The 25 Best Players in the Championship - as voted for by you: Part 12 of 25
Leicester City’s move for Leeds United goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel came somewhat out of the blue in the summer. Schmeichel seemed to be a Leeds United fans’ favourite last season, but he was part of a defence that conceded 70 goals during the 2010/11 campaign – a full 20 more than the Nottingham Forest side that pipped them to the final play-off place. The Dane was shipped on and replaced by Preston’s Andy Lonergan. So how has Schmeichel fared at his new club?
Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)
The answer, despite Leicester’s underwhelming start to the season, is emphatically positive. Schmeichel has been a roaring success at the King Power Stadium and already looks like he has been in situ for some years. Which is some relief for City fans.
In the latter half of last season, Sven-Goran Eriksson flitted between the initial established number one Chris Weale and the Portuguese veteran Ricardo. Neither were entirely convincing, Weale having enjoyed a superb first term between the sticks in 2009/10 before a catalogue of errors forced Eriksson’s hand.
Ricardo was drafted in but was continually targeted by opposition teams due to his lack of height, something that Portsmouth’s Greg Halford admitted in the wake of Pompey’s 1-0 success at Leicester earlier this year. A Ricardo error that day handed the now Leicester striker David Nugent an easy winner, while Weale came back in for the run-in only to commit an even bigger howler to gift Nottingham Forest victory at the City Ground.
A new goalkeeper was clearly a priority and when Eriksson learned of the availability of Schmeichel, he acted quickly. The Dane and the Swede had worked together twice already at both Manchester City and Notts County. Eriksson knew that he was paying out for a safe pair of hands.
Schmeichel has impressed in three main areas – his shot-stopping has been magnificent, his kicking is second to none and his communication is crystal clear. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a single goal Leicester have conceded so far this season for which he has been primarily at fault.
As with any player, there have been high points and low points. The latter came again at the City Ground, when Schmeichel picked up two bookings in quick succession to be dismissed and partly culpable for the collapse that saw Leicester let Nottingham Forest come back from two goals down to claim an injury-time point. The first yellow card was for dissent following the award of a penalty and the second for hurling the ball to the halfway line after the spot kick had been dispatched.
While it was a bizarre decision and Schmeichel claimed he did not realise he had received the first booking as his back was turned when the card was shown, the whole episode was always a possibility given his tendency to let passion boil over. It was a situation in which a cool head was needed and this was not forthcoming.
As it happened, a one-game suspension did not punish Leicester any further. Schmeichel missed the 4-2 League Cup win over Bury, a game for which he may have been rested anyway. He returned to the side to give a dazzling display in a 3-2 victory over current league leaders Southampton. Shot after shot rained down on the hosts’ goal as Saints demonstrated the full range of their excellent attacking play, but Schmeichel was equal to it all. Few goalkeepers would have secured all three points.
Other recent highlights have included a one-handed save at Portsmouth that defied belief and a strong hand to divert Andy Dawson’s goalbound effort wide at Hull just over a week ago. It seems that Eriksson’s exit has not derailed Schmeichel’s good start at Leicester City. Indeed, if every player had been performing at the same level as Kasper Schmeichel on a consistent basis, Nigel Pearson would never have had to arrive.
Who else did you vote as one of the 25 best players in the Championship? Read about the rest so far here.