While Marc Albrighton spent more time on the bench in the first three weeks of the season than on the field, I thought a bit about Leicester City’s Champion’s League win over Sevilla -- will there ever be another like that?
The goal that iced that one-of-a-kind win came from the unlikely foot of Albrighton.
Google it, watch the video clip, and you’ll see the ball fall to him in the box. Albrighton moves to create just a bit of space and the launches it home.
He runs away, ecstatic. Wouldn’t you?
Albrighton had just locked away an unlikely Champion’s League win for his unlikely team to move in to the quarterfinals, where it in no way belongs.
And this isn’t an easy thing to say, but if you forget all the Cypriot and Estonian and Bulgarian teams, Albrighton might be one of the most unlikely scorers of a big-game Champion’s League goal.
I don’t mean Albrighton any disrespect -- I’m writing this because he’s one of my favorites.
But on paper, he doesn’t belong there. Fans of Big Six teams might say he barely belongs in the Premier League at all (they’d be wrong, though I’m not sure Claude Puel would agree with me).
Albrighton was tossed aside by Aston Villa after really never quite catching on between 2009 and 2014.
His first real season as a first-team regular was Leicester’s Great Escape, and Albrighton was perfect for that task -- run hard, play fast, defend, win balls, and, when the moment is right, sling a long ball up field or whip in a cross to try to snatch a goal when you need it most.
But on the Premier League-winning side, Albrighton, like several of the Leicester starters, was a man with a lot to prove.
He and Danny Simpson and Jamie Vardy and Wes Morgan and Robert Huth (and a few others) lacked the pedigree to be Premier League champions. They were the players who needed Esteban Cambiasso to show them how to stay up just a year before, after all.
And yet there they were.
All those others are either gone, slipped back to the bench or, in the case of Vardy, risen to a certain kind of stardom and played in a World Cup. Vardy has long since proved he does belong, rough edges and all.
Albrighton is the only one of that group of overachievers still overachieving, still trying to prove he belongs.
The England call-up that he made clear he’d like and might haver deserved never came, and now almost certainly never will.
But let’s talk about what the man can do. Or better yet, watch:
Marc Albrighton can can hit one heck of a cross.
There’s a moment in that reel -- about a minute in -- when Huth absolutely botches a beautifully struck, curving free kick into the box. Just wastes it. Over the goal by a mile.
The camera focuses in the moment afterward on Huth, trotting away.
Don’t give me that. Show me Albrighton, and I’ll bet you he just turns and gets back, ready to get to work defending and winning the next ball.
But he shouldn’t.
He should be torqued that his beautiful free kick wound up 10 rows deep behind the goal.
In fact, watch that video all the way through.
How many of those balls from Albrighton end up just over or just wide or way over or way wide or somewhere that is not in the back of the net?
He has delivered his fair share of crosses that led to goals, and added danger to the attack -- he had that effect when he came off the bench against Southampton this season.
But I’ve always felt like there should be more, that his teammates should do better with the chances he gives them.
All those under-appreciated crosses are a good stand-in for Albrighton in general -- just a little under-appreciated, taken for granted as a guy you could bring on from the bench, play him up on the wing, or at fullback. Plug him in, watch him go.
Or, the narrative might be, watch him slip away to Burnley or Brighton or even some club in the Championship, and plug in the next one. No great loss.
Even now, Albrighton is having to prove himself, over again.
But for three straight seasons there hasn’t been a steadier Fox than Albrighton, starting at least 40 games a season. I’m willing to bet, whatever happens around him, there’s about to be a fourth.