Luke Thomas

Academy Influx During 2019/20 Encourages Elliott

The number of Academy graduates involved during Leicester City’s 2019/20 season was a major highlight for 2000 League Cup Final hero Matt Elliott.
More on this story...

- Matt Elliott praises the inclusion of Leicester City’s youngsters during the 2019/20 Premier League campaign
- Four Academy graduates featured in the Premier League for the Football Club
- Elliott reflected on the efforts of young left-back Luke Thomas, who played in City’s final three matches

Ben Chilwell, Harvey Barnes and Hamza Choudhury all played significant roles for the Foxes throughout their latest top-flight campaign.

Left-back Luke Thomas, meanwhile, made a rapid rise from Development Squad football to the Premier League, and on his debut set up Ayoze Pérez’s opener against Sheffield United.

For Elliott, a blend of promising youth, unknown quantities and seasoned professionals paved the way for the Foxes to finish fifth in the Premier League.

“In the early parts of the season, the list would be too long to mention everybody,” he said when asked of City’s stand-out performers. “That’s a good sign. Right through from Kasper Schmeichel to Jamie Vardy, everyone was putting in a shift and producing the goods.

“It’s obvious to mention [Çağlar] Söyüncü coming in, he’s really made an impact. Questions were being asked about whether he could perform at that level, and he certainly proved a lot of people wrong, myself included 

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Harvey Barnes
Harvey Barnes

Academy graduate Harvey Barnes finished the 2019/20 season with seven goals in all competitions.

“He slotted in superbly and complemented Jonny Evans, and straight away I’m onto someone else. Jonny Evans has been some people’s player of the year.

“Even when things weren’t going that well, there were strong performances from certain people. Wilfred Ndidi has cemented his reputation as one of the best enforcers and central midfielders in the Premier League.

Ricardo Pereira, before his injury, was up there in the top three right-backs in the league – that would be fair to say. There are many others that stand out, but it’s been good to see the introduction of the younger players as well.

“Harvey Barnes has established himself as a fully-fledged team member, Hamza Choudhury similarly. Latterly in the season, Luke Thomas came through, and what a revelation he was in the short time that he played.”

Playing on the left-hand side of City’s defence, whether that be as a wing-back or in a more traditional left-back role, Development Squad Player of the Season Thomas caught the eye of Elliott, who had previously seen him in action for the Club’s Under-23s earlier in the campaign.

The fact that this has been Leicester City’s second-best ever Premier League finish says it all, really. There are little bits to analyse and scrutinise, without a doubt – there usually are – but overall, not a bad season at all.

Matt Elliott LCFC TV

Elliott said: “You can instantly see that he’s a naturally-talented footballer. You feel almost wasted at left-back, but these days, full-backs are an important aspect of the seasons in both attack and defence. He got an opportunity to express himself and he took it really well.

“He looks confident in his ability that he’s developed. Some of it’s obviously natural, but he has that confidence knowing that he’s a very good technical player. He’s got to learn the ropes, but he doesn’t get bullied in games at all.

“It was a little bit of an education for him to come in when he did, but it was probably a bit sooner than he expected. Under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers, you couldn’t have a finer coach to lead him along his path. In the games that he came in, he showed real promise.”

For the Foxes, at the turn of the century, Elliott was involved in seven Premier League campaigns, which included four top-half finishes.

Up until the conclusion of the 2019/20 season and aside from their remarkable 2015/16 title-winning campaign, City had not finished higher than eighth in the Premier League.

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Luke Thomas
Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas registered a clean sheet and an assist during his Foxes debut.

“Overall, it was a very positive season,” Elliott said. “The positives outweigh the negatives, that’s for sure. Some people have looked at how Leicester stuttered in the second half of the season and it’s right to do that.

“I think Brendan Rodgers and the players will look at themselves and try and analyse why they couldn’t hit the heights of the early parts of the season. To fall from third to fifth in the Premier League is not a disaster in my book.

“Expectations rose early on in the season, but it was always going to be a big ask to continue that level of performance throughout the season. Having said that, there will be frustrations that they didn’t see it through to get that Champions League slot.

“The fact that this has been Leicester City’s second-best ever Premier League finish says it all, really. There are little bits to analyse and scrutinise, without a doubt – there usually are – but overall, not a bad season at all.”

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