With the exception of Kasper Schmeichel himself, Andy Lonergan was as surprised as anyone to hear in June of Leicester City’s bid to sign the Dane from Leeds United.
Lonergan’s knowledge of the Danish goalkeeper was limited but he did not expect his predecessor at Elland Road to appear on the for-sale list during the close season. Moreover, he did not foresee the offer which arrived when Leeds identified him as Schmeichel’s most suitable replacement.
Leicester’s offer for Schmeichel amounted to £750,000 while Lonergan’s transfer from Preston North End cost Leeds a fraction of that sum.
Biased though his opinion might be, Lonergan says United’s trade in keepers was an astute deal. First impressions of the 27-year-old have hardly shown him to be wrong.
Of the limited number of signings made by Simon Grayson in FIFA’s transfer window, Lonergan stands out as one of the best.
Seven competitive games is too short a period to make a definitive judgment but the least that can be said is that United are no weaker in the goalkeeping department than they were last season.
Asked whether the sale of Schmeichel struck him as unexpected, Lonergan said: “From the outside, it was a surprise. I don’t know what went on and it’s not my business but whenever I saw him in Sky games I thought he did well.
“But they got a lot of money for him and finances have a big part to play in football. I’m bound to say this but I don’t think it’s bad business getting him out and bringing me in.
“I don’t think so anyway. It’s worked out brilliantly for me.
“I genuinely love it here at Leeds. It’s obviously a honeymoon period but I’m excited to be playing and excited to be training. I’ve not had that feeling for a while.”
Lonergan’s damaged enthusiasm stemmed from the closing stages of his long career at Preston, the only other professional club he has represented on a permanent basis.
Lonergan’s appearances for North End ran beyond 200 and he was a winner of multiple player-of-the-year awards at a time when he was captaining their first team. His contribution was telling over many years.
He admits now that he should have cut his ties with Preston last summer. Instead, he remained at Deepdale for a final season and was dropped to the bench by manager Phil Brown towards the end of last term, making way for Iain Turner.
Lonergan realised that a parting of the ways was the only solution.
“I should have gone a year ago,” he said. “They’re probably regretting it now because I virtually came here for free compared to what I might have cost.
“But going from being one of Preston’s top players to a new manager dismissing you and leaving you to train with the youth team was difficult. Your appetite suffers.
“We all knew what they were trying to do. They wanted me to leave. But every time I had the opportunity to leave, the club messed about and priced me out of things.
“In all honesty, there was a point in the past where I was captain of the team and I’d won player-of-the-year for a couple of seasons running.
“I don’t think I took my foot off the pedal, but I could have pushed myself more.
“At Leeds, I can’t be complacent because I’m out of the team if I’m not performing.”
Lonergan’s displays in six competitive games have given Paul Rachubka, United’s other senior keeper, no openings to exploit.
Rachubka said after his only Leeds appearance – in a Carling Cup tie at Doncaster Rovers – that he had no desire to “get at” Lonergan or undermine his colleague in an attempt to alter the order of selection.
Lonergan said: “There’s no point in fighting with each other. You work together every day and the last thing you want is any tension. I’ve never worked with a goalkeeper I disliked.
“When I was on the bench at Preston last season, I got on really well with Iain Turner.
“It wasn’t Iain’s fault that he was playing ahead of me so there was no reason to be bitter towards him.”