Emile Heskey, Matt Elliott, Tony Cottee & Andy Impey

Impey: We Had A Confidence, Especially In Cup Competitions

Andy Impey's crowning moment in the professional game came during his spell at Leicester City when he lifted the League Cup trophy in 2000.
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After impressing for both Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United in the mid-1990s, Hammersmith-born Impey joined the Foxes in middle of the 1998/99 campaign.

Cup-tied for the 1999 final, a late defeat by Tottenham Hotspur, the right-sided full-back was a big part of the City squad which reached a second successive showpiece a year later.

However, initially at least, Impey found Martin O'Neill's management to be overly demanding, but now recognises it perhaps brought the best out of him in Leicester's colours.

"While I was under Martin, I didn’t think that we got on," he says. "Speaking to him after, we get on quite well now, but what he wanted from me was more than what he thought I was giving.

"We were playing wing-backs. I wasn’t a fan of it. I played it, but I wasn’t really a fan of it. I used to think: ‘He’s coming for me’.

"But, like I’ve said, now I’ve spoken to him after about it, it was nothing to do with him actually disliking me or ‘coming for me’. He saw a potential and he wanted more out of me.

"But as a guy, you’ve only got to speak to the likes of Matty [Elliott], Lenny (Neil Lennon), Taggs (Gerry Taggart), all of them… it was great management.

"Absolutely one of the best that you will come across as a man manager. You could speak to him, you could tell him things that probably you wouldn’t want other people to know, and he’d give you his ear.

"What he also did, that I found was really good, was he worked alongside Steve Walford, so Martin was more the man management, whereas Steve Walford was the gel that kept the lads together.

We didn’t feel like we were going to lose the game. In that cup run, there was a few that went to penalties, but even then, we felt confident that we were going to win the game.

Andy Impey LCFC TV

"I remember one time, literally one of my first training sessions, we were training and it started raining. The ball’s gone over to one side and I’ve gone after the ball and it’s raining.

"As I’ve got the ball and turned round, I’ve seen everyone running in. So, I’m like: ‘What’s gone on? Is this some sort of joke? What’s going on here?’

"Anyway, turns out, Wallo didn’t like training in the rain, so everyone just used to run it. And that was what the camaraderie and the spirit was like at Leicester.

"It was just: work hard on the pitch, but also have fun, while you’re working hard. I think that’s a lot of the reason why the team spirit of Leicester was so, so good."

Impey was particularly struck by the sense of confidence which existed within the Foxes squad, already a side who regularly finished in the Premier League's top-10 and won the 1997 League Cup. 

"The place was quite buoyant," he remembers. "It wasn't arrogance, but there was an air of confidence about whatever game they were going into, not only the cup, it was also in the league.

"Particularly in the cup, it felt like the lads felt: ‘We’re not going to lose this game’. Like I say, it wasn’t arrogance, it was a confidence.

"Listen, I’m not saying that every other team, that when they go out and play a cup game, they [don’t] want to win it, but there was just a funny feeling at Leicester.

"We didn’t feel like we were going to lose the game. In that cup run, there was a few that went to penalties, but even then, we felt confident that we were going to win the game."

After overcoming Crystal Palace, Grimsby Town, Leeds United, Fulham and Aston Villa, City prepared for the final against Tranmere Rovers on 27 February, 2000.

Feature

20 Years On: Impey On League Cup Memories

Andy Impey discusses his memories of the Foxes' League Cup win in LCFC TV's special documentary.

As Impey explains, though, O'Neill was keen to keep Leicester's preparations as low-key as possible, replicating as best he could, the lead-in to a normal Premier League fixture. 

"I think we travelled down a couple of days before and we were staying, at Burnham Beeches," he adds, speaking to LCFC TV's documentary 20 Years On: Leicester's League Cup Triumph.

"What they tried to do to make it just like another game was make it as normal as possible, even though everyone knew it was the cup final and your phone wouldn’t stop with people wanting tickets.

"They tried to make it as normal as possible. So, we were allowed to go out. Not out, boozing, but we were allowed to go and visit family or friends, or maybe bring family or friends in.

"I don’t know whether they’d done anything different from the year before, but the way they handled the whole situation, they tried to make it as normal as possible.

"There was no talk of: ‘Yes, we’re playing Tranmere, we’re going to win’. It didn’t matter, the team we were playing, like I said, there was that feeling that we’re not going to lose.

"There was never the talk of: ‘We’re only playing Tranmere, so we’re going to batter them. We should beat them because we’re the Prem team’. It was never none of that.

"They just took it as another game and tried to keep it normal. I know it was Wembley and obviously there’s a different feeling that you get because you’re stepping onto the hallowed turf.

"It would have been: ‘Get tight, do what we do’. I can’t remember them saying we were expected to win. We obviously knew we were expected to win, position-wise.

"To be honest with you, there was nothing that stood out that I thought: ‘Oh, I don’t remember him saying that before, I wonder why he’s saying [that]’. There was nothing.

"Martin would have done a bit of tactics and then Steve Walford, like I said, he and Robbo (John Robertson), would have been the ones getting around the lads, giving stick to Lenny, giving stick to Matty.

Leicester is a one-team city, it was like the whole city got right behind us. When we were going out drinking a day later, everyone everywhere was just still celebrating.

Andy Impey LCFC TV

"The man-management side, they knew how to get the best out of, say Matty or Muzzy [Izzet], so they’d be hammering them or saying whatever they’d be saying, but that would spur them on."

While Impey was named as a substitute for the final at Wembley, largely down to the excellent form of Stefan Oakes, he did make an appearance in the 77th minute - just moments before Elliott's winner.

Reflecting on the day itself, Impey, who enjoyed a six-year association with Leicester, admits it was among the highest points of his career and still enjoys the camaraderie with his former team-mates. 

"I was disappointed not to start, but to be fair, Oakesy (Oakes), he was in the starting line-up, he’d been superb," he said.

"He had a wand of a left foot and he’d done really well, so like I said, [I was] disappointed not to start, but it’s a squad event to get behind.

"I think I touched the ball a couple of times, got a couple of tackles in, but listen, the main thing about it was: we won the cup. I can’t really remember much about it.

"I know Matty scored the two goals, 1-0, 1-1, they scored quickly and then we obviously scored back, but my actual time was… obviously I enjoyed it, playing at Wembley.

"It was more about the actual occasion if you know what I mean. It was great, the occasion of going back up to Leicester, seeing the fans.

"We had a civic reception with the Mayor, going on the open-top bus and then there was meals and it was just the whole town.

"Because, obviously, Leicester is a one-team city, it was like the whole city got right behind us. When we were going out drinking a day later, everyone everywhere was just still celebrating.

"There were some fans, even when we played the next game the following week, people were still saying: ‘I ain’t gone home yet! I’m still boozing!. Thank you for giving us this joy’.

"It was just a big celebration for the whole city. At the time, like I say, you try to treat it as a normal game, but when you get older and people say: ‘Do you realise it was 20 years ago?’

"No, I actually forgot, but then you start reminiscing about what happened, little things that come into your mind.

"We’ve got a group of guys in a WhatsApp chat and we were all trying to get together because of this anniversary… all the lads getting together and having a link-up, a few glasses of coke and a bite to eat.

"Basically, just a big catch-up, seeing how everyone’s doing, reminiscing about the final, and our time at Leicester together."

20 Years On: Leicester’s League Cup Triumph can be viewed now, for free, on LCFC TV.

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