Leeds United Bygones: Kasper Schmeichel and events in Leicester show the ‘human side’ of football

Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel after the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday. PIC: Simon Galloway/PA Wire
Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel after the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday. PIC: Simon Galloway/PA Wire
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Delivered in stern Sky Sports News tone and wrapped in yellow ticker tape usually reserved for injury news and deadline-day loan deals, tragedies in football often don’t seem at all real at first.

Separated from the subject matter as most outside of Leicester were last week, there’s a sense of hollow melancholy, that the shouty soap opera of modern football has taken its latest tragic twist.

Kasper Schmeichel representing Leeds United in 2010/11. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Kasper Schmeichel representing Leeds United in 2010/11. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

That is until you see the human cost of such a tragedy. As flowers began to fill the car park at the King Power Stadium, it became more tangible, as fires and stadium disasters had done previously.

Images of Leicester City players consoling the family and friends of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha will be the painful, abiding moment for many.

Arm in arm, eyes full of tears, superheroes such as Jamie Vardy showed a vulnerability never seen before, none more so than former Leeds United goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who reportedly had to be stopped from running towards the wreckage in an attempt to save the five victims.

The Dane, who turns 32 today, is nothing short of a Foxes legend after featuring in over 270 matches, including playing a key role in their legendary 2015/16 title-winning season.

The way he has led a community in grief will only stand to extend that status.

Asked if Schmeichel had tried to help, Leicester manager Claude Puel said: “Yes. I don’t want to give out the details of course just for Kasper, he lives this situation and he saw a lot of things.

“Kasper, like the other players, they all have a lot of history with the chairman and they are all devastated. After [the crash] I saw Kasper, I think he was the only player still here after the game. It was difficult, very difficult.”

With hindsight it’s bizarre to think that, had he had it his way, there’s a strong chance he have never would have played for Leicester.

Schmeichel made no secret of his desire to stay at Elland Road when Leeds accepted a £1.5 million bid from the Foxes in 2011.

Arriving from Notts County a year earlier, his assured and vocal style made him a popular figure in the opening months of the 2010/11 season and a promotion charge took hold.

But the fact is that clean sheets were at a premium for Schmeichel’s Leeds defence, a 4-0 defeat at home to Cardiff standing out among many shambolic performances at the back.

Leeds finished seventh, three points back on Nottingham Forest in the final play-off spot, and had conceded 20 goals more than Forest. However popular he may have been, it was little surprise that a £1.5 million bid peaked the interest of then-chairman Ken Bates.

Speaking before he had signed for Leicester, Schmeichel said: “It is with great disappointment that I have learned that Leeds United have accepted an offer from Leicester.

“I was enjoying being a Leeds United player and was looking forward to winning promotion this season with the club.

“I have been put in a very difficult situation and will spend some time considering my options for my future.”

It was the Dane who proved to be the big winner in the transfer.

Initially sceptical, he was seduced by the unbridled ambition of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and the rest, as they say, is history.

In a heartbreaking tribute posted on social media in the hours after the Leicester owner’s tragic death, Schmeichel wrote: “Never have I ever come across a man like you. So hard working, so passionate, so kind and so generous in the extreme. You changed football. Forever! You gave hope to everyone that the impossible was possible. You literally made my dreams come true.”

Wherever Schmeichel and Leicester City go from here, they will have thousands of well-wishers Marching on Together with them from West Yorkshire.