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Saturday 10 December 2016

No happier place than foxes' lair

Ex-Leicester man Logan believes City success has been coming

Former Leicester City goalkeeper Conrad Logan has backed his former club to go on and win the Premier League title.
Former Leicester City goalkeeper Conrad Logan has backed his former club to go on and win the Premier League title.

Conrad Logan wasn't sure what to expect when he left his Donegal home and packed his bags for a football career with Leicester City way back in 2001.

He certainly wouldn't have predicted that he'd end up being their longest-serving player at one stage, with 13 years' service on his CV before it was time for him to leave but, frustratingly, with just 23 league games to show for his time as one of the Foxes.

Lured to a club which had just enjoyed the stability of the Martin O'Neill years, goalkeeper Logan hoped that stability would last but he would go on to serve under 15 different managers. "In one season, when I was away on loan to Stockport, Leicester had three managers, not including caretakers, crazy stuff," he says.

The man from Ramelton never expected, when he chose Peter Taylor's Leicester over Nottingham Forest back in the summer of 2001, that his club would one day lead the Premier League table and, barring a dramatic collapse in the final weeks of the season, appear to be guaranteed Champions League football.

But Logan, who left the club in 2014 to join Rochdale but retains strong links with the Foxes, insists their current status as title favourites is not a case of an overnight success but a simple case of a winning side full of good players playing with confidence.

And Leicester is a great place to be. "The club has come on so much, in terms of the impact in the city and the area. When I first came here, you didn't see as many kids going around in Leicester shirts as you do now, the transformation in the last few years is amazing," Logan told The Herald this week as he works away on his fitness after a knee injury he picked up at Rochdale sidelined him for 13 months.

"That's how I judge it, the number of kids you see just walking around in Leicester tops, it's great to see, it's been a real fairytale. I have friends who have kids that are now aged eight or nine, they've only been following Leicester for a few years but they've seen so much: promotion, then the great escape, now this season and being top of the table."

Now 29, is no longer on the books at Leicester but is a frequent visitor as he does some of his rehab work from his injury with City and, to keep busy until he's fit to resume playing next season, has been doing commentary work on Leicester games for TV and radio.

But as a former team-mate of the current side, he's well placed to judge and give his own thoughts on what's gone so right so quickly.

"I never thought I'd see the club on top of the Premier League," he says. "It's a surprise to some that we are where we are but when you have had a winning mentality for a few years, it carries you on. We missed out on the play-offs one year, we lost to Watford in the semi-finals but we got promoted the next year.

"I suppose we huffed and puffed for the first six months of last season in the Premier League but we found a winning mentality and, once you have that, it's like a juggernaut.

"No matter what division you're in, if you get a winning mentality behind you, if you can find ways to win games, you'll do well and it's not surprising that over the last year we have picked up 70-odd points from the 100 available. To go from being five points adrift at the bottom to being five clear at the top is incredible."

For Logan, who had seven different loan spells away from Leicester, the key is how they recruit players - and how those players are then managed, giving a rough diamond like Jamie Vardy time to blossom instead of judging him a flop.

"Jamie was raw when he came to this level," says Logan of the striker, who joined the Foxes in 2012.

"I think his pace stood out at the start. I saw him and thought 'this guy can get two yards on a defender straight away, so if his finishing is up to scratch he has chance.

"Jamie admits himself that he struggled a bit in the first season in the Championship, found it hard to adapt to being at a bigger club. I think he decided early on that if he got the service he would score goals, that it was up to him to get himself into a good position in front of goal.

"He realised that his attributes were different to 95% of the other keepers in the league, that defenders just couldn't deal with him. I can't say now that I'd spotted Jamie as a player capable of playing for England - but I knew he'd have a great career if he played to his strengths, as he has done."

The hunger of players like Vardy and Danny Drinkwater is also a driving factor. "They are a tight-knit bunch of lads," says Logan.

"A lot of them, like Drinkwater at Man U, were at the big clubs but didn't make the grade and had to work their way up, had to show that hunger.

"Vardy didn't come through the academy as a highly-rated player, he worked away in the non-league and got there.

"That stood him in good stead when it comes to dealing with things now, he just goes out and plays a game of football, without the weight of expectation on his back."

Now, can all this carry on? He says: "I know there are other factors, you have the so-called bigger teams not doing so well and it's set up for someone like Leicester, or maybe Spurs to win it. It's all about momentum and other teams are running scared of Leicester at the minute."

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