Shut down

Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City boss: “The meaning of the Sunday game is clear and we don’t have to throw a torch at it anymore.” Photo: Reuters

John Percy

Brendan Rodgers insists the Covid injury from three of his players was the “lowest moment” of his tenure at Leicester City, but that it will bring the club’s season back to life Preparations for the club’s first FA Cup semi-final in nearly 40 years have been marred by James Maddison, Ayoze Perez and Hamza Choudhury who broke the lockdown rules by attending a party this month.

The trio were dropped from the game last weekend in West Ham and apologized on Wednesday in talks with Rodgers and the Leicester squad. They fight for the game against Southampton tomorrow at Wembley Stadium.

It is understood that Wes Morgan, the longtime injured defender, was also at the party held by Perez but will keep the club captain.

Although Rodgers has expressed his bitter disappointment with the behavior of the players involved, he is convinced that the excitement after two straight defeats could have an galvanizing effect on his squad.

“For sure it was the lowest in my time here that I’ve felt in a few days after I found out,” Rodgers said. “It’s been a terrible week, but as soon as the fog clears and you re-focus and talk to the guys, you look ahead. You deal with it and don’t stick with it because if you do it can hurt you. We had a meeting and the guys were sincere.

“Not only did they know they had made a mistake, they also understood that we are an organization and that the team is based on our pride and behavior, and they fell under it.

“We accept your apology and there is really good energy in the squad again. I think this will get us going and I am very confident that it will bring a little more spirit to our squad by the end of the season. “

Leicester are determined to draw a line under the incident but timing of the breach could have serious repercussions for Maddison in particular as his hopes of playing for England at the European Championships this summer are almost certainly over

Maddison was pictured at a casino in October 2019 after resigning from international service due to illness. While Rodgers defended the £ 25 million signing on the occasion, Rodgers has now warned him that he couldn’t afford to make another costly mistake, saying, “There was a certain spotlight on James because he’s a great talent and he now knows that clearly you have to behave in a certain way.

“He made the wrong choice and hopefully he’ll make a better one next time.” He was very remorseful. I’ve always said that I loved working for him, he’s a young player who made a mistake and he was man enough to hold up his hand, he wasn’t hiding from it.

“He was bitterly disappointed in himself and bitterly disappointed that he had let his teammates down. There’s a lot of focus on James, but he wasn’t the only one stepping out of line. “

Rodgers is now fully focused on tomorrow’s clash with Southampton as Leicester wants to reach the first final since 1969. He knows that the club never won the competition and lost four finals. </ The Antrim man also has his own memories of Wembley after leading Swansea to promotion to the championship play-off final in 2011, but also suffered a surprising loss in the 2015 FA Cup semi-final to Aston Villa while he was responsible for Liverpool.

“You will have to fail before you succeed sometimes and that’s all part of the journey,” he said.

“The meaning of the Sunday game is clear and we don’t need a torch focus more on it. We really want to get to the final, but the only way to get there is by performing well.

“If you think about it or get too nervous, it can immobilize you as a player. You stay calm, give clarity to the team, and then come and watch your game play. We can’t control what Southampton brings, but we can control what we do.

“We lost a semi-final last season [to Villa in the Carabao Cup] and the players know how it feels. You have to see this as a learning experience to be successful. “

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