Julian Joachim

Former Player Remembers: Julian Joachim

This month, Julian Joachim, who made a combined total of nearly 300 appearances for Leicester City and Aston Villa between 1992 and 2001, spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his time at Filbert Street.
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An England youth and Under-21 international striker, Julian had incredible pace, superb dribbling skills and great energy. Julian also signed for Coventry City, Leeds United, Walsall, Boston United and Darlington.

He then played for a host of non-league clubs and was still playing at 44 years of age, before the COVID-19 lockdown ended his playing career. 

Julian began by explaining how he came to join City as a 16-year-old.

“I was born in Peterborough but grew up in Boston, where my mum came from after my parents split up,” he began. “As a youngster playing local football, I was approached by Les Gray, a scout at Leicester, who invited me to Leicester to train. That’s how it started.

“I became an apprentice and at the start of my second year, I signed professional forms. Things had gone very well for me, especially in the youth team, scoring goals including individual solo goals, which they encouraged me to do.

“Then, I got the opportunity in the reserves and I trained with the first team at times, travelling with them on matchday, making teas and coffees for the pros and the coaching staff on the journey.” 

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Julian Joachim

Julian Joachim remains a popular figure with the Foxes faithful to this day.

Julian’s next step was playing in the first team. He made his debut against Barnsley at Filbert Street on 3 October, 1992, two weeks after his 18th birthday. Brian Little’s Leicester City side, having lost the play-off final to Blackburn Rovers for a place in the new Premier League at the end of the previous season, were once again striving for promotion. 

“It was a step up,” Julian continued. “I just tried to do what I was doing in the youth team, as that’s what got me in the first team. It was obviously a bit tougher because I was playing against better players, but there were good lads in our team and it was easy enough to fit in.

“The fans were unbelievable and I loved every minute of it.” 

Julian scored his first senior goal three days later in a League Cup match at Peterborough. He went on to make 31 first team appearances that season, scoring 13 goals, two of which were spectacular. 

His goal in an FA Cup match at Barnsley was the BBC Goal of the Month and the runner-up for Goal of the Season. 

“A lot of people remember that goal at Barnsley,” Julian continued. 

“Barnsley had a corner and I was on the edge of the 18-yard box. Steve Thompson got the ball and played it to me. I ran the length of the pitch with the ball on the right-hand side, cut in about 25 yards out and hit the ball with the outside of my foot. Luckily enough, it landed in the top corner of the net.” 

Another unforgettable goal scored by Julian that season was in the play-off semi-final first leg victory against Portsmouth. The match was played at Nottingham Forest’s ground, as Filbert Street was out of action due to the old Main Stand being demolished. 

Describing this goal, Julian said: “Simon Grayson toe-poked the ball to me just in our half. I turned the defender and started running at their two central defenders. I knocked the ball past both of them and somehow got to it first. By now, I was in the 18-yard box and I shot the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs. Because of the occasion, this was a vital goal.” 

The 2-2 draw at Portsmouth in the second leg meant that for the second year running, and at the end of Julian’s first season in the first team, Leicester City reached the play-off final at Wembley, playing for a place in the Premier League. Their opponents were Glenn Hoddle’s Swindon Town. 

Thinking back, Julian said: “It was great to get to Wembley. I’d never, ever been there. I’d only seen it on the television as a kid and, luckily for me, I played. It was very exciting for me. 

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Julian Joachim

The Peterborough-born forward was a vital figure for City in the early 1990s.

“We were 3-0 down at half-time. But we dug in and came out fighting in the second half. I scored when the ball came back out to me after Walshy (Steve Walsh) had hit the post. That started the comeback. Then Walshy and Steve Thompson both scored, which got us right back into the game at 3-3.

“We were buzzing and on such a high. Mentally and physically, they’d gone. There was only going to be one winner and that was us. But then they got a late penalty and scored. That was tough. One moment we’d been buzzing and then we had to pick ourselves off the floor. We lost 4-3. 

“I was disappointed on the day, but I was still young and I wanted more of this. I was playing first team football, enjoying it, scoring goals and doing well. I couldn’t wait for the next season to start.” 

Julian’s performances that season brought international recognition. He went to Australia during the season with the England Under-20 team to play in the World Youth Championship, scoring the winning goal against Australia in the third place final.

A few months later, he played for the England side which won the UEFA International Youth Tournament, beating Turkey 1-0 in the final in Nottingham. 

“We had some very good players in those sides, like Sol Campbell, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Robbie Fowler and Noel Whelan,” Julian recalled. “At the time, I didn’t realise just how good that team was.” 

With Julian established in the first team, Leicester City were promoted to the Premier League the following season when they beat Derby County at Wembley in the 1994 Play-Off Final. That season, he also became an England Under-21 international, winning nine caps at that level. 

Back in the top flight, Leicester City’s first match was against Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United, one of the best sides in England at that time. In front of a capacity Filbert Street crowd, the Foxes lost 3-1 but Julian made history by scoring the Club’s first-ever goal in the Premier League, which was then in its third season. 

“To get that first Premier League goal means a great deal to me,” Julian reflected. “It will be in the history books forever, which is something I’m proud of. Our first win that season was against Spurs at Filbert Street (on 17 September).

“I scored twice and David Lowe got one, but not long afterwards, I broke my fifth metatarsal and was out for a good six months. Initially it was wrongly diagnosed and for the first few weeks it was a nightmare, but it got sorted eventually and it healed brilliantly. I’ve had no problems with it ever since.

“While I was injured, the manager, Brian Little, left to become Aston Villa’s manager (in November 1994). That was a sad day. I got on very well with him but being an ex-Villa player, it was a move he couldn’t turn down. Managers and players come and go. He’d turned Leicester around on a shoestring, as there wasn’t a lot of money available.” 

I’d have loved to stay at Leicester. It was my second home, but there was no money at the Club. He wanted to bring in a few players to strengthen the side and I was one of the players who could be sold for good money.

Julian Joachim

The new manager was Mark McGhee, appointed in December 1994 when Leicester City were bottom but one in the Premier League. 

“I had this long-term injury when he arrived,” Julian continued. “I had been due a new contract when I broke my foot and was sorting this out when Brian left, but a problem arose with the new manager when nothing happened.” 

At the end of the season, Leicester City were relegated but Julian, recovered from his injury, was back in the first team the following year. The Club was in second place when McGhee left to manage Wolverhampton Wanderers in December 1995 after only a year in charge. He was replaced by Martin O’Neill

Two months later, Julian moved to Brian Little’s Aston Villa, then riding high in the Premier League, for a fee of £1.5M. 

“I got on okay with Martin,” Julian explained. “I’d have loved to stay at Leicester. It was my second home, but there was no money at the Club. He wanted to bring in a few players to strengthen the side and I was one of the players who could be sold for good money.

“He rang me and told me that he’d accepted an offer from Brian Little for me to go to Villa. He said, ‘Look, you’ll be back in the Premier League. It’s where you belong. You’ll be with your old manager, who you got on well with. It will be a good move for you.’ 

“I agreed to go in the end. Villa was only just down the road so I didn’t have to move house. They were a big club, high in the Premier League. They had plenty of international players. Also, Brian told me that he’d come in for me four or five times. It was a great squad.” 

Julian spent five and a half seasons at Villa Park, with his new team rarely out of the top six in the top flight. In February 1998, Brian Little was replaced by his assistant, John Gregory, who had also been Little’s assistant at Leicester. The following season (1998/99), Julian was voted Aston Villa’s Player of the Year. 

“Things went well for me at Villa,” Julian continued. “I was confident and scoring goals. There’s no better feeling than being on top of your game when things are going well for you. I couldn’t have done a great deal more. It was good. The following season we got to the FA Cup Final, when Chelsea beat us 1-0. 

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Julian Joachim

Julian Joachim impressed for Villa over a five-year spell at the club.

“I left Villa at the end of the next season (July 2001), when I moved to Coventry City. I’d fallen out with John Gregory over a contract that I’d been promised. For a time, I wasn’t involved in playing, but I kept fit and always did my best.

“It was a bit of a tough time and I was getting a bit of stick from the Villa fans, but I’m a massive trier and when the opportunity came, I scored a couple of goals against Derby and I won the fans back over. I was enjoying my football again and my relationship with the gaffer was slowly but surely getting back again. Villa are a great club and I enjoyed the five and a half seasons I had there.” 

After leaving Aston Villa in July 2001, Julian spent three seasons at Coventry and a season at Leeds United, when he also had a loan spell at Walsall, playing with his old Aston Villa team-mate, Paul Merson. He then spent the next three years playing in League 2. He played for a season at Boston United, who then sold him to Darlington to alleviate their financial problems. 

In July 2008, Julian joined Kings Lynn and until the pandemic struck in early 2020, he played for a total of 14 non-league teams until the age of 44, including Hinckley United, Coalville Town, Oadby Town, Shepshed Dynamo and Holwell Sports. He also had an involvement with Gibraltar side, Europa Poinyt. 

More recently, Julian co-founded Player Trader, a platform to help players connect with professional teams and scouts. Last year, he also published his autobiography, My Life in Football: You Must Be Joachim.

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