LCFC International Academy: Progress On And Off The Pitch
Belvoir Drive can be a quiet place during the summer months, as renovation staff busily prepare Leicester City’s state-of-the-art training facility for another important football season.
But work remains on going for players from the Leicester City International Academy – an academic programme aimed at enriching the life experience and educational development of specially selected young people from Thailand.
Since their arrival in Leicester as 16-year-olds in January, the International Academy squad have been acclimatising to life in the UK – studying and boarding at the reputable Ratcliffe College and improving their footballing skills through expert coaching at the Leicester City Academy.
Their latest encounter in a varied fixture programme was an entertaining 4-4 draw with a Tottenham Hotspur development team at Belvoir Drive on Wednesday – a game that highlighted some of the collective qualities and areas for improvement among a talented group of young men.
It’s a group that has clearly grown in the last six months, both physically and in terms of developing as people, and coach Alistair Heath says their holistic progress is helping them on the pitch.
“It’s easy for us to see in the way they play and train that the boys are adjusting well to being in the UK,” he said.
“To make the progress they have made on the pitch in the last six months, they’ve got to be settled off the pitch, enjoying the experience and growing as people. They’ve all really bought into every element of the project.
“They’re very capable of managing their own time effectively. They’re at an age where they could switch off, but they’ve committed themselves to being professional and you can see that is paying off.
“They’re very conscientious and it’s the small things like making sure they’re on time for training, well prepared and ready to work that make the difference. It shows how well they’re developing as young people.”
An outing against a talented Spurs side was an excellent penultimate test for the young Thais, who face a final fixture next week before returning home for the school holidays.
They took a 30th minute lead from the penalty spot when Jirattikan Vapilai converted after being brought down in the box – the first of five goals in 14 minutes before half-time.
Spurs equalised within two minutes, before Phuwananrt Khamkaew regained the lead with a tidy near-post finish. But two breaches of the Foxes’ offside trap allowed Spurs to edge in front before half-time.
The young Thais’ character was seriously tested just after the hour-mark when Spurs went further ahead from the penalty spot, but a quick response aided the Foxes’ cause as set-piece specialist Jirattikan drove in a free-kick from the edge of the box.
That set up a grandstand finish and, with just three minutes remaining, Nutchanon Soijit ended a powerful run down the left with a pinpoint cross that was headed home by flying substitute Anan Surattanasin.
“They put everything into the performance, it was a great game to watch,” Alistair said. “I thought we played at a really high tempo from the first minute until the last.
“Each game is bringing them more confidence. We know they’re good footballers and a good football team, but every game gives them more and more belief.
“Defensively we still have work to do. As a group they have to learn to defend better, but we’re always learning and I don’t think that will stop as long as they’re here. As a group, they’re improving in all areas of the pitch.”
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