Patrick Kisnorbo

Former Player Remembers: Patrick Kisnorbo

Speaking from his home in Melbourne, former Leicester City defender Patrick Kisnorbo caught up with Club Historian John Hutchinson to recall his four-year spell on Filbert Way.
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Patrick began by looking back on his football journey which had taken him from Australia to Leicester City, where he would go on to make 140 appearances for the Football Club between 2005 and 2009.

He said: “I played for St. Bernard’s College in Victoria and then for South Melbourne. I then went on trial in Scotland for a couple of weeks at a few clubs. Whilst I was I waiting on answers from other clubs, the opportunity to go to Heart of Midlothian came up. Their manager was the future Leicester City manager Craig Levein. Within two days he signed me there and then (in July 2003).”

Patrick made over 60 appearances for Hearts. It was a good time for the Scottish club, who finished third and fifth in the league in his two seasons there. They also competed in the UEFA Cup, playing the likes of Bordeaux, Feyenoord, Schalke, Ferencvaros, FC Basel and Braga.

He continued: “In my second season at Hearts, the manager went to manage Leicester City (in October 2004). I signed a pre-contract for Leicester (in January 2005) with a view to moving there in the summer. To start with, Hearts wouldn’t let me go, but I was injured at the time, so I was no use to Hearts and the two clubs came to an agreement. Craig also signed Alan Maybury and Mark de Vries from Hearts (both signings coming in January 2005).

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Patrick Kisnorbo
Patrick Kisnorbo

Kisnorbo netted 10 goals as Fox during his four-year spell in Leicester.

“My Leicester City debut (in the League Cup against Bury in August 2005) was delayed by injury. In Scotland, Levein had seen me as a defensive midfield player. He thought I was a bit short to be a centre-back. I continued in this position for Leicester in the Championship but my preferred position was at centre-back.”

Patrick quickly noticed differences between football in England and in Scotland: “Back then, there was quality in Scottish football because Celtic and Rangers had big players like Henrik Larsson and John Hartson. When I came to the Championship, every game was a hard game. In Scotland you knew which the hard games were but the Championship is the hardest league in the world. Every game is hard. On a given day you never know who is going to win. Every game was very intense.”

Patrick’s time at Leicester was a time of instability and financial constraint. In his four years at the Club, he had seven managers. Levein, who had a long-term vision for developing the Club on limited finances and with younger players, struggled for results and he was replaced by his assistant manager Rob Kelly in January 2006.  

We moved away from the relegation zone. It was crazy. Rob put me at centre-back. I played alongside Paddy McCarthy. Nils-Eric Johansson was there at one stage.

Patrick Kisnorbo

“Levein’s intentions were really good,” Kisnorbo added. “It was a hard time financially. He was rebuilding a new club in very difficult circumstances. I thought he did a great job but it’s a results business and maybe we didn’t perform as a team as we should have. We didn’t get the results for the gaffer or for the fans and the Club. When that happens, the gaffer is the first one to go. He shouldn’t have gone but that’s what football does.

“We then got Kelly as manager and the next thing you know is we went a good run (winning six and drawing two of the next nine games, having lost eight and drawn two of the previous 10). We moved away from the relegation zone. It was crazy. Rob put me at centre-back. I played alongside Paddy McCarthy. Nils-Eric Johansson was there at one stage. When Paddy got injured, I played a lot with Gareth McAuley. I remember in the Championship we had a very good defensive record for two or three years in a row but we weren’t up there in the table.”

For his first three seasons at Leicester, Patrick, who became captain of the side, was a consistent presence in the team despite the high turnover of managers and players.

Throughout this instability, Patrick became a fans’ favourite. He won the Player of the Year award in 2006/07 under Kelly, and for the last few weeks of the season, under Nigel Worthington, who was appointed on in an attempt, ultimately successful, to avoid relegation.  

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Patrick Kisnorbo
Patrick Kisnorbo

Injuries limited Patrick's chances in his later years at the Club.

He continued: “That award was about me trying to do the best I could for the team, the fans, the Club and the gaffer. I was also playing international football back then for Australia. They were difficult times for the Club but they probably gave me the character that I have today.”

The most unstable season was the relegation season of 2007/08. Manager Martin Allen departed after five games. His replacement, Gary Megson, lasted for 42 days, and Ian Holloway remained in charge until the end of the season. In the interregna between these appointments, Jon Rudkin, Steve Beaglehole and Mike Stowell held the fort in August 2007, followed by Frank Burrows and Gerry Taggart two months later. 

Adding to this instability, no less than 40 different players were selected during the season.

Thinking back to this time, Patrick reflected: “In my time at Leicester, we had a lot of different managers. The stability wasn’t there and it was very hard to keep starting again with a new manager. But look at it now. The new owners have come in, the stability is there, the results are there and Leicester City won the Premier League title. Obviously the Club is bigger and better now.”

I got pushed when the ball went out for a throw-in and I did my ACL. It was very hard to take. We lost the game 3-1. Then we got relegated the following week at Stoke City.

Patrick Kisnorbo

In the 2007/08 season Patrick was involved in a couple of controversial refereeing decisions: “I got red-carded twice. Both got rescinded. I also scored a few goals. This was another dimension to my game. I am a team man. If we won, great, and I didn’t care if I scored or not, but if we lost, and I scored, I was furious.”

A highlight of that season was the memorable League Cup game against Chelsea in October 2007  Patrick remembered how City, struggling in the Championship, were 3-2 up against Avram Grant’s Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with four minutes to go. They then conceded two late goals, losing 4-3.

He said: “A Gareth McAuley header had put Leicester in front after six minutes, but by half-time two Frank Lampard goals had put Chelsea 2-1 in front. In the second half, DJ Campbell headed the equaliser and then Carl Cort scored from an Alan Sheehan free-kick from the edge of the area. Then, in the 86th minute Andriy Shevchenko swivelled and shot from the edge of the area, making it 3-3. Then right at the end, Lampard completed his hat-trick following desperate attempts to clear the ball.

“The hardest thing for me that night was that we were up and then Shevchenko, who didn’t touch the ball all night, scored a great goal with his left foot. Had we won, it would have been the shock of the round. Back then, Chelsea had spent mega-dollars. It was a great experience but obviously very disappointing to lose.”

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Patrick Kisnorbo
Patrick Kisnorbo

He continued to excel in the Football League with Leeds United after leaving City.

That 2007/08 season ended badly for both the team, which was relegated to League 1 for the first and only time in the Club’s history, and for Patrick himself, who was seriously injured in the last home game of the season in a crucially important match against Sheffield Wednesday in front of a 32,000 home crowd. It was vital that City won and they went ahead, but then it got away from them.

“I did my anterior cruciate ligament during the game,” Patrick recalled. “The worst thing was I didn’t even do it through a challenge. I got pushed when the ball went out for a throw-in and I did my ACL. It was very hard to take. We lost the game 3-1. Then we got relegated the following week at Stoke City.

Nigel Pearson was appointed as the new manager in the close season (2008). He didn’t know me and then I was trying to play catch up in my recovery at a time the team was doing well in league. So, I had my back against the wall. I had always wanted to stay at Leicester as long as I could. I had been there for four years. I had no intention to move. I loved the people and the Club and liked the city. It was difficult, but it is part of football.”

While at Leicester, Patrick, who had represented Australia at Under-20s and Under-23s level, won a further seven caps contributing to his total of 18 international appearances.   

He explained: “I was a kid from Melbourne. I came up through the youth systems for the national team and was picked at a young age for the full national team. When I moved to Leicester, I was playing week in and week out. For me, that was a time when life couldn’t get any better. I was playing in England in the Championship at a great club and was also playing international football. It wasn’t great on the body because I was playing so many games a year and travelling a lot, but as a footballer, I was very blessed to be part of that.”

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Patrick Kisnorbo
Patrick Kisnorbo

The past seven years have been spent as both a player and coach in Australia.

In July 2009, Patrick signed for Leeds United: “That was a fantastic club. The fans took to me straight away. I had 15 stitches in my head when I was there which is why I always had a bandage because the stitches kept reopening. Things were going great. I was in line for the Australian World Cup squad for the finals in South Africa in 2010. The next thing I knew, I snapped my Achilles. Injuries used to get me at the wrong times. I missed the World Cup in South Africa. That was disappointing. Those were the cards I was dealt and that’s the way it is. That all helped make me the person I am today. I am bringing all my experiences into coaching now.”

He returned to Australia in September 2013 to play for in the A-league for Melbourne Heart, which later became Melbourne City.

“I was captain for two and a half years,” he said. “Then it came to a point in my career when I had to decide whether to play for another year but the club offered me a position as Under-20s manager and I decided to take it because it was the next chapter of my life. We won the Under-20s title in 2016, 14 points clear!”

Patrick has subsequently managed Melbourne City’s women’s team and is currently assistant coach of the men’s team, which is in second place in the Hyundai A-League.

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