Going back in time, great goalkeepers have always been something of a trademark for Leicester City. We will start our journey with the legendary Gordon Banks, but before we start to talk, just a quick reminder on the Olympic gold medalist that was once in goal for Leicester Fosse, Horace Bailey, probably the first “great” among those fantastic players.
Gordon Banks became an icon, not because he was a great goalkeeper for Leicester City, but of course for his World Cup heroics and the only English goalkeeper ever to experience the thrill of being best in the World. A great run of seasons during the 60’s was possible with such a great goalkeeper in the team.
Leicester City was a team, a bit like today, competing for trophies and doing well in the league, Banks had the gloves in two FA Cup finals and of course also playing in two League Cup finals, winning that one in 1964 v. Stoke City.
Leicester City had a dilemma regarding Gordon Banks who was pushed by another fantastic talent, Peter Shilton, who Matt Gilles, the manager at the time, decided to give him the first team job and sell Banks to Stoke, were he continued and by the national coach Sir Alf Ramsey regarded as the best and being the natural first choice for England.
Peter Shilton was just a teenager when he became a first choice and eventually early in the 70’s also took over the gloves for England. Shilton was, as Banks, sold to Stoke for, then a World record fee, £325.000 and later moving to Nottingham Forest were he won a number of titles, including European Cups and a League title.
While Peter Shilton moved around to several clubs, Mark Wallington had taken over and was a steady first choice at Leicester City. Mark had a number of great seasons under Jimmy Bloomfield, later did a steady job in a team that had a bit of up’s and down’s between the 1st and 2nd tier. Mark was often talked about as an England contender but only played at U.23 levels.
Nicky Walker and Mark Grew were both challenging Mark Wallington, and he eventually had to step down with a young and talented Ian Andrews being preferred by Gordon Milne, and Ian was also one described almost in the same terms as those three greats before him, but as Wallington, never becoming an England international and only capped at U.21 level.
With a team struggling in the 2nd tier, Ian Andrews moved on and several other players were given a chance, but during the mid 80’s and early 90’s gloves changed hands in the Leicester City first team. There were a number of great goalkeepers, but none of them represented England, before Ian Walker got a rare chance by Sven Goran Eriksson, and actually getting a cap, playing for the Three Lions and The Walkers Stadium.
After Ian Walker left in 2005, a number of changes happened without a certain first choice over several seasons, and shockingly during the third tier 2008/09 season using as many as seven different goalkeepers with David Martin, Conrad Logan, David Stockdale, Mark Bunn, Tony Warner, Paul Henderson and Carl Pentney all playing in the League that season.
When Kasper Schmeichel was signed in the summer of 2011 he took his opportunities and kept all of his contenders on a distance and been the steady first choice both for Leicester City and also a bit later for Denmark, which was not a certainty at all, being in competition with other players, but today seen as a clear certain first choice.
During the days of Kasper Schmeichel a number of other goalkeepers have been in the squad including German World Cup winner Ron-Robert Zieler, the heavily experienced Mark Schwarzer, Welsh international Danny Ward and former Hull City first choice Edlin Jakupovic.
While Leicester City nursed forward some of the greatest goalkeepers in English football and also at the World stage during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, they have not been able to attract that talent in the academy over the last three decades, which in a way is a bit of a disappointment.
If you look behind Kasper at the club today, you have of course Danny Ward and Edlin Jakupovic, as his understudies. With another Dane, Daniel Iversen out on loan at Rotherham United and the Swede Victor Johansson currently being the U.23’s choice.
Would be great to see another English goalkeeper coming up from the youth ranks, been a while since that happened. We will see if the current group of young English talented goalkeepers will make the first team cut some day. Rhys Davies, Oliver Bosworth, Tyler Weeks and Arlo Doherty are all young English goalkeepers in the academy at the moment.