It was the Monday 14 April, 2014. It was a weekend to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster. It was also the weekend that Danny Drinkwater struck a bullet of a goal for Leicester in a fixture against Reading.
It is hard to believe that was the former Manchester United youth product’s last goal for the Foxes. Until Saturday, that is.
Shoot takes a look at the Foxes unsung hero who may just be on the radar of Roy Hodgson ahead of the European Championships in France in the summer
Where did it all start for Drinkwater?
Born in Greater Manchester, Drinkwater is United through and through. So much so that, when the boyhood United supporter signed for the Red Devils prestigious academy aged nine, it was a dream that had come true.
As Drinkwater progressed through the United youth set up, he developed a fundamental friendship with his current colleague, Matty James.
In July 2006, the dream became a reality. He had become a professional footballer for arguably the greatest side in the world; the side that he had supported since an infant. Throughout the first year as a professional footballer, he became a regular in the under-18 side, making 27 appearances and scoring two goals.
The following season he frequently entered the reserve team dressing room. But Sir Alex Ferguson wanted his players to have experience – cue a loan spell away.
What happened next?
It was just days into the 2009-10 season when it was announced that Drinkwater had signed for League One side Huddersfield town under the guidance of former Newcastle midfielder Lee Clark. It was the perfect start for the midfielder at the Terriers, making his debut the following day in a fixture against Southampton and scoring Huddersfield’s fifth goal just days later in their 7-1 victory over Brighton.
After a successful temporary spell, where he featured on 33 occasions and helped guide the Terriers to the play-off positions, perhaps a spell in the Championship was the next step up for the young Mancunian midfielder.
And it came in unfamiliar surroundings, as Drinkwater made the move to the Welsh capital and Cardiff, who had narrowly missed out on the Premier League the season before following play-off heartbreak at Wembley.
It was all going to plan for the midfielder at the Cardiff City Stadium, until January 2010 when the Bluebirds signed Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Aaron Ramsey on loan from Arsenal, at which point he was recalled to the Theatre of Dreams.
How did he get to this point?
His return to the North West was short-lived and just three days later he was shipped out again. This time it was a move to Hertfordshire where Watford gained the services of the young prospect. Under Malky Mackay he made 12 appearances for the Vicarage Road faithful.
But there was still no breakthrough into the United first team. So it was back on the loan market and spent the beginning of the 2011-12 season at Championship side Barnsley.
By January 2012 he was a regular in the Tykes’ first team and made the trip to the King Power Stadium as a Barnsley player ahead of the Championship fixture against Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City side. Here he played out of his skin and assisted Andy Gray on both occasions in a 2-1 victory. Who would of thought that just days later he would move to the East Midlands permanently?
That was exactly what happened as he put pen to paper on a three-year deal. Since he has witnessed some of the lowest moments in the club’s history – with “that Deeney goal” being one of the darkest moments alongside relegation to League One and administration – as well as the highs, as he won the Player of the Year Award in the Foxes’ Championship winning campaign of 2013-14 when Pearson’s men collated a club-record 102 points.
How big of a surprise was his goal against the Potters?
It was the summer of 2014. Many pundits claimed that experience was a necessity for the East Midlands side to build on ahead of their first taste of Premier League football in 10 years – something which they lacked in players exactly like Danny Drinkwater.
His first season in the top-flight was one that the United youth prospect may want to forget very quickly, on a personal note, as he struggled to adapt to the quality which players in the league possessed. However, this season the 25-year-old has been an unsung hero in the Foxes’ monumental rise to the top of the Premier League.
Some people suggest that the knowledge that the vastly experienced Estaben Cambiasso passed on to Drinkwater towards the end of last season, could have led to the Englishman’s impressive form this term.
Why is he so dangerous?
Drinkwater is your typical central midfielder. His fitness levels are immense – so much so that he can boss the game from his position by making late runs forwards or back to help the defence when necessary. His passing is accurate and, after assisting Jamie Vardy, has registered four assists this season- all, coincidentally, for the England international.
He also has the talent of shooting from long range, as we saw at the weekend; however, he has also scored outside the area at pivotal moments in Championship fixtures against Watford and Reading for the Foxes. Who knows, could he be the latest addition to Roy Hodgson’s England side?
Super Stat: Drinkwater’s strike at the weekend was the first time he was involved in a goal for Raneiri’s men since Halloween.