On this weekend seven years ago, Leicester City drew with Oldham. It finished 0-0. The Foxes’ race for a return to the Championship had encountered a major blip.
Since then, a former England manager has taken the helm, there has been play-off heartbreak on two occasions, promotion to the top-flight and the greatest escape ever in the Premier League’s 24 year history.
Now, however, this football fairytale has took another turn. Claudio Ranieri’s side are now the title favourites after winning 3-1 against high-flying rivals Manchester City at the Etihad on Saturday afternoon.
But, if they are to lift the famous trophy on May 15 in a fixture against Chelsea, then one specific player will play an influential part in the triumph – their defender, Robert Huth.
Shoot takes a look at the two-time Premier League champion. The question on everybody’s lips is if the German will have another Premier League medal in the summer?
Where did it all begin for Huth?
Huth was born in Biesdorf, a small borough in East Berlin – at the time a communist state – five years prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. That did not stop the young German from playing football though, and as a youngster he played for VfB Fortuna Biesdorf and then the youth team at 1. FC Union Berlin. However, his talent was clear and in 2001 he made the move to Chelsea when he put pen-to-paper on a deal with the West London Club. The manager who brought him to Stamford Bridge – ironically, current Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri.
At the age of 17 and in a foreign country, some people could forgive Huth for not performing to the best of his ability. Nevertheless, the Italian thought that the young centre-back was good enough for Premier League football when he made his debut in a fixture against Graham Taylor’s Aston Villa side in May 2002.
What happened next?
After breaking through into the Blues’ first team, the next challenge was to establish himself in the Premier League. Or was it? Maybe it was a time to go out on loan; this looked to be the case when a loan bid came in for a move to Reading. However, it was turned down by the Premier League outfit.
Following the dismissal of Claudio Raneiri to make way for the “Special One”, Huth was anxious that first team football would be limited at Stamford Bridge. In Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge, the German made only 15 appearances as the West London club won their first league title at this level in 50 years.
However, with triumph comes new acquisitions, and that prevented Huth from making an impact within the starting XI of the Premier League champions. Cue a move.
How did he get to this point?
After impressing in West London, Huth was in high demand with Middlesbrough, Everton and Wigan vying for the tall centre-half’s signature. Prior to the 2006 World Cup he made his decision. Middlesbrough was the club for him.
After eventually putting pen-to-paper at the Riverside, Boro fans were ecstatic; however, he had to wait till October until he made his league debut for the Smoggies as he was short of fitness. After getting into condition, he became an integral part of the Boro starting line-up and a season later, following the departure of Johnathan Woodgate to Tottenham, he developed a solid defensive partnership with current Bolton defender, David Wheater.
But by August 2009 it was time for a change and just days before the summer window clammed shut, he departed the Riverside Stadium – which was now hosting Championship football following the Teesside club’s relegation from the Premier League – for the Britannia Stadium as he signed for Stoke City for £5 million.
While his first season may be known for “that” punch on his future team-mate Matt Upson, he became a regular in Tony Pulis’ side and certainly a fans’ favourite. The following season he even guided the Potters to their first FA Cup Final as he scored in the 5-0 demolition of Bolton in the semi-final stage.
The following seasons were frustrating for the man who many fans referred to as the “Berlin Wall.” Following the arrival of Mark Hughes to replace Tony Pulis, he remained a regular but then required two operations on his knee forcing him to miss games through injury frequently
How much of a surprise was his brace at the Etihad?
A bit of a shock, really. However, Huth always seems to score in games which shape his side’s season dating back to his Stoke City days, including a goal in the semi-final of the FA Cup in 2011. While he is known in the East Midlands for his solid defending alongside club captain Wes Morgan, he is also widely known for his lethal aerial threat from set-pieces and the German has hit the back of the net in games against Tottenham and West Brom for the Foxes from corners already this term. But, he rarely scores braces – his double on Saturday being his first since February 2011 and his first in his professional career away from home.
Why is he so dangerous?
Huth is your typical centre-half. He is tall, strong and intelligent. His partnership with club captain Wes Morgan has been a fundamental part of Leicester City’s rise to power after him signing for the Foxes on Deadline Day last February. Many people also refer to him as the lucky charm at the King Power, with the club only being defeated twice when Huth has featured in a match since the beginning of April. His height makes him a key target for Austria captain Christian Fuchs from corners, while his passing helps lead the team’s fast counter-attacks, which have been essential to the way they play and the results that they have picked up.
Super Stat: The victory on Saturday was Huth’s first over Man City as a player in the league since February 2004.