Trevor Peake

Peake Reflects On 17 ‘Magical’ Years Ahead Of Retirement

This summer, Leicester City’s Lead Professional Development Phase Coach, Trevor Peake, will retire after 17 years of service at the Football Club, concluding a 42-year career in football.

As a former centre-back, Peake’s greatest success as a player came in 1987 as Coventry City lifted their first and only FA Cup with a dramatic 3-2 final success over Tottenham Hotspur.

As well as basking in the glory of that occasion at Wembley, Trevor and his team-mates ranked in the top-30 of the music charts and even performed their song ‘Go For It’ on the BBC’s Blue Peter programme, a source of light-hearted jesting for his colleagues for decades to come.

With productive spells at Lincoln City and Luton Town bookending his stay at Coventry over 20 years as a footballer, Peake amassed over 600 appearances in the English game, before hanging up his boots in 1998 and working closely with Gordon Strachan at Highfield Road.

After briefly managing Coventry on a caretaker basis, alongside ex-goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic in 2002, Trevor was ready to move into the next stage of his career in the dugout.

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Trevor Peake in Coventry's FA Cup-winning side
Trevor Peake in Coventry's FA Cup-winning side

Peake, fifth in from the left on the back row, celebrates Coventry's FA Cup triumph.

While combining scouting assignments with coaching reserve and youth team outfits, a chance encounter with former Sky Blues team-mate Micky Adams led to a fresh challenge. Adams had recently guided Leicester to promotion to the Premier League, but the Club was operating on a tight budget in the 2003/04 top-flight season after falling into administration.

Peake was installed initially as a scout at Belvoir Drive, embarking on European trips to locate affordable new talent, but City were relegated at the end of his first full season in Leicester.

The Nuneaton-born former defender then switched roles to build on the experience gained at Coventry to work within Leicester’s Academy as the Club looked to counteract their financial limitations by producing their own first team stars. Since then, several aspiring youngsters have made the grade, either at City, or further afield in the football pyramid.

The primary ambition of any academy is to produce professional footballers. Ideally, like Ben Chilwell, Hamza Choudhury or Harvey Barnes, they will flourish, both for Leicester City and also for their national sides, as all three have indeed done at various levels for the Three Lions.

However, as Trevor explains, Leicester City’s Academy has an impressive track record of helping would-be footballers become established professionals at all levels of the game.

“In my first year at the Academy, unlike today, it was teams of Under-17s, taken by me, and Under-19s, with Steve Beaglehole,” Peake recalls, speaking from his Warwickshire home.

“That actually only lasted for one year, but there was a very good standard in that group. Players like Richard Stearman, Louis Dodds and Joe Mattock were beginning to come through.

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Leicester City Academy 2003/04
Leicester City Academy 2003/04

O'Grady, Wright, Logan, Stearman, Wesolowski and Porter all starred for Leicester's first team from Peake's first group.

“It’s very rewarding to see them go on and flourish. That’s what it’s all about – giving them the tools to go on and make a career out of the sport they love.

“Over the years, there are plenty who have been able to do that elsewhere after leaving Leicester, who we also take pride in and keep an eye on from afar.

“They’re players like Billy Kee who did so well at Accrington Stanley, Sam Clucas, now at Stoke City, or Joe Dodoo, who did well at Rangers and is now playing for Bolton Wanderers.

“James Wesolowski did very well at Peterborough, but had some problems with injuries. Chris O’Grady, too, enjoyed some great goalscoring seasons for Rochdale and Barnsley.

“Everyone knows about the likes of Chilwell, Choudhury or Barnes – who are exceptional footballers. Andy King is obviously a bit older now, too, and his success is completely unparalleled. I only worked with him briefly because he shot up into the first team, but I don’t think anyone will ever win the top three titles with one club again. He’s been magnificent.

“You try to look to the bigger picture, though, and the fact that we’ve helped many players forge successful careers through the whole Football League.

“You do always look out for them and their results because you’ll have worked with them from their school days and got to know their families. It becomes a really close-knit thing.

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Andy King
Andy King

King has won the League 1, Championship and Premier League titles at Leicester.

“Then there’s players like Jeff Schlupp or Liam Moore, two others who have done tremendously well at both Crystal Palace at Reading. Moore’s now the captain down there and Schlupp’s in the Premier League. Elliott Moore’s another more recent one, he’s played for OH Leuven in Belgium and is now at Oxford.

“You cannot underestimate how difficult it is to build a name for yourself in the Football League, but all of these lads have either done it, or are in the process of doing it.”

That sense of pride, watching on from the sidelines as a youngster crosses the white line to become a senior professional, is something Peake says he will cherish in retirement.

One instance in particular is a strong memory – when Ashley Chambers, at the age of 15 years and 203 days, became the Club’s youngest-ever debutant in a win over Blackpool on 20 September, 2005. Craig Levein was the manager and Trevor recalls clearly the day a decision was made to give Leicester-born forward Chambers his golden chance in the first team.

“Ashley’s story sticks out,” he adds. “He was told to come out of school to play in that game! He was on a school day and next thing he knows, he’s playing for Leicester City.

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Richard Stearman
Richard Stearman

Stearman progressed from City's Academy to becoming a first team regular.

“I don’t think he had too much warning! You remember those moments, being sat in the stands, as a young lad fulfils his dream… it’s a magical part of the job. I’m not too sure he understood the magnitude of the occasion at the time, but I’m sure it’s something he’s very proud of to this day.”

Stearman’s rise to prominence, meanwhile, was another landmark moment for Peake. The talented defender was the first under his guidance to fully break into City’s first team.

Following a debut at Cardiff City on 30 October, 2004, Stearman – spotted playing for Harborough Town in south Leicestershire – starred on 130 occasions for the Foxes over four years. His final campaign concluded with him scooping the Player and Players’ Player of the Year prizes, before winning the Championship at Wolverhampton Wanderers a year later.

Since then, Stearman played a notable role in Sheffield United’s climb from the third tier to the Premier League, winning promotions from both League 1 and the Championship, and he’s now playing alongside fellow Academy graduate King, who’s on loan at Huddersfield Town.

“I’ve always taken pride in seeing Richard’s progress,” Peake reveals. “It might be because he was one of the first of my time at the Club, but a lot of work was done with him in those days.

“We wanted to start getting players into the first team and he bought into that. I remember being absolutely delighted for him when he broke into the senior team.

“Because you know them at such a young age, you see them mature and become adults. That was definitely the case with Richard as well. He’s deserved everything he’s achieved.”

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Ben Chilwell
Ben Chilwell

Left-back Chilwell is now an England regular.

Naturally, conversation turns to City’s current trio of Academy-produced first team regulars – Chilwell, Choudhury and Barnes.

Over recent seasons Chilwell, who joined the Club from Rushden and Diamonds aged 12, has become England’s first-choice left-back, earning 11 senior Three Lions caps in two years. The Milton Keynes-born full-back is also an instrumental part of Brendan Rodgers’ third-placed Foxes outfit and is regarded as one of the most exciting talents in English football.

Likewise, Choudhury and Barnes, who signed up at the Club aged eight and nine respectively, have begun their own international journeys, representing England’s Under-21s side in recent seasons.

For Peake, though, their stories are personal affairs, built on the memories of watching them as children slowly mature into responsible adults at the very top of their game.

“I remember Chilly being driven up by his dad from Milton Keynes to Belvoir Drive, usually for sessions between 7pm and 8:30pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he continues.

“Harvey and Hamza joined the Club a few years earlier than Ben and I can remember Hamza playing a game at Derby County just as a kid.

“One of the add-ons you have as a youth coach is attending games being played by the younger age groups and I remember Hamza sticking out.

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Hamza Choudhury
Hamza Choudhury

A youthful Hamza is photographed by a family member at Belvoir Drive, the Club's training facility.

“I can picture him now tearing around the pitch and you could tell his opposite number on the pitch didn’t really want to get the ball because Hamza was after him like a shot!

“Harvey’s another one. His dad played the game at a very good level and his life revolves around football. His last game against Villa in March was absolutely brilliant, wasn’t it?

“Every time you see a player achieve their goals, whether it’s moving up an age group, or playing a game at senior level, it’s a special moment for coaches.

“Their debuts in the first team is a great day for them. It becomes a community at the Club, including the parents and families, so everyone bursts with pride at those moments.

“You’ll have seen over a number of years, sometimes over a decade, of sheer desire from those young lads and their families, so to see them get their rewards is very pleasing indeed.

“It means a lot to us at the Club to see them flourish. Chilly, for example, is a source of pride for us all. It’s unbelievable what he’s achieved so far in his career.

“To get to the position he’s in now, at his age, is magnificent. The way lads like Chilly carry themselves is very impressive.

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Harvey Barnes
Harvey Barnes

A first team debut for Barnes at FC Porto in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League.

“They have a lot to contend with, sticking to fitness plans, early mornings, eating well, declining invites to events with friends, all of that. It takes years and years of dedication.

“They do generally all take it in their stride, and I think that comes from their love of the game.

“There’s people at Leicester, still today, who remember coaching Ben in the Under-12s, or Hamza and Harvey in the Under-9s, and they should rightly be proud of their role in that.

“They’ve been part of that journey, but of course, it always comes down to the player.”

Few clubs in England can rival the stunning nature of Leicester City’s metamorphosis from second tier regulars to Premier League champions and beyond over the past decade.

Peake has been on board for all of that journey. However, as he prepares to spend more time with wife Jane and his two sons, Callum and Matthew, in retirement, Trevor provided an insight into the path Leicester City is now on.

“The Club is top-drawer,” he explained. “There’s no other way to describe it. The ambition of everyone at Leicester City, from the top to the bottom, is wonderful.

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Trevor Peake
Trevor Peake

Peake's friendly nature has been complimented by several of his former players.

“They want Leicester City to be among the best for years to come and they put in the work to make that a possibility. We’re third in the Premier League and it’s no fluke.

“It’s a day-to-day project which involved dedication, long hours, focus and expertise – and it’s been great to be in an organisation like ours, which wants to be the best.

“Over my time in the game, I’ve never known a working environment like it. Everyone buys into it and is determined to realise that dream the right way – through hard work.

“There are a lot of people who are not on the frontline, not seen in the media, who go about their duties in such a professional way. That, again, comes down to a love for the Club.

“To have seen Leicester City evolve from those post-administration days, the standards have multiplied massively, and it’s been a remarkable journey, which is only just getting started.

“The Club is a proper outfit which got on its feet again after a difficult spell and it's starting to run now. It’s only going to get better and better.”

Naturally, Trevor will miss that family approach to day-to-day life, either at Belvoir Drive or King Power Stadium, but is looking forward to catching up with his colleagues in future.

He added: “There are people who were there when I started who are still at the Club. Jon Rudkin (Director of Football) was the Academy Director and led his group in a terrific manner.

“He just works so hard. You’d get a text from him at 11:30pm at night, or 5am in the morning! He works and works and works to better Leicester City Football Club’s chances of success.

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Trevor Peake
Trevor Peake

The Club's Under-18s won the Premier Academy League in 2006/07.

“Beags is a great man who works tirelessly with his boys and continues to do an excellent job as well. Bill Wall (Head Academy Scout) has been massive for the youth team set up too.

“He puts in a lot of work to locate players and provide them with what they need. Chris Tucker (Development Squad Coach) has done an awful lot for the Club as well. There’s been so much good work.

“They are also people, including so many others, who will be lifelong friends. We shared the good times and the bad together and we’ll be in touch for years to come I’m sure.”

At the age of 63, Trevor leaves the Club with the best wishes of everyone, having earned a reputation as an outstanding coach who developed some of the best players in Leicester City’s recent history, playing a tangible role in the Club’s wider success of the past 10 years.

He plans to spend his time with family and friends in Warwickshire and, although recent events have limited everyone’s ability to travel, he is excited by what the future holds.

“Obviously, at the moment, it’s a lot of gardening and doing bits around the house,” he said. “Once the current situation has passed, I’m looking forward to sharing holidays with Jane.

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Trevor Peake
Trevor Peake

Throughout his 17 years at Leicester, Peake has always remained a popular figure at the Club.

“It’ll be nice to get up in the morning and not being instantly preoccupied with the tasks of the day ahead, I’ve reached a time in my life where this new chapter is exciting.

“I’ll be able to spend quality time with Jane and our two sons, Matthew and Callum. They’ve both got partners and they’re 35, so they’re not kids anymore, but it’ll be nice to see them.

“I’m hoping to simply being able to catch up with people. Despite that, believe it or not, I’m already thinking about next Wednesday!

“It’ll be Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United, the first game back, and I’ll be reserving my spot on the sofa. I feel like it’s Christmas waiting for that!

“I do, still, love the game so much and I can’t wait to get over to the new training ground when it’s finished, just to have a look around and see how the Club is moving forwards.

“It’s very much a family at Leicester City. I didn’t have an electric career as a player, but this is certainly the best club I’ve ever been involved with. It’s been incredible.”

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