Paul Dickov

'A Fantastic Achievement' – Adams & Dickov Recall 2003 Promotion

When Leicester City were promoted to the Premier League in 2003, Micky Adams was the manager, while Paul Dickov was the top scorer and Player of the Year.

After the Foxes lifted the Championship in 2014, both Micky and Paul took time to share their memories of their promotion season with Club Historian John Hutchinson. For Adams, that promotion season was the height of his managerial career. 

“The key factor is having good players who were desperate to get back to the Premier League, having just been relegated,” he said. "Sometimes it was difficult for them, but I had a group of players who worked hard.

“Before the season started, due to financial difficulties, everyone was up for sale. The ones that were left were either not good enough or were earning too much money. The simple pre-season message to the players was: ‘If we think we are good enough then let’s get back there’.

“The spine of the team was very strong with Ian Walker, Matt Elliott, Gerry Taggart, Muzzy Izzet, Paul Dickov and Brian Deane. They had played a lot of games in the top flight and had a lot of experience. There was a lot of know-how there.

“Due to finances, Matt Piper was sacrificed, along with Robbie Savage and Gary Rowett. We had to do a certain amount of rejigging in the process.”

Leicester's promotion rarely looked in doubt, in truth, but off-field strife created an air of uncertainty around the Club. Nonetheless, the squad's togetherness, harnessed by Adams' management, was enough to get them over the line. 

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Micky Adams

Adams' management enabled the Club to return to the top flight despite several problems.

“We got off to a good start, although we were beaten early on 6-1 at Ipswich, but we responded well to that. Then we went into administration. We had Nicky Summerbee and Billy McKinlay without paying them initially. They were the only two players we signed that season.

“The best quote of the season was Billy saying: ‘I’m not playing for nothing, I’m playing for everything’. That was terrific. There were a lot of highlights that season. Muzzy’s overhead-kick at Grimsby was a fantastic goal. It got us a result even though we hadn’t played well.

“The Easter Saturday game against my old club Brighton also stands out as it got us promoted.

“If you are going to be successful and gain promotion, you have to have a good team spirit. The boys had that. It goes a long way. They quite liked a drink from time to time, but you try stopping the likes of Taggart and Elliott and people like that. An impossible task!

“That promotion was the highlight of my management career. To get promotion is a fantastic achievement, especially as the Club was in administration with players on deferred wages. We stuck together. It wasn’t an individual thing. We had to do it together.

“People said that due to administration we should have lost 10 points, but if we had, we would still have gone up! I enjoyed the open-top bus tour. It was fantastic for the fans to come out in numbers and salute the people who had worked hard for them.

“Managers and players come and go. We are just the custodians. It’s for the fans. There is nothing better than seeing the supporters hail the lads. It was fantastic. I really enjoyed it. I still get a nice welcome when I go to Leicester. I like to think that I played my part in the Club’s history.”

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Micky Adams

Leicester's top-flight return was secured with a victory over Micky's former club, Brighton.

Paul also recalled his vivid memories of that season. His little-and-large partnership with Deane is still fondly remembered today. He'd joined the Club the season earlier, the last year at Filbert Way, but too late to help prevent relegation. The 2002/03 campaign, though, was a triumphant one.

“I went to Leicester (in February 2002) from Manchester City,” he said. “Kevin Keegan was there and I wasn’t really getting the games I wanted or deserved. I was an experienced player. All I wanted to do was play football at the highest level possible.

“At that time, Manchester City were in what is now the Championship and Leicester were in the Premier League. They looked as if they were going down but I looked at it as eight games in the Premier League for me to prove myself.

Dave Bassett (Leicester’s manager) had tried to sign me in the previous window but Manchester City wouldn’t let me go then. Funnily enough I signed for Leicester on 22 February and was No.22. All the twos!

“I have fantastic memories of scoring in the game against Tottenham, which was the last game at Filbert Street. Matt Piper scored the winner. That win set us up for getting back to the Premier League the next season. We had a new stadium as well and there was a good feeling around the place.

Dickov credited Adams' management through a turbulent time on Filbert Way, guiding the Foxes to second place in a competitive second tier that season.

“Micky had taken over and he kept the likes of Muzzy, Taggs and Elliott,” he added. “We had a lot of good players. There were problems off the field with administration and everything else but we had a real togetherness and that translated to the fans.

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Muzzy Izzet & Paul Dickov

Paul toasts City's promotion back to the Premier League with midfielder Muzzy Izzet.

“As a group of players, we felt that we were always at one with the fans and that was a massive part of us getting promotion. There were full houses at the stadium that season. The fans were magnificent and backed us all the way.

“Playing alongside Deano was magnificent for me. He was a great guy and professional. I managed to score a lot of goals that year and many were due to Brian flicking them on. We seemed to hit it off straight away. As a striker, you look to get a partnership as quick as you can and it really worked for us.”

When reminded that he had won the Player of the Year in that promotion season from both the players and the supporters, Paul said: “It is always nice to get personal accolades but I get slightly embarrassed, because I was always brought up to believe it is a team game. I said that on the night.

“I remember that season well. The first game at the new stadium was a fantastic occasion. I remember scoring against Crystal Palace with my left foot!  

“That didn’t happen often! I also remember the point we got at Rotherham. I’d had a hernia operation nine days earlier. That point more or less sealed promotion (which was confirmed in the next game against Brighton). I absolutely loved my time at Leicester.”

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