The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY-OFFS 2ND LEG PREVIEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

Aweek af­ter Sir Alex Fer­gu­son fi­nally bid fair­well to the Pre­mier League, one of the de­part­ing Manch­ester United man­ager’s many pro­tégés is hop­ing to clam­ber his way back into the big time.

Lan­cashire lad Matty James joined United as a school­boy, ris­ing through the ranks to skip­per the re­serve and U18 sides.

Yet while he would fol­low in the foot­steps of David Beck­ham and Danny Wel­beck with a loan spell at Pre­ston, the 21-year-old never quite made the grade and left to join Le­ices­ter in May 2012.

Even so, the mid­fielder still trea­sures the time he spent un­der Fer­gu­son’s tute­lage and the lessons learned are now help­ing fire the Foxes to pro­mo­tion.

“Even at my age, I never thought I’d see the day that he would leave,” ad­mits James, who has scored four goals in 28 games for Le­ices­ter this term. “Manch­ester United is go­ing to be a very strange place with­out Alex Fergu- son. He was a mas­sive in­flu­ence on me. The big­gest thing was that he be­lieved in me as a young lad. He let me go out on loan to Pre­ston at 18. I just think he has the knack of mak­ing you want to go out there and play football.


“He was al­ways en­cour­ag­ing you, al­ways talk­ing to the young lads. It is hard to ex­plain his in­flu­ence but it rubs off on ev­ery­one.

“I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber my time there. I had two bad years with in­jury and the club sup­ported me. He was al­ways ask­ing how I was get­ting on.

“When I left, he just said ‘If you need any help in the fu­ture let me know... I wish you the best of luck’. I’m still only a phone call away but my fu­ture is at Le­ices­ter City.”

And it wasn’t just Fer­gu­son who helped out the young mid­fielder, with the at­ti­tude of se­nior play­ers like Ryan Giggs and Paul Sc­holes a con­stant source of in­spi­ra­tion.

“They just never let a train­ing ses­sion pass them by,” says James, who joined Le­ices­ter along with an­other Old Traf­ford grad­u­ate in full-back Ritchie De Laet.

“They are al­ways look­ing to learn, even with the age they’re get­ting to now. As a young lad, if you let a train­ing ses­sion pass you by, it’s ‘Th­ese boys aren’t do­ing that so why should I?’You learn to seize ev­ery day.

“You see what it’s like to be in the at­mos­phere, you see how the play­ers train ev­ery sin­gle day, what they have to do to stay in the Pre­mier League.

“That’s some­thing I try to bring to train­ing and take on the pitch. If it rubs off on any­body else, then great. I am just try­ing to fo­cus on what I’m do­ing and I think it shows in cer­tain games.”

Foxes boss Nigel Pear­son, who also raided Old Traf­ford for James Ch­ester as man­ager of Hull, be­lieves James is a per­fect ex­am­ple of the rounded play­ers that Fer­gu­son pro­duces.

“We’ve loaned some play­ers from them, and bought some as well,” he said. “And what you al­ways find is that play­ers have a fab­u­lous ground­ing – in terms of abil­ity but also in terms of be­ing ed­u­cated.


“Yes, they’re go­ing to be good. But they have other qual­i­ties – men­tal qual­i­ties – which are very ben­e­fi­cial to any team.”

Le­ices­ter have an­other con­nec­tion to United in goal­keeper Kasper Sch­me­ichel, whose dad Peter was one of Fer­gu­son’s great­est ever sign­ings.The 26-year-old has been a con­sis­tently ex­cel­lent per­former this sea­son and Pear­son says he is ready to em­u­late his fa­mous fa­ther.

“Of course he’s ready,” said Pear­son. “As an in­di­vid­ual, he’s a very driven young man. Like all of our play­ers, he would love to play in the Pre­mier League.

“He’s been an ever-present for us again this sea­son and it would be great for some­body like him to get that op­por­tu­nity. He is good enough to play there, there’s no doubt about that.”

First, though, Le­ices­ter have to get there – a task made far eas­ier af­ter a 1-0 vic­tory at the a pul­sat­ing King Power sta­dium in the first leg.

“It was a mag­nif­i­cent at­mos­phere,” said James. “It was a goose­bump ex­pe­ri­ence out there. When the ball went in the net the place erupted. Fin­gers crossed if we get into the Pre­mier League it will be like that ev­ery sin­gle week.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

ON THE TRAIL: Matty James, right, cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing the first goal for Le­ices­ter against Not­ting­ham For­est to qual­ify for the play-offs

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