Leicester go into this evening’s Championship play-off semi final against Cardiff as underdogs, looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the Welsh capital.
The Foxes were undone by a set-piece from Peter Whittingham in the first leg at the Walkers, and whilst a surge of late pressure and three penalty shouts all failed to create a precious goal, young skipper Jack Hobbs remains confident.
“I’m not sure how we didn’t score late on, and we were obviously disappointed at the final result. I thought one of the penalty shouts was a definite, but it’s forgotten about now,” says the recently appointed captain.
“The gaffer sat us down and said it’s half time. We’ve come back to win in 45 minutes, so now we have to do that in 90 minutes. We’re more than capable, and we’ll go for it.”
Hobbs’ confidence is infectious, unsurprising considering his own rapid rise to prominence at the Walkers Stadium.
Originally loaned to Leicester, the centre back signed permanently from Liverpool in April 2009. A regular during the League One winning campaign, Hobbs has become one of the first on the team sheet after a tremendous full debut season in the Championship.
“It has been a good year for me personally, but I want to make it great with a trip to Wembley. Last year was a great learning curve for me, getting to play regular football against some very good players in a tough division.
“That definitely helped me this season. Nigel Pearson, Chris Powell and everyone at the club look after the players fantastically well, and I think I’ve utilised that.
“To get the armband at a club like Leicester, with its history and fan base, is a real honour. I can’t emphasise the team effort enough though, and we’re all ready for the trip to Cardiff.”
It’s this team ethic that makes Hobbs an ideal captain, and his throwback style is somewhat similar to boss Nigel Pearson in his playing days. The former Lincoln defender has great respect for his boss, and is using his words to sound a rallying cry tonight.
“We sat down, watched the DVD and the boss told us we have to put them under pressure. They obviously have a decision to make on how they approach the game, but we know we’ve got a lot of quality and so aren’t too worried about them. There is no reason why we can’t win this.”
There’s no denying that a huge team effort is needed from the Foxes, but even Hobbs admits that the individual skills of Matty Fryatt might come in handy on a night of such immense pressure.
“Matty has been working really hard to get fit for the play-offs, and he’s looking sharp. He’s hard to mark and I’m sure he’s desperate to play his part if he gets another chance. The boss will make the decision, but we’ve got a string of good forwards who can all make the difference.”
Blackpool await in a final at Wembley, with former Foxes boss Ian Holloway guiding the Tangerines to victory at Nottingham Forest. That is far from the mind of Hobbs though, who’d prefer to focus on the team effort in south Wales rather than the personal honour of leading a side out on the hallowed turf in London.
“Wembley is far from my mind, and everything is on tonight. We’re ready.”
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