Pleat’s managerial record prior to arriving at Filbert Street was impressive.
An England schoolboy and youth international winger, he had played for Nottingham Forest, Luton Town, Shrewsbury Town, Exeter City and Peterborough United before moving to Southern League Nuneaton Borough in 1971 as player-manager. A year later he became a youth coach at Luton Town, before becoming chief coach in 1997 and manager two years later.
An advocate of attacking and attractive football, Pleat guided Luton Town to the top flight in 1982. Narrowly beaten by Everton in the 1985 FA Cup semi Final, Pleat’s Luton finished ninth in the old First Division the following season.
With a burgeoning reputation as an innovative manager receptive to new ideas, he replaced Peter Shreeves as Tottenham Hotspur’s manager in May 1986. Playing some of the most attractive football seen at White Hart Lane for years, his side finished third in the First Division and reached the FA Cup Final.
He left Tottenham Hotspur in October 1987 for non-footballing reasons.
His impact at Filbert Street was immediate. He soon had Leicester City playing his trademark attractive football. Results improved dramatically and Leicester finished the season in 13th place.
Unfortunately, this promise was not maintained. Installed as pre-season promotion favourites the following season, Pleat’s Leicester City finished the campaign in a very disappointing 15th position.
Matters got worse. The next season started terribly. After the first 12 games, Leicester City were bottom of the ‘old’ Second Division with one win, eight losses and only six points. Things improved in November, with the loan arrivals of Arsenal teenager Kevin Campbell and Tottenham Hotspur’s attacking midfielder Paul Moran. Their three-month loans spells included seven wins. When they left Filbert Street, David Oldfield was signed from Manchester City. In March 1990, Pleat paid £300,000 for West Ham striker David Kelly whose impact was immediate. He scored seven goals in his first seven games, helping Leicester achieve a final position of 13th.
The decline continued at the start of the 1990/91 season. After a victory in the first game, Leicester City lost their next seven league games, a sequence culminating in a 6-0 defeat at Middlesbrough. Pleat was sacked January 1991 with Leicester City near the foot of the table.
First-team coach Gordon Lee, who had managed Newcastle United and Everton became manager, initially on a caretaker basis. Club captain Ali Mauchlen became player-coach.
As for David Pleat, he managed Luton Town again, before moving to Sheffield Wednesday and then back to Tottenham Hotspur for three separate spell as caretaker manager. He has since worked extensively in the media.
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