Kasper Schmeichel helped Leicester City to their improbable English title triumph last season; the goalkeeper discusses the Foxes' UEFA Champions League debut, Claudio Ranieri and more.
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His father Peter famously won the UEFA Champions League in 1999. Now Kasper Schmeichel is taking part in the competition with Leicester City, last term's improbable English title winners.
Having begun with a 3-0 Group G victory at Club Brugge, Leicester make their home bow against Porto on Tuesday, in what Schmeichel calls "the pinnacle of club football". Here the goalkeeper speaks about the extra pressures the UEFA Champions League brings, and recounts the extraordinary season that started with Claudio Ranieri's surprise appointment and ended with Leicester's first-ever English championship.
On playing in the UEFA Champions League ...
I think it's the goal of any professional footballer. It's the pinnacle of club football. You can win your own leagues, your own cups and all that, but the Champions League is something special.
On Leicester's expectations ...
We've never been a team that starts proclaiming what we're going to do – "we're going to go this far" and so on. I think we'll go out there and do what we did last season, play with the spirit and determination that we had last season, and see where it takes us.
On the extra burden of playing midweek European games ...
I think you've got to remember that a lot of the players here played in the Championship [English second division], where you play 46 league games plus the cup games, so you end up playing a lot of games anyway. So a lot of the players are used to that amount of games. I think the only difference is going to be the travelling.
We've been lucky with the draw in the sense that there's not a lot of long-distance travelling, so I don't think it's going to make a huge difference. The adrenaline and the buzz of playing in the Champions League will take over any tired legs or anything like that.
On Claudio Ranieri taking over last summer ...
We didn't quite know what to expect. With a new manager you never quite know. Robert Huth was the only one who had played under him before, at Chelsea, and I think in his younger days he was a little bit stricter than he is these days.
It was a situation where our previous manager was very well liked, and built a solid foundation, and Claudio came in, built on that and had a great deal of success. I think the lads were waiting to see what was coming our way.
I've said this many times before: a lot of credit should go to him in the sense that he came in and recognised that he had a well-functioning group, not just on the pitch but off the pitch. He had very, very good staff already here. A good manager recognises that if it's not broken, don't fix it.
He made little tweaks here and there to training, little tweaks in tactics and things like that, that he came in and implemented. And that built on the success of the last ten games of the previous season where we'd won a lot of them and managed to stay up. For me, that makes him a very clever manager.
On winning the league ...
It was a combination of factors, but I think the overriding factor was the team spirit. The group is fantastic – we have amazing chemistry, both on and off the pitch, and we play to our strengths. We were difficult to play against, and it was a case of going into every game being able to say "same again – last week we did great and we have to do exactly the same again".
We kept on winning, and your confidence is so high when you keep winning and grinding out results. We had some emphatic wins, and we had some really, really hard-fought wins. We found our style about ten to 15 games into the season, and from there we were solid at the back and fluid going forward. We had a lot of pace. I don't think we were very nice to play against.
On the party at Jamie Vardy's house the day the title was confirmed by Tottenham failing to beat Chelsea ...
I wasn't at Jamie's house that day. I came later as I'd decided to spend the day with my family, and I didn't really want to watch the Chelsea [v Tottenham] game anyway. But the feeling when we were told we were champions was surreal. It still is surreal!
It was such a weird, weird feeling, a rush of all types of different emotions. The team spirit is fantastic here, and it's great to win it with a group of people you love being with.