When Claude Puel was announced as the new Leicester city manager last month, I was excited by his reputation for bringing through young players to the first team. The three following appointments were David Moyes, Alan Pardew(!) and Sam Allardyce, so maybe I should have been positive about more than just that, but he looks to be paying off already.
While the whole team is playing better football at the moment, one of the first changes we all saw was immediate faith put in Demarai Gray, who repaid it with a string of strong performances.
The frenchman certainly seems to have a knack for developing young attacking talent. He’s previously been credited for the early growth of a star studded list of forwards, including Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, and Leicester’s own title winner Eden Hazard.
He is one of the top also, because he maybe made me this player I am now - Hazard had some very favourable words for Puel last season
His early lineups have also given chances to academy product Ben Chilwell and the equally young Wilfred Ndidi (although failure to play the latter would be laughable at the moment).
Not content with just those established first team players, Puel then gave a Premier League debut to the even younger Hamza Choudhury.
Giving 9 minutes to an academy player off the bench might not seem like a big deal, but you have to consider the context of the game: up by just one goal against a very strong Spurs side, who had just scored and were pushing hard for a second. It was a huge show of faith, and again it was quickly repaid by Choudhury, who put it in a key tackle on Harry Kane.
Since then, Puel has reaffirmed his intent to bring through the next generation, and it seems he doesn't intend to stop here.
CP on Youth Players: "We will see as season goes on. We will see if we can give them playing time. It’s important we can look at players because they are the future for Leicester."— BBC Leicester Sport (@BBCRLSport) November 30, 2017
Again, none of this is out of character for Puel. His penchant for development was a big part of why he was brought into conveyer belt club Southampton and he didn't disappoint (in that respect at least), getting the best out of James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond, while bringing the likes of Jack Stephens, Sam McQueen and Josh Sims into the first team squad.
The really good news for Leicester fans is that there seems to be plenty of talent for him to bring through here as well. The development squad (under 23s) are undefeated since September and currently sit 2nd in the PL2.
A pair of attacking midfielders in particular stand out from that squad. Harvey Barnes is having a great season on loan with Barnsley, while recent signing (but Leicester born) George Thomas has played so well his manager Steve Beaglehole suggested he could be into the first team squad by January.
⚽️ George Thomas sealed a brilliant victory tonight for the Foxes as he netted twice... #lcfcu23s pic.twitter.com/U1Pmu5i6Mz— Leicester City (@LCFC) September 22, 2017
The under 18 squad, meanwhile are also currently 2nd in their league. They’ll be looking for another strong showing in the FA Youth Cup, having made it to the quarterfinals last year.
The Guadian’s excellent Next Generation series this year highlighted 6ft 7in 15 year old Lukas Husek, a Czech CB from the Foxes academy. Combined with their two previous picks, fullbacks Simran Thandi and Darnell Johnson (who featured for the first team in preseason) the future at the back could be bright.
Although of course, some old timers can certainly still bring it.