Last night, Leicester City held their annual End of Season Dinner, in aid of The Vichai Srivaddanaprabha Foundation, and handed out some awards, including the inaugural Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Outstanding Community Award, handed to Geoff and Gill Smart, whose Heart Link charity has raised millions to improve medical care for children.
It was a big night for Ricardo Pereira, who capped his first season at the club with both the Player of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Year awards. James Maddison, also nominated for Player of the Year, took the Young Player trophy from a very difficult field, and Christian Fuchs was rightly rewarded for this effort.
Christian Fuchs’ stunner against Fleetwood ☄️— Leicester City (@LCFC) May 7, 2019
It’s Leicester City’s 2018/19 Goal of the Season! ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/2wKBgogfq3
Bosh. Even Jamie Vardy has been involved in awards season, taking the Premier League Player of the Month for April.
Those awards mostly told us what we already knew, but there were a couple more trophies that might actually give us a little more insight into the state of the Academy and Development squad.
Academy Player of the Season: Oliver Bosworth, 18, GK
I’ll be honest, there’s not a lot of information out there on Bosworth; I only have his age thanks to Football Manager. He was with the Academy Squad last season, but never saw the pitch. This year he wrestled the no.1 job away from Jakub Stolarczyk, who was 6 months older but still with the team.
Bosworth seemed to prove them right, conceding at a much lower rate, while keeping four of their five clean sheets. Having just turned 18, he still has plenty of time to develop with the Academy, but will hopefully get a few chances with the Development Squad (U23) next season.
But when your best player is a goalkeeper who conceded 25 in 14 games? Eesh. That sounds like a difficult season for the Young Foxes, but then they did make the Cup quarterfinal, while finishing 7th in the league.
The other two nominees do paint a slightly more promising picture. Both in their age 17 seasons, Tavares (CM) and Thomas (LB) are already being pushed ahead of their age group, each getting some chances with the Development Squad this season.
Impressive academy displays (8 combined goals and assists in 18 games for Tavares, 7 in 14 for Thomas) didn’t just earn them an internal promotion, though. They received call ups to the Portugal and England U18 squads, respectively, and were both awarded with their first professional contracts.
“For me the best player on the pitch tonight was Luke Thomas, a young player, captain of the Under-18s...he showed more composure than our senior players, better decision-making at times and I was pleased with him” Development Squad Manager Steve Beaglehole had good things to say about Thomas
When so few players will ever push on to the first team squad, individual success is probably more important than the team, so it’s certainly very encouraging to see players making these strides.
Academy Player of the Season: Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, 20, CM
The Development Squad had an even more challenging season than the Academy, finishing 10th of 12 in the PL2 while failing to win a single game (without penalties) in the EFL Cup.
Still, they were without key contributors Darnell Johnson, Josh Knight, Daniel Iverson, Elliott Moore and George Thomas through loans, while Hamza Choudhury, Ben Chilwell and Harvey Barnes were unavailable for the best of reasons. We can give them some slack.
Dewsbury-Hall, meanwhile, has been a regular in the side for the last two seasons, and will look to follow in the footsteps of his former midfield partner, and last year’s award winner, Choudhury.
The tireless and industrious midfielder, who has been with the Foxes since he was 8, has regularly been picked out as one of the squad’s most consistent performers. If he can keep that up, perhaps soon we’ll him getting a crack at the daunting task of challenging for time in Leicester City’s already young midfield.
Kiernan took the award ahead of Viktor Johansson, the only keeper after Bosworth to be nominated for an award. The Swede only joined the squad this summer, after three years with Aston Villa, and immediately took over the goalkeeper position.
Only three teams conceded fewer PL2 goals this past season, and Johansson’s individual performances, including 6 clean sheets in 19 games, earned him a call up to the Sweden U21 squad.
Another quality young left back, Ughelumba has impressed in his first season since moving up from the Academy side, where he was a regular during their Uefa Youth League experience. While he put together a string of fine performances this year, he was also sent off twice, so might need to sort that out before he’s a challenge to current England LB Ben Chilwell.
In all, it was a down year for both of the Foxes’ youth sides, but that was due at least partly to some aggressive promotion of younger players.
The most important thing (from a first team perspective) is that the system continues to produce high quality individuals, and the 6 mentioned here certainly seem to fit that perspective.
It’s always a long shot for any of these guys to make it all the way to the Premier League, but they have some excellent examples ahead of them to follow. Whether they break through at an unusually early age (Chilwell), impress on loan (Barnes) or work their way up through the system (Choudhury), the club has proven their is a pathway for them into the first team squad.