Julian Joachim

Former Player Remembers: Julian Joachim

When Julian Joachim sat down with Club Historian John Hutchinson at King Power Stadium, the popular former winger reminisced about his time at Leicester City.
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A winger of frightening pace, he made 119 appearances for Leicester City between 1992 and 1996, scoring 31 goals. He then spent five-and-a-half-years at Aston Villa, making a further 174 outings, netting 45 goals. An England youth and Under-21s international, he subsequently played for Coventry City, Leeds United, Walsall, Boston United and Darlington.

“I was born in Peterborough, but moved to Boston when I was a few weeks old,” Julian began. “I played at school, county and district level. Les Grey, a Leicester City scout, approached me, invited me to Leicester and that’s how it started.

“I was top scorer in my first year in the youth team (1991/92). Then I started training now and again with the first team. This was to get me used to the pace and to see if I could handle it. I also played a few reserve games.

“At the start of my second year as a youth player, Walshy (Steve Walsh) and Millsy (Gary Mills) were knocking on the gaffer’s (Brian Little) door saying that I was about ready for the first team. If I was to get a professional contract, I wasn’t expecting this to happen until the end of my second year, but Brian called me to his office early in the season and offered me terms! Brian said he wanted to play me in the first team but not before I’d signed professional forms because someone else could come in for me otherwise. I told him I would think about it. This surprised him, but I wanted a chat with my mum and my nan.”

Julian signed as a professional in September 1992 and made his debut against Barnsley soon afterwards.

It was the first time I had ever been to Wembley. It was a big thing for me, a great day. We got off to a terrible start! We were 3-0 down. We had a mountain to climb. Somehow we worked our way back in the second half. Walshy’s header came off the post and I scored from the rebound. That set off the great comeback.

Julian Joachim

Remembering this, Julian recalled: ‘Walking out at Filbert Street, it was an unbelievable feeling. I will always remember stepping out onto the pitch for the first time. The fans from day one were different class. A lot of people said I’d get fans off their seats because, especially in my younger days, I was so direct, picking the ball up, taking on players and trying to score a goal. It’s what I had done regularly in the youth team. To be honest, it just came naturally. Things were happening so quickly for me I just didn’t have time to think about it.

“I wasn’t the tallest but I could hold my own when it came to strength and holding people off the ball. My first goal was in a cup game against Peterborough, three days after my debut. I was delighted to score because that’s what you want do.”

Julian’s speed, solo runs, ability to turn a marker, great first touch and strength quickly made him a crowd favourite. He came to national prominence three months after his debut when he scored a spectacular goal in an FA Cup match at Barnsley.

He said: “Tommo (Steve Thompson) picked the ball up at the edge of our box. He passed it out to me on the right-hand side on the wing. I ran with it down the line and cut inside about 25 yards out. My first thought was go down the line, where the space and room was, but Millsy had gone on the outside of me taking a player with him and I hit it with the outside of my foot, which I did quite often, and luckily it went in the top corner. I remember the fans jumping around. Because it was on Match of the Day, it was shown a lot. It was my best goal ever. It was Goal of the Month and runner-up for Goal of the Season.”

Julian scored another spectacular goal in that season’s play-off semi-final against Portsmouth, which due to redevelopment at Filbert Street, was played at Nottingham Forest’s ground.

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Julian Joachim
Julian Joachim

He continued: ”The traffic was horrendous getting there. It was a nightmare. I was on the bench and it was great to get on. Simon Grayson toe-poked the ball to me. I turned my man on the half-way line. Being direct, I ran straight through the heart of the defence. I knocked the ball 10 to 15 yards in front of me. As two men came in at me together, one either side of me, I poked the ball through the 'keeper’s legs. It’s a goal that will always stick in my mind, especially as it was such an important one. Over the two legs, we were underdogs but we got to Wembley for the play-off final against Glenn Hoddle’s Swindon Town for a place in the Premier League.

“It was the first time I had ever been to Wembley. It was a big thing for me, a great day. We got off to a terrible start! We were 3-0 down. We had a mountain to climb. Somehow we worked our way back in the second half. Walshy’s header came off the post and I scored from the rebound. That set off the great comeback.

“What a great feeling when Tommo equalised! Honestly, I’ve never had that feeling again. We thought that this was our great opportunity, but then came the killer blow when they scored with a penalty in the last few minutes. Going from one extreme to another was devastating. Heartache. It was a horrible feeling. But you put it down to experience and you learn a lot from it.”

That summer Julian, was in the England team which won the U18 European Championships final.

He added: “The players in the team gelled well as a squad. We went from strength to strength in every game. We surprised a lot of people. We beat favourites Holland. In that game, I scored a couple goals and was Man of the Match. The final was a tough game. I was brought down for the penalty. Winning was a great feeling. Sol Campbell was Man of the Match.”

Leicester did get promoted to the Premier League the following season when they beat Derby County at Wembley in the 1994 play-off final. That season Julian was a regular in the Foxes side. He also won the first of his nine England Under-21 caps.

We knew it was going to be a lot tougher in the Premier League. I didn’t think about it. I just went out there and did my best. I also scored a couple against Tottenham in September.

Julian Joachim

“In the Derby play-off final we were second best for a long time. We were hanging in there. Against the run of play, we won with Walshy scoring twice. There as a lot of rivalry with Derby and it was good to beat them.”

In the opening match of the following season, a 3-1 home defeat against Newcastle United, Julian scored Leicester City’s first-ever goal in the recently-formed Premier League.

He explained: “We knew it was going to be a lot tougher in the Premier League. I didn’t think about it. I just went out there and did my best. I also scored a couple against Tottenham in September.”

Then Julian’s season was knocked off course by Bran Little leaving for Aston Villa and by a bad injury: “Without a doubt, I missed Brian. He was the best manager I ever had. I got on well with him. He looked after me in the right way, to make sure I went down the right path.

“Then I broke my foot. I went over on the outside of it in the gym. Nobody was near me. When it was x-rayed, they said it was a tendon and that I’d be back in a couple of weeks. But after that I couldn’t put any pressure on it. New manager Mark McGhee wanted me to have an injection but after the injection it felt worse. So I went to a different specialist and straightaway he spotted I’d broken the outside of my foot. It should have been spotted long before but that’s life. I was out for about five or six months. I got a couple of games towards the end of the season but we were relegated.

“I played at the beginning of the next season but after my broken foot incident, I didn’t really get on with McGhee. A few things happened. I was happy when he went.

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Julian Joachim
Julian Joachim

“Then Martin [O’Neill] came in. I got on with him. Soon after his arrival, he rang me up to tell me that Brian [Little], now at Villa, had made £1.5M bid for me and that it had been accepted. He didn’t want to sell me but he needed to bring in some new players. Emile [Heskey] was coming through as a replacement for me.

“Martin pointed out that I would be back in the Premier League, where he said I belonged. In my heart, leaving Leicester was a sad moment. I’d come through the ranks, Leicester was all I knew and I’d got on well with the fans, but it would better for the Club as they would get money, so I agreed to talk to Brian. Also, I knew Brian’s coaching staff and some of the players like Drapes (Mark Draper). I would be back in the Premier League. It was a good opportunity.

“I had five-and-a-half-years at Villa. It was a great club with very good players. I enjoyed it there. It struck me how confident the players were. I was Player of the Season in 1998/99 and scored some good goals. We were beaten in the 2000 FA Cup Final but it was good to be a part of that.

“I still enjoy playing to this day. It keeps you fit. I love it.”

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