what it is today.”
After the collapse of the European Super League and attempts to set up a closed store in football, Leicester are determined to keep opening the door.
“Whether it’s in my playing time that we’ll be factored into these conversations or whether it will be 10-15 years later, what I do know is the commitment to progress and the commitment to excellence is there, ”Schmeichel mentioned.
“I have no doubts with the leadership we have that Leicester will be considered one of the best clubs in the country.”