The 25 Best Players in the Championship - as voted for by you: Part 4 of 25
After three consecutive seasons of reaching double figures in front of goal, Leicester’s Berkshire-born Dragon is one of the most prolific goalscoring midfielders in the Football League. For all of the millions spent by the King Power consortium over the summer, it is a youth team product that continues to make plenty of headlines in the East Midlands.
Andy King (Leicester City)
Andy King arrived at Leicester City at the age of 15 following his release from the Chelsea youth setup. He was a key part of Leicester’s FA Academy Premier League-winning youth side of 2006/07. A tall central midfielder, strong in the air and with a handy knack of ghosting into the box to score goals, King looked a real prospect. One by one, that youth team disintegrated. Most players have ended up on the non-league scene, while Joe Mattock is currently on loan from West Bromwich Albion to Portsmouth and Max Gradel recently scored his first Ligue 1 goal for St Etienne following a successful spell with Leeds United. King is the last man standing – at the age of 23, he has made over 180 appearances for Leicester’s first team and scored over 40 times.
King’s outstanding goals-per-game ratio is testament to his clinical finishing. Were it not for an enviable ability to retain possession and defend responsibly from the middle of the park, he would probably be a deep-lying centre-forward. As it is, his current club manager Nigel Pearson prefers to use King as one of two central midfielders. It is a different role to the one he often took up under Sven-Goran Eriksson, who usually freed King from his defensive responsibilities and encouraged him to get into the box more frequently. While his goal tally went up slightly, he was less consistent under Eriksson – perhaps not helped by the extra burden of the captaincy at such a young age.
After Pearson made a surprise return to the club recently, it is no coincidence that King has been impressive in recent weeks. The Welsh international has been back in the company of Richie Wellens, Lloyd Dyer and Paul Gallagher, three of the mainstays in the side that ended the 2009/10 season in 5th position. Pearson has certainly taken a “back to basics” approach and a toe-poked finish from a Dyer through-ball against Blackpool last Tuesday was a glimpse of King’s trademark, which has been all too rarely seen since the summer – eluding his marker and breaking beyond the forwards to score.
On the international scene, King is perhaps unlucky to be part of such an impressive crop of young Welsh midfielders. He is no Aaron Ramsey, although that is no great criticism given the Arsenal man’s brilliance. But he also drifts out of the game too often to match the likes of Swansea’s Joe Allen and David Vaughan of Sunderland. Factor in the likes of Joe Ledley, Jack Collison and the promise of Crystal Palace’s precocious Jonathan Williams and it looks as though King will be no more than a squad player for the duration of his international career. In truth, this probably suits Leicester. Three consecutive top-half finishes have helped to keep King at the club and recent investment has demonstrated the ambition and potential that so many players crave from their employers. A pay rise always plays its part too.
Now that the Eriksson era is over and the dust has settled on an influx of new players, Leicester can focus more clearly on maintaining Pearson’s good start. King has as much to prove as anyone, despite the apparent guarantee of a first team place. He must prove he deserves his place alongside the Championship’s elite. His influence on games must be more consistent, particularly away from home and against the best teams in the division. In short, Leicester’s hopes of promotion rely in part on Andy King finding the best form of an already impressive career so far. No pressure then.
Who else did you vote as one of the 25 best players in the Championship? Read about the rest so far here.