Rio Ferdinand is better than Franz Beckenbauer (FIFA 2000 #11)

January 2001:

PL        Leicester 4-1 Birmingham                  Henry 2, Gerrard 2

FA       Leicester 1-0 Liverpool                       Henry

PL        Man Utd 2-1 Leicester                        Totti

PL        Leicester 0-0 Chelsea

FA       Leicester 2-1 Coventry                       Gerrard 2

4th       10pts behind Man Utd

We were in a good place heading into 2001: a footballing odyssey. Yeah, I bet you never knew that your boy Martin O’Neill was a film buff. Either way, we swept through the FA Cup as expected, with a beautiful solo goal from Thierry Henry against Liverpool. We were knocked back in the league against United and Chelsea but Henry’s performance against Liverpool in the cup was something to behold. He had strayed from his poacher position into more of a raumdeuter in both the middle and final thirds. Raumdeuter means space interpreter in German, and it’s a role I’ve cottoned onto myself.

 

February 2001:

PL        Leicester 5-0 Aston Villa                     Henry 3, Riise penalty, Recoba

PL        Leicester 1-1 Derby                            Riise penalty

FA       Leicester 1-2 Watford                         Izzet

PL        Arsenal 2-3 Leicester                          Henry 3

UC       Marseille 2-2 Leicester                        Recoba 2

4th       8pts behind Leeds

John Arne Riise takes the penalties, he doesn’t score them all – in fact he missed his first three – but netted two in two games. That’s part of my philosophy, make everybody feel involved in the team effort. Boosts morale. John Arne will be the first to admit he’s not one of our stars but he’s a vital cog in the wheel and when he doesn’t play – Watford in the cup, for example – we lose a big piece of our heart. I’d given him license to pound down the right wing as Carlos does on the left, we reaped the rewards for that against Arsenal and Marseille.

 

March 2001:

PL        Leicester 0-0 Middlesbrough

UC       Leicester 2-1 Marseille                        Henry 2

PL        Tottenham 2-2 Leicester                     Henry 2

UC       Leicester 4-3 Nancy                           Henry 3, Gerrard

PL        Leicester 1-1 Sheff Wed                     Totti

UC       Nancy 1-2 Leicester                           Henry, Recoba

PL        Charlton 1-1 Leicester                        Henry

No tactical insight this month. There wasn’t any need for it, really. Just look at the scorers for who dragged us kicking and screaming. Thierry Hen-fucking-ry with just the 9 goals in 6 games. When we make the Champions League for the 2001-02 season, he’ll be the reason why – believe me.

 

April 2001:

PL        Leicester 1-1 Newcastle                     Recoba

UC       Metz 1-0 Leicester

PL        Ipswich 0-1 Leicester                          Henry

PL        Leicester 0-0 Liverpool

PL        Leicester 3-1 Metz                              Gerrard, Totti, Ferdinand

PL        Wimbledon 0-1 Leicester                    Henry

PL        Leicester 2-1 Everton                         Gerrard, Riise penalty

5th       United 79, Chelsea 70, Leeds 69, West Ham 66, Leicester 65

The league of course is still important but a UEFA Cup semi-final, it was unchartered territory for Leicester. We were overawed in Metz but Thierry Henry’s performance in the second leg was something to behold. He combined with Rio Ferdinand who was in the Beckenbauer position due to Nesta’s suspension. Rio was something else. We went unbeaten in the league but it’s those cruel draws when we batter teams like Newcastle and Liverpool is where we could fail.

 

May 2001:

PL        Coventry 1-5 Leicester                       Henry 5

4th       United 82, Chelsea 73, Leeds 69, Leicester 68, West Ham 67

PL        Leicester 1-0 Southampton                Henry

3rd       United 82, Chelsea 76, Leicester 71, West Ham 70, Leeds 70

This guy is not for sale. Real Madrid have sniffed around for him, like they did with Emile Heskey, but Thierry Henry is not going anywhere. With Coventry 1-0 up inside 17 minutes, we were staring down the barrel of another season in the UEFA Cup. 5 goals in 51 minutes later, Henry netting all five, I don’t even have to coach him, he’s got that natural ability. Him with that four-piece figurehead with Nedved, Totti and Recoba, I was sat in the Highfield Road dugout salivating. He scores the scrappy goals in scrappy games as well – as we saw at home to Southampton 3 days later. That got us into the Champions League places for the first time all season and going into the final day, too.

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