A legend among American soccer fans, Kasey Keller enjoyed a lengthy playing career, primarily in Europe. One of his stops in the old continent was at Leicester City from 1996-1999, a very productive period for club and player alike.
Enjoying successful top half finishes in the Premier League as well as a famous League Cup victory, Keller is remembered fondly in Leicester for his impressive shot-stopping ability and Stateside charm...and of course his lovely flowing locks.
Kasey Keller interview
Kasey Keller interview
Now retired, Keller returned to the U.S. to finish his career with the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer, his local club and currently acts as their TV commentator.
In an exclusive discussion with the Fosse Posse, Keller reflects on his time in Leicester and what this season has meant for the club and the city he once called home.
You can read the first part of the Q&A right here.
Fosse Posse: What do you make of Claudio Ranieri and the impact he's had on the team in his first year?
Kasey Keller: He's obviously brought in a level of organization and professionalism, at least looking in from the outside. Pearson brought a level of team spirit and fight and tenacity and it's really almost been the combination of the two, the perfect storm. I've played against Ranieri a bunch of times and shook his hand leaving the pitch but I never really spent time with him. The players that I knew that did always just said what a tremendous person he is. You can really see that. The players have really responded to it. I'll be honest with you, I was one who was extremely skeptical of the announcement.
Look at the clubs he's managed, the resources that he's had available to him. I just thought that this is going to be tough. Who did I think was going to be the first manager fired? I told people Ranieri. I'm just so, so happy that I was proven wrong and so many other people were proven wrong. I hear that he's such a nice guy and such a great person to play for. If you would have told me that they would be in 7th place at this point in the season fighting for a Europa League spot, I would have thought that it's been an unbelievable season. I don't anyone thought that where they are now was a possibility.
FP: Talk about your perception of Leicester the city and why is it so special to play there?
Keller: Leicester was always kind of looked as a city, in the shadow of Nottingham and in the even bigger shadow of Birmingham. It's a city that's not the most beautiful compared to others around. But it's a city that just loves their club. Enough clubs around there that you could claim to support someone else...but that's not the case. You're from the greater Leicester area, you are a Leicester City fan and that really shows. You realize very quickly that sense of community. When you play for a London club, those lines aren't as distinct and it gets blurred very quickly.
FP: Have you been impressed by what you've seen from the atmosphere at the King Power Stadium?
Keller: How could you not be?! It's been a tremendous atmosphere given what's been going on there. Their fans are in much disbelief as everyone else. They've just got a smile on their from the minute they show up to the next game. I was fortunate that when I was there we never had too bad of a run but take last year for example. Having to claw yourself out of last place. You don't do that if the fans have already turned on you. The Leicester fans know. There's no sense of 'we're taking it for granted. They know they're going to enjoy every single minute that they're in this situation.
FP: Switching gears to the goalkeeping, what's your thoughts on how Kasper Schmeichel has come along this year and how he's compared to what his father Peter was able to accomplish?
Keller: I think Kasper's done a tremendous job. I've seem him make some great saves this year. He has a good defense in front of him but he's able to make saves at extremely important times. They say that it's those kinds of saves are more important than clean sheets. Making saves at 0-0 that keeps your team in it. At 1-0 down, can you make two or three saves that your team then goes on to win 2-1. Just to be able to come up with timely saves. This season, Kasper has been able to do that more often than not. That makes a huge difference. Also, I haven't seen many big mistakes from him. When you combine those two, that's when you start to get the plaudits as a goalkeeper. Kasper has done a fantastic job this year of minimizing the mistakes but also coming up with very timely saves.
FP: If they are able to do it, would it go down as the biggest story in English football history?
Keller: At least in recent history, for sure. The fact that a team that has never won the championship at the highest level in an age when money seems to be the determining factor in a team's success, I would be very hard-pressed to find any equal. It's been a fantastic season no matter what happens. They should be very proud.
FP: You're in a good position being a former player of both Leicester and Tottenham. Is this the ideal situation for you?
Keller: I would be very happy if Tottenham were to win the title. I think it's just such a more remarkable story if Leicester were to win the title. That's the only real deciding factor for me. I'm not going to make claims for my allegiance one way or the other. But the story of Leicester winning is just completely unbelievable. Spurs haven't won it in 40 years or whatever so it's not like they've been ripping up the Premier League but they've obviously been more in the mix than Leicester. To have Leicester do it would just be something out of a dream. It'd be crazy if Spurs were able to but not anything close to what it'd be like for Leicester.