At the time of writing, there are a few weeks to go before the start of the 2023/24 football season in England. Leicester will, of course, kick off in the Championship, following their relegation from the Premier League at the end of 2022/23. There will be plenty more players coming and going from the club between now and the end of September.
As things stand, unsurprisingly the club have sold or released more players than they have brought in. Perhaps the most interesting purchase by the Foxes is that of Conor Coady and he is our focus here. Many Leicester fans have been unhappy with the addition of the Merseyside-born player, whilst others think he is exactly what the club needs.
Who Is Conor Coady?
Most football fans in the UK will be familiar with the former Wolves centre back. He has played top-flight football for Liverpool, albeit just once, as well as Wolves and Everton. He has 10 England caps to his name and also represented his nation at U16, U17, U18, U19 and U20 levels. Indeed, he won the European U17 Championship in 2010 and was named in the Team of the Tournament. He also has experience in the lower leagues, having appeared in the third tier for Sheffield United and Championship with Huddersfield Town.
Coady was born in St Helens in 1993 and joined the team he supported, Liverpool, at the tender age of 12. He stayed with the Reds, loan spell aside, until 2014 and despite being tagged as the “next Steven Gerrard” he never made it with his boyhood side. He played in central midfield for his early career but moved into defence at Wolves, who signed him from Huddersfield for around £2m.
Playing in the centre of a back three suited him incredibly well, allowing him to maximise his strengths – organisation and reading of the game – and minimise his main weakness, a lack of pace. He was superb for Wolves, helping them gain promotion to the Premier League and then thrive in the top flight, finishing seventh in both 2018/19 and 2019/20 when he was an ever-present member of the team.
This form earnt him international recognition and he made his England debut in 2020, scoring in his second game for the Three Lions against Wales in a friendly at Wembley. He continued to excel with Wolves and in four Premier League campaigns with the West Midlands outfit he missed just a single league game. However, a change of manager at club level left him out of favour and despite continued international recognition, he was allowed to go to Everton on loan in August 2022.
He was a key team member under Frank Lampard and played the first four games for his replacement, Sean Dyche. However, Dyche preferred Michael Keane, who he knew from their time at Burnley and once again, Coady fell out of favour. Everton ultimately decided not to sign Coady, having had an option to buy him for around £4.5m. He returned to Wolves and in the summer of 2023 went from being a Wolf to a Fox. But will he help the club make it back to the Premier League and prove a good signing?
The Case for Conor Coady
The reason that Leicester went down was that they lacked leadership, organisation and, even more simply, conceded far too many goals. Last term their goal difference was the best in the bottom six, thanks to the 51 goals they scored. That was more than every other side in the bottom half of the table and as many as Villa (who finished seventh). However, they conceded 68 goals and kept just seven clean sheets.
Fans of the former Liverpool man say that Coady is the perfect fit. He can play in a back four, as he showed with Everton, as well as a back five and could even provide midfield cover if needed. He knows the division and is a brilliant presence in the dressing room who improves those around him. A natural leader he has already started his coaching badges and it is widely assumed he will manage one day.
Last season it was woefully apparent that the Foxes lacked leadership and players who would stand up and be counted, who would put their bodies on the line and fight for the cause. Coady brings all that and if there are doubts about his pace, that will be far less of an issue in the Championship.
The Case Against Conor Coady
Critics feel that the player is too old, too slow and was too expensive. He is now 30 and at around £8m Leicester are paying around double what Everton opted not to pay. The Toffees had a very good look at Coady and decided against him so why would Leicester want him?
Although he can play in a back four his clear preference, and the formation where he enjoyed his best form, is a back three. It is assumed Leicester will play with a traditional four and so the signing of Coady makes little sense. What’s more, we know what sort of player he is and what his limits are. He might offer something in the short term but for the sort of money paid, a younger player with greater potential – and resale value – could, and should, have been found.
Coady to Deliver Goods
On balance, we feel that this is a very good signing for Leicester. Some of the criticism does not add up and we feel that £7.5m (add-ons would take the fee to the higher £8.5m figure) is good value for a proven Premier League and Championship defender. Everton declined to sign him but they have major financial issues and several other players in that position, whilst having a very serious lack of attacking players.
Moreover, although Coady is 30, that is hardly over the hill. He won’t be 31 until February and has looked after himself very well. He is in excellent shape and rarely gets injured, nor has he suffered any serious injuries in the past. A player like him, that reads the game, does not rely on pace anyway, and his leadership and ability to organise those around him is exactly what the Foxes need. You heard it here – Coady will be a cracker!