Survival game: Gary McAllister on how Leicester City’s nightmare season echoes Leeds United’s class of 1992-93

GREAT DAYS: Leeds United's championship side of 1992.
Back row (from left: Jon Newsome, Chris Fairclough, Mel Sterland, Gordon Strachan, Gary McAllister, David Batty, Gary Speed, Lee Chapman, Eric Cantona.
Front row from the left, Chris White, Rod Wallace, Tony Dorigo and Steve Hodge.
GREAT DAYS: Leeds United's championship side of 1992. Back row (from left: Jon Newsome, Chris Fairclough, Mel Sterland, Gordon Strachan, Gary McAllister, David Batty, Gary Speed, Lee Chapman, Eric Cantona. Front row from the left, Chris White, Rod Wallace, Tony Dorigo and Steve Hodge.
0
Have your say

FORMER LEEDS UNITED and Leicester City midfielder Gary McAllister has urged the Foxes to beat the drop, as he recalled the nightmare season the Whites endured as top-flight champions at Elland Road back in the early 90s.

The shock Premier League winners are just a point above the relegation zone with their title defence in tatters.

Gary McAllister, during his Leeds United days.

Gary McAllister, during his Leeds United days.

It echoes Leeds’ campaign in 1992-93 after McAllister helped them win the old First Division in 1992, only for their own defence to unravel in the debut season of the Premier League.

They finished 17th in the new top flight, which included 22 teams, failed to win away and sold Eric Cantona to Manchester United.

In comparison, Leicester are two places above the relegation zone, yet to win on the road and sold N’Golo Kante to Chelsea for £32m in the summer.

Leeds beat the drop by two points despite winning just one of their final 10 games and McAllister, who moved to Elland Road in 1990 after five years at Filbert Street, wants Claudio Ranieri’s side to repeat the feat after last season’s 5,000-1 triumph.

Leicester City captain Wes Morgan and manager Claudio Ranieri celebrate winning the Barclays Premier League title last season. They are now just a point above the drop zone.

Leicester City captain Wes Morgan and manager Claudio Ranieri celebrate winning the Barclays Premier League title last season. They are now just a point above the drop zone.

“It (relegation) would waste the story. It would be a better story if they won the league and just survived this season,” McAllister, who made 225 appearances for City.

“I would hate to see them get relegated. It would be horrendous, for all that good work of last year, the fairytale. Leicester gave me my chance in England and I owe them a lot.

“In general when Leicester are in the top division they are one of those teams who you’d think would be in the fight at the bottom. To win the league, you think ‘wow, how on earth?’.

“At Leeds we were reacting to bad results away from home because we kept winning at home but it wasn’t good enough. Leeds had only been up in the top division a couple of years after a spell in the old second division - like Leicester - but every performance was analysed.

“The only thing I think back on is how special other teams were. The great Liverpool sides or the Manchester United teams which dominated. Once one is won that’s pushed away and it’s about winning again.

“That’s going to be the massive lesson this year, Danny Drinkwater has played at a big club (United) and he knows those players who have produced relentless performances. You can’t let your guard down.

“They can say ‘I don’t like being under the microscope’ but it’s part of being a champion. I can remember people saying ‘Leeds aren’t doing what they did last year’ and that’s exactly what they’re saying about Leicester now.

“People will say ‘they’re too good to go down’ but they can’t sit on that. Every time Claudio Ranieri picks the side they have to go out and fight, run, bite and scratch like they did when they were winning games.”

The Foxes romped to the title by 10 points leading to Kante joining Chelsea and Riyad Mahrez, Drinkwater and Kasper Schmeichel being linked with moves, while Jamie Vardy rejected a move to Arsenal.

And McAllister, who joined Leicester from Motherwell in 1985, can see similarities between the squads, including the summer speculation which unsettled the Leeds players.

He added: “I played in a midfield which took a lot of praise in winning the league, like Leicester’s, and the following season Gordon (Strachan) was a wee bit older, I was linked with other clubs and David Batty and Gary Speed were as well so that was a bit unsettling that the four might split up.”

Leicester have struggled to replace Kante with Nampalys Mendy having missed four months with an ankle injury and Wilfred Ndidi only just arriving from Genk.

The France international has continued to shine with Chelsea top and McAllister saw him as more important than former team-mate Cantona, who joined Manchester United for £1m in 1992 after less than a year at Elland Road.

“Eric wasn’t as pivotal as Kante was for Leicester,” he said. “He came late, in the February, but was crucial in games that were very tight. It was a phrase that wasn’t used back then but teams would come to Elland Road and ‘park the bus’. Eric would come on as an impact player and he’d unlock a defence.

“There was no doubt he influenced but there were (Lee) Chapman, (Rod) Wallace and (Gary) Speed. It was a team which didn’t get recognition for winning the league.”

Leeds only suffered one home defeat - 4-1 at home to Nottingham Forest - but lost 14 and drew seven away from Elland Road.

The Foxes have lost four, drawn three and won five at the King Power Stadium and go to Swansea on Sunday having lost nine of their 12 away games.

Leeds United goalkeeper, Felix Wiedwald.

Phil Hay – Inside Elland Road: Getting the basics right still vital for Leeds United’s Felix Wiedwald