Marc Albrighton interview: 'The old-fashioned winger has gone'

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Marc Albrighton discusses his journey at Leicester, his changing role, and reveals Brendan Rodgers' motivational words to the squad ahead of the restart...

Leicester City winger Marc Albrighton

But Marc Albrighton remembers.

The Leicester winger had just started back-to-back games for the first time all season. He featured in a 1-0 FA Cup win over Birmingham - he particularly enjoyed that one - before contributing to a 4-0 thrashing of his boyhood club Aston Villa just before the lockdown was enforced.

"I had just got myself into the team and then all this happens," he tells Sky Sports.

It is not the first time that Albrighton, now 30, has had to wait it out.

Reflecting on his time at Leicester, he recalls that first season when he found himself outside of the matchday squad for much of the campaign before forcing his way in for what became known as the club's Great Escape.

A lot has happened since then.

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Albrighton was a fixture in Leicester's title-winning team and went on to score their first ever Champions League goal before netting against Sevilla to reach the quarter-finals.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 14:  Marc Albrighton of Leicester City scores his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, second leg ma
Image: The winner against Sevilla in the knockout stages of the Champions League

Now in his sixth season as a Leicester player, he is an old head - the only outfield player from that title-winning season to start against Villa. He remains a crowd favourite.

Indeed, one wonders whether there has been a more underrated player in Premier League history. Certainly, the gap between his perceived status and is accomplishments seems vast.

Former Manchester United captain Steve Bruce is the only other uncapped Englishman to start more than 30 games in a Premier League title-winning season.

Albrighton is too modest to agree but he takes the point.

Marc Albrighton with the trophy during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton at The King Power Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom.
Image: Albrighton after winning the Premier League trophy in May 2016

"With the type of person that I am," he says, "I would rather not be getting headlines every week. Don't get me wrong, if you are getting the headlines you are more than likely doing something right which is great but for me I am quite a private person off the field anyway.

"If I were to be more highly-rated and more spoken about in the media then that might affect the privacy that I get off the field which doesn't really suit me and my personality."

And besides, he is appreciated by those who matter most.

"The fans have been great with me from the first minute that I was here. Obviously, what we have gone on to achieve here helps but they have always stuck by me. I think my team-mates appreciate what I bring to the team and the team player that I am too."

He is always there when they need support.

Leicester players celebrate after thrashing Southampton
Image: Leicester players celebrate after thrashing Southampton

"I try to give advice to the younger players," he adds. "As good as the money side of it is, to be a young player these days is difficult. Your every move is being scrutinised. You are in the spotlight constantly, making mistakes on the biggest stage. That can be hard to deal with.

"The players are good enough to do their own thing on the pitch so you let them express themselves because they are top quality players. But it is just off the pitch, that is where I feel that your experienced players can offer guidance. That is what I am trying to do."

There is always a cheer when Brendan Rodgers turns to the bench and sends for Albrighton - as he has 11 times in the Premier League this season. His very presence at Leicester is a reminder of those heady days but even his style of play feels like a throwback.

Albrighton is a crossing specialist who first broke through as a right winger before enjoying success on the left with Leicester. On either flank, his job is to create space and cross it.

There have been 707 crosses during his Premier League career with Leicester. Remarkably, that is 125 more than any other player in the competition during that time.

"We have had quite a few managers over the years and they all want something different but I think they have all noticed that my main strength is my crossing," says Albrighton. "The gaffer still says to the other players that we need bodies in the box when I get the ball."

Even so, he has had to adapt under Brendan Rodgers.

The old-fashioned winger has gone out of the game. You can't just play percentages any more. You need patience.
Marc Albrighton

"Over the years, the old-fashioned winger has gone out of the game," he admits.

"You have got to be a bit more cautious because a lot of managers now say that you do not have to score a goal every time you have got the ball. That is one of the main things that I have had to get used to. I can't try to create ever time. I can't just whip it in when I get it.

"The game has evolved a bit rather than just lumping it into the box and a big man being there so you can just put it anywhere. You have to be more specific with it now if you want to create better chances. You can't just play percentages any more. You need patience.

"When is the time to cross and when is the time to just keep the ball and keep it moving? Decision-making has always been something that I have spoken about with the gaffer.

"I have to choose my time because if Jamie Vardy is not in there then I am not aiming at a great deal. He wants me to look to pull it back for the 8s to cross it from deeper positions. I think Kevin De Bruyne is a prime example, where he crosses it from can be very dangerous."

Marc Albrighton tops the list of crossers since joining Leicester
Image: Albrighton tops the list of Premier League crossers since joining Leicester

Albrighton remains effective. In fact, Leicester have won eight and drawn one of the nine games that he has started this season - and that draw was a cup game away to Everton in which he was substituted while 2-1 up with the team going on to win on penalties.

He has had to accept his squad role with Harvey Barnes making a big impression on the left wing and summer signing Ayoze Perez providing the support for Vardy on the other flank.

"It has been difficult but I knew I would have to bide my time," he says. "We went on a great run and Harvey and Ayo were doing ever so well. It wasn't one where I was banging the gaffer's door down. I accepted that they were doing well and I would have to be patient."

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Albrighton has had to be patient before. The reunion with Watford manager Nigel Pearson on Saturday will be a reminder that during his first season at Leicester, before the club's extraordinary escape, he found himself wondering whether he had made a big mistake.

"I thought Leicester was my big move, my chance to kick on with my career. All of a sudden, it had come to a halt and I could not even get on the team bus to travel to games. I was just stuck at home on Saturday afternoons. That was probably the low point of my career.

"I was just watching the lads on Match of the Day knowing I had not been involved. I was going in on the Monday, training all week, only for it to happen again the following week.

"It was tough, testing times. But I am a big believer that hard work gets you places. I am so glad that I stuck at it and kept my head down and didn't kick off and didn't go crazy at anyone. I just kept my head down and kept working. That would have been one of those hasty decisions that you regret if I had left. It is fair to say it has turned out very well."

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The adventure is not over yet either.

Rodgers has already had a meeting with his players to remind them what can still be achieved in the mini-season that awaits them. Leicester resume in third place in the Premier League with an FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea to look forward to later this month.

"The gaffer has told us that we have a great opportunity; that we could win the FA Cup and be looking forward to the Champions League next season. When he says that it is exciting.

"Obviously, we are in a great position. We won our last game and all the lads have come back fit. We are ready to go and we are even more determined now than ever before."

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