As he proudly displayed the Championship trophy in a press conference in his native Thailand last May, Leicester City’s billionaire owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha could have been forgiven for getting a little overexcited. After all, the Foxes would be returning to the Premier League for the first time in a decade – a momentous achievement for a club that had sunk as low as League 1 in that ten-year absence.
Srivaddhanaprabha told local reporters that while the club would need to find its feet in the top flight, he expected Leicester to be challenging the Premier League big guns within three to five years. And while he admitted such success would not come cheap – perhaps as much as £180 million would need to be invested into his side – he would not be afraid to put his money where his mouth is.
And so as Leicester took the field for Saturday’s season opener against Everton, it was curious to note that only £8 million had been spent by manager Nigel Pearson in preparation for the stiff task ahead. All of that figure was spent on signing Argentine striker Leanardo Ulloa from Brighton – and while he did enough on Saturday to suggest he may be decent value, his signing will not have dispelled concerns that not enough has been done to bolster the Foxes’ squad for life in the Premier League.
City’s two other “major” summer signings – the 35-year-old Matt Upson and the former Villa winger Marc Albrighton – were free transfers. Both will add top-flight know how – but neither looks like helping Leicester find its feet at this level, let alone realising the club meet the owner’s ambitions.
How to explain this sudden reticence to open his wallet? Srivaddhanaprabha either has total belief in the side that cantered to the Championship title last season or he doesn’t quite understand the challenge ahead. Either way, a realistic appraisal on Saturday’s meeting with Everton should have made it clear that Leicester will need to invest in greater depth and quality if they are to do more than struggle at this level. Yes, they showed admirable commitment and fight. But ultimately Everton let them off the hook in a game the visitors should have put to bed before half time.
A lack of match sharpness and a touch of complacency saw the Toffees fail to maintain the intensity of their first half efforts, allowing Leicester peg them back for a second time late on. The failure to pick up all three points will doubtless disappoint Roberto Martinez. But at the same time, he may see it as a timely reminder for his players that despite last season’s wonderful football and lofty finish, you still have to earn the right to play in the Premier League.
Leicester earned what luck came their way at the King Power on Saturday, but the result shouldn’t cloud the gap in class on view. Hopefully, for Foxes fans who have much to be grateful for when it comes to their owner, the reality won’t have been lost on Mr Srivaddhanaprabha. He needs to act – its already later than he thinks.