Liam Moore

'I Grew Up There' - Liam Moore's Leicester Roots

Debuting without his own boots, earning top-flight promotion with a champagne-filled party and watching Leicester City complete an unthinkable Premier League title triumph, it was some ride for Liam Moore at his hometown club.

Taking a seat up in the corner of the West Stand at King Power Stadium, in the city he has called home for a large majority of his career, Moore reminisces on his first and only Leicester goal.

It was at that end of the ground he found the net, ghosting into the box unopposed to meet Anthony Knockaert’s corner and head home, before kissing the badge and sliding towards the celebrating Blue Army during victory over Wigan Athletic in 2013.

A youngster with the world at his feet, he soon claimed Championship Player of the Month and was nominated for Young Player of the Season at the end of the campaign. It proved to be a year to remember. More than a decade on, Moore can clearly remember how it played out.

“As we sit by the pitch, I can picture pretty much which billboard it was that I kicked,” he said, talking through the milestone moment. “That was pure emotion, one of the best moments that I had on a football pitch, it’s something you dream of.

“It was a back post header. It’s another special day - we won that game as well. That’s one that makes me smile still to this day. They are things that you look back on now as great achievements.

“But at the time everything was just happening – I was playing, I scored, got that award, and I was voted at the end of the season alongside two fantastic players in Will Hughes and Alex Pritchard, so I’m immensely proud of that.

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Harry Kane & Liam Moore

Celebrating with Harry Kane after scoring for England Under-21s against Croatia.

“I would have liked to have won it, but that’s one of those things. Those two have gone on to have very good careers and two players that I’ve been lucky to play with at international level as well.”

Team glory was to come at the end of the season, too, toasting promotion to the Premier League as Championship champions. The Club’s upward trajectory continued from that point, while for Moore, although around for the triumphs to come in the near future, this proved to be the pinnacle.

“We decided to get together as a team to watch the results come in as we were playing on the Monday,” the 30-year-old explained. “We were at Andy King’s apartment in Stoneygate and it just happened in slow motion really.

“We needed results to go for us, it was an unlikely result, but we met up just in case and when it did happen, the atmosphere among the players was immense. Kingy’s apartment had beer and champagne all over the roof, but it was a great day, a great night.

“It probably showed in our next performance when we hadn’t lost at home all season and then got beat 4-1! It was a special time and the celebrations here at the stadium as well, again it’s a memory which will stick with me forever.

“We got called out in pairs and I had the fans singing my name. It’s something we had been trying to achieve for many years and it was amazing.”

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Liam Moore

Getting his hands on the Championship trophy on Filbert Way.

Out on loan for the majority of the Premier League title-winning campaign two seasons later, Moore looks back fondly on his whole time at the Club, speaking about the family atmosphere he felt from his first visit to Belvoir Drive until the day he departed.

Born in nearby Loughborough, it all started as a six-year-old hopeful with faraway visions of playing for his boyhood club. Many hold that dream; few get to opportunity to live it out as a reality.

“I have very fond memories,” the Jamaican international continued. “I got into the Academy set-up really young, around six or seven years of age. We were based at Belvoir Drive, which was a real family environment. That went all the way through from the cleaners, the kit men, the chefs, it was just that kind of club.

“I grew up there and it was a good time. They were good facilities; I know they’ve been improved since moving to the new training ground, but back then it was a really good place to start my football.”

It wasn’t just Moore coming through the ranks. The Club’s development of a host of young players was evident in the FA Youth Cup, progressing into the quarter-finals of the 2010/11 competition. Disappointed not to go further, it outlined the high standards he set as captain of that team and the leadership qualities he would later possess in the senior side. 

Facing off against a current Foxes defender during that tournament in Conor Coady, who was part of the Liverpool side, there was another England centre-back impressing for Sheffield United in Harry Maguire. For Leicester, meanwhile, one player stood out from the rest.

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Liam Moore

Looking out onto the Filbert Way pitch.

The former England youth international recollected: “I look back on that and think that we underachieved. We had a really good youth team, went a whole season unbeaten and then, the following season, we did really well again.

“When it came to the Youth Cup, we came up against some really talented players. With the players we had, like Jeff Schlupp, and the team spirit we had; I think we’d have liked to have gone a bit further. For anyone who was around the Academy at that time, he (Schlupp) was well spoken of and he’s gone on to do great things.”

Twice named in the First Team squad, a loan opportunity soon followed at Bradford City, providing a good grounding for a young player looking to make his way in the game.

He explained: “There was a reserves set-up at that point, so I was knocking on the door for that and was getting opportunities to train with the First Team quite a bit. The way Belvoir Drive was set up, the pitches were very close.

“So whenever anyone went inside, someone could go straight across. I felt like in training I was getting closer every day. The levels were very high but that was the progression.

“I then went from playing in front of 50 people against Leeds in a behind closed doors Under-18s match to playing in front of over 10,000 at Bradford on my debut there. That was a wake up call to what men’s football is like.

“People’s livelihoods are on the line, so you need to perform; you need to win. It was part of my progression and I’m glad I did because once I got to a higher level and a bigger stage here, I had built my way in.”

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Liam Moore

Nothing beat the feeling of scoring in front of the Blue Army.

His senior LCFC debut soon arrived, somewhat out of the blue. At just 18 years old, Moore was thrust into a Championship fixture at Crystal Palace by Nigel Pearson, who was looking to record a first away win in his second spell in charge of the Foxes.

It wouldn’t be easy against a side who hadn’t lost on home soil for over three months, but with experienced players around Moore in the backline, including the likes of Sol Bamba, Matt Mills and Kasper Schmeichel, it made for a smooth transition for the youngster, even without a key piece of kit.

Moore recalled: “I’d just come back from my loan, went straight into training with the First Team and caught the Manager’s eye with a couple of crunching tackles which probably would have been frowned upon now.

“I got the call on the Friday afternoon to say I was travelling and the thing that sticks out for me most on my debut was that I didn’t actually have my boots. I’d never travelled with the First Team before and I didn’t tell the kitman about boots and what I needed.

“I didn’t think it was really a big issue because I hadn’t been in the squad and they always took an extra man, so I thought that would be me. I remember waking up and going down for the meeting to find out I was starting. I had to wear some boots that were a size-and-a-half too big, but it was a special day.

“Looking back, you just think about the fact that you’re starting. I’d only found out the team a few hours before the game so I was ringing everyone asking if they could get down. It’s a nightmare at the best of times to get to Selhurst Park but people managed to.

“There was no time [to get nervous]. At the time, I was completely free, I just wanted to do myself justice. The younger you are, the less nervous you get. It just happens. As you get older, you can start to overthink different scenarios about what could go right or wrong.

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Liam Moore

Up against Sean Scannell on debut.

“I was just so focused, in the zone and you don’t really think about much other than performing and doing what you do week in, week out. Me and Sol [Bamba] were just talking about the game because he started in the middle of a back three and I was at right wing-back.

“Centre-half was my position. I had played in different positions in the youth team, but right wing-back was a new experience and a different occasion. When I played as a right-back, I was more of a traditional Gary Neville-like full-back. I wasn’t venturing up the pitch too much.

“But there was a lot of experience with Sol, Kasper and [Aleksandar] Tunchev starting that game. I felt at ease. It was just a case of doing my job because the people around me would definitely do theirs.

“They (Palace) were a talented team at the time. I remember while coming through the youth team, [Wilfried] Zaha was well spoken about. It was him on one side and [Sean] Scannell on the other, so they were chopping and changing.

“With those wingers I was up against, the defensive part of the job was more important on the day. Dannsy (Neil Danns) scored a cracker to win the game, so it was a good day and a good debut all in all.”

Pearson played a key role in Moore’s development, though he would not start another game for two months. As the team were moving closer to the ultimate goal of promotion, the defender’s stock was rising.

“He was always great for me,” the centre-back admitted. “He just threw me in and said ‘you do you’ and I think that’s all you need at that age. I feel like in all of my time here, he never said too much or directed me on how to play my game, he just wanted me to do it and if I didn’t, he would let me know about it.

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Liam Moore

Back on the hallowed turf.

“It was super frustrating because I felt like I’d done well on my debut and we won the game. And then there were a couple of games postponed and I was cup-tied, so I couldn’t play. A month went by and the reason I’d got my opportunity, because of injuries, had gone. They came back.

“I had to wait and be patient. But you could feel things were building. That’s what Nigel Pearson does. You give him time and we were progressively getting better. I was in and out a little bit and gaining the experience.

“If my level dropped, I came out of the team. I would have only been 19 or 20 so to be getting Championship football at that age was super positive for me. I was just allowing myself to grow as a player.”

From finishing ninth to losing in the play-offs, the Foxes went one better and secured their spot back in the Premier League for 2014/15. Starting the season well, featuring in the infamous 5-3 against Manchester United, a second loan spell at Brentford took Moore away from the spotlight as the team produced a miraculous recovery to beat the drop.

“After we got promoted, I knew I had to work extremely hard because the Club would be bringing in players to push me for my place,” he remembered. “I managed to keep it for the beginning of the season, playing 10 or 11 games, and had a really good start against some world-class players.   

“I think over time you can only play off emotions for so long. The mistakes started to happen and you can start to get found out. As a young player, I needed to learn. In hindsight, I could have been more patient. It didn’t go how I wanted it to.

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Liam Moore

Facing Mesut Özil during a Premier League meeting with Arsenal.

“I pushed to go out on loan to continue that learning process, but sometimes you don’t actually need to be on the pitch to learn, you can learn from within. All in all, it’s something I’ll always look back on. I’ve played in the Premier League with my boyhood team.

“The Great Escape... How that happened over time will go down in the record books. Everyone will remember the next season with the title win, but that number of points in the last 10 or 11 games will be spoken about for a long time.”

It’s the greatest achievement in the Club’s history but, for Moore, the Premier League title win brings mixed emotions. On loan at Bristol City for part of the season, he did not qualify for a winner’s medal, having not made a league appearance.

“Impatient me wanted to keep playing and keep progressing, because I had done year on year,” he explained. “I thought the best thing for me to do was to get regular football again and prove that I could play at this level.

“As that was happening, the team were going on an incredible run. I don’t think anyone could have got into the team from outside the Leicester bubble. I was fortunate enough to come back from my loan and be around the team, embrace the atmosphere and the environment that was being built, but to crack into that team was close to impossible.

“The memories will last a lifetime because I felt like I was in there and I was embracing in what was going on.”

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Liam Moore

His final senior Foxes appearance came in a League Cup tie at Bury in August 2015.

As Wes Morgan lifted the trophy aloft, Moore had made the most difficult decision of his career, to permanently move away from Filbert Way. Reading was his next destination, coming within a kick of promotion back to the Premier League.

“It was tough because I was leaving home," he explains. "I’d been here since the age of six and to know that it wasn’t a loan, I wasn’t coming back, was really difficult. It was definitely the right thing because I had to play.

“I’d had a period of about a year in and out of teams. I didn’t play the back end of the title-winning season. It was time to go from a boy with promise to a man and Reading gave me a perfect platform to do that.”

Suffering ligament damage which brought his recent time at Stoke City to an end, Moore hopes to make a return to club football and rekindle his playing career. The dream of playing on Filbert Way once more remains.

“Since leaving, I’ve only been back three times,” he revealed. “I came to one of the games in the Premier League and one in the Europa Conference League. But I think anyone who has been here in the last 15 years will always come back.

“It’s just a club with that feel. I always wanted to come back in a playing capacity, at least against Leicester. It would be a bittersweet moment, but just to embrace King Power Stadium again would be something high up on my goals for sure.”

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