Having clinched promotion to the Premier League at the weekend, Nigel Pearson has revealed Leicester City have been planning their return for two years.
A 2-1 defeat at Arsenal in 2004 was the last time the Foxes played in English football’s elite, since when they have been through two changes of ownership, 17 managers and a decade in the Football League of which one was spent in League One. However, a run of 21 matches unbeaten this season set them up for a return to the big-time, which was confirmed on Saturday when rivals Derby County and Queens Park Rangers failed to win.
As is often the case with sides coming up from the Championship, Leicester will no doubt be amongst the favourites for relegation when next season begins. However, Pearson insists this is no flash in the pan at the 32,000-capacity King Power Stadium, and that plans for their long overdue return to the top-flight actually began some two years ago.
“Two years ago, to be fair,” the 50-year-old, in his second spell at the club, replied when asked when his plans for their Premier League return will begin. “We have been planning for the eventuality of getting to the Premier League. It’s an ongoing process and we are well down the line in terms of where we think we are at with the squad and how we strengthen and improve. But the players who have been a part of this team deserve the right and the opportunity to perform at the next level, and it is about adding to what we have.”
This promotion will be especially sweet for the Foxes after the heartache of last season, when they conceded a stoppage time goal against Watford in the playoff semi-final second leg just seconds after Anthony Knockaert missed a penalty. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who is out of contract this summer, reflected on the last 12 months: “It’s going to be a lot more enjoyable summer than the last one. Everyone behind the scenes deserves massive credit for working hard towards the same goal.”