Leicester City could return to Thailand this summer as surprise Premier League champions despite their last trip to the country ending in disgrace.
The club’s Thai owners are considering a return trip for Claudio Ranieri’s side and vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha believes the players will receive a heroes’ reception.
That is despite the controversial end to last summer’s post-season goodwill trip, which led to the sackings of three young players following a club inquiry.
They were investigated for allegedly racially abusing women while filming a sex act.
James Pearson, son of then-manager Nigel, was sacked along with Tom Hopper and Adam Smith, and the saga is believed to have been a factor in Pearson Senior’s departure less than two weeks later.
His exit cleared the way for the surprise appointment of Claudio Ranieri, who has since stunned football by leading Leicester to the most unlikely title success in Premier League history.
That has raised their profile in Thailand, the homeland of Aiyawatt and father Vichai, the Leicester owner, and the vice-chairman believes the players would be stunned by their rocketing profile.
“I want them to see the Thai people and how welcome they are,” said Aiyawatt.
“They are massive now and they want to say thank you to the Thai fans.
“The players need privacy as well, but I’ve talked to them and they know they need to treat everyone well.
“You are popular, that is great, and people come to see you because they admire you and they want to talk to you.
“They will talk to you like you’re their son, so you must be proud and enjoy and just think don’t about the privacy time.”
The shock loss of Pearson after he oversaw last season’s ‘great escape’ from relegation led to an equally unexpected decision to appoint Ranieri.
Aiyawatt said: “I understood the situation but it happened. We have to fight the right way for the club so I had to make the decision (to remove Pearson).
“We believed in Claudio. We felt he wanted to be a success. I know everyone wants to be a success but he was the right guy with the plans, the right guy who said what we wanted to hear.
“That is very important when we interview someone.
“He answered everything very clearly, said why he failed in Greece, why things happened in the past.
“I love his character and the way he talks. And now you have seen how he takes the pressure off everyone and the club. He knows how to manage that well.”
Ranieri’s work will be rewarded on Saturday afternoon when Leicester are presented with the Premier League trophy in front of a sell-out crowd at the King Power Stadium, with tickets changing hands for thousands of pounds.
Leicester have plans in place to add an extra 6,000 seats by building an extra tier to the stadium’s East Stand, and Aiyawatt has not ruled out putting the proposals into action.
“I have to see the feasibility. The plan is there already.
“Today we are champions of Premier League but when we were in the Championship I had to find the fans to come!
“I want to see the numbers first. I want to work with the numbers, not just think that now ‘Oh the demand is here, we have to build a new stadium or extend.’
Leicester City season player ratings: The history makers
Kasper Schmeichel: 9 out of 10
Danish player of the year, 29, has played every minute of the Foxes’ league campaign after finally finding a home at the King Power and emerging from his father’s shadow. Has kept 15 clean sheets en route to the title – a total matched by only Petr Cech and Joe Hart. Started at Manchester City but never able to earn regular place, farmed out on five loan spells. Seasons at Notts County and Leeds attracted attention of then Foxes manager Sven Goran Eriksson in summer of 2011, having already played under him briefly at Man City. Has already won League Two and Championship titles in England. Made superb save from Cheikhou Kouyate in home draw with West Ham in April.
Danny Simpson: 8 out of 10
Did not play a league match until October but a near ever-present after replacing Ritchie de Laet. Former Manchester United trainee, 29, was unable to convince Sir Alex Ferguson of his worth, making just eight appearances and going out on five loans before making the final one of those moves permanent, to Newcastle in 2010. Fell out of favour four years later and moved south to QPR before switching to Leicester a year later. Secured regular starting berth this season, despite off-field problems. Career highlights include winning promotion from the Championship with three different sides. Sent-off against Arsenal in February.
Wes Morgan: 10 out of 10
Popular and avuncular centre-back spent at decade at hometown club Nottingham Forest, playing in both the second and third tier as he made over 400 appearances at the City Ground before grudgingly departing for Leicester in 2012 for financial reasons. Helped Foxes to promotion two years ago before making top-flight bow at the age of 30. Named Leicester player of the year in 2012-13 and has been in the divisional team of the year four times in the last six campaigns. Made Jamaica debut in 2013 and has a Gold Cup runners-up medal with the Reggae Boyz. First goal of season earned crucial win against Southampton last month and also levelled at Manchester United on Sunday.
Robert Huth: 9 out of 10
Scored late winner at Tottenham in January and followed that with two in win at Manchester City the following month. Combative German centre-back has spent his entire career in England without ever hitting the heights. Thirty-one-year-old started out at Chelsea – under Claudio Ranieri – but only ever played a bit-part role at Stamford Bridge, despite winning Premier League medals in 2005 and 2006. Similarly in and out of the side at Middlesbrough before £5m switch to Stoke in 2009, Helped Potters to FA Cup final in 2011 and won player of the year but fell out of favour in his final season at the Britannia. 2015 loan to Leicester was made permanent last summer and he has missed just one league game this year. Has attracted the attention of Germany manager Joachim Lowe, who has mentioned him as a potential back-up for his Euro 2016 squad.
Christian Fuchs: 8 out of 10
Previously unknown on these shores, the left-back, 30, began his career in Austrian before moving to Germany in 2008 and Bochum. Spells at Mainz and Schalke followed – the highlight a German SuperCup win in 2011. Allowed to leave for Leicester on a free last summer, he has missed just six league matches this campaign. Signing was one of the last acts of previous manager Nigel Pearson. Has already played in Champions League and involved in Leicester-like tale with his national side, who he captains and with whom he has won over 70 caps. They topped a qualifying group featuring Russia and Sweden to reach Euro 2016. Fuchs dreams of a career in NFL after his footballing days.
Marc Albrighton: 8 out of 10
Twenty-six-year-old was released by Aston Villa two summers ago to the surprise of supporters but has played an integral part in the Foxes’ unlikely success. Began season with an opening-day goal against Sunderland and added another against Swansea last month. Slight winger made his Villa debut in early 2009 but only enjoyed two seasons as first-choice at Villa Park in his six years there, and also spent a month on loan at Wigan. Signed by Nigel Pearson to aid Foxes’ first year back after promotion and played a part in every league match this season. Holds eight caps for England under-21s but yet to gain full international recognition. Main other claim to fame was scoring the Premier League 20,000th goal, for Villa against Arsenal in December 2011.
Danny Drinkwater: 9 out of 10
Another former Manchester United trainee come good, who has also gained England recognition after a breakthrough season. The central midfielder failed to make a single appearance at Old Trafford in his four years there, making four loan moves – including dropping to the third tier with Huddersfield – before departing following the return of Paul Scholes from retirement. Misery at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ continued on Sunday as he was sent-off. Was an almost ever-present in the Championship after making the move to Leicester in January 2012, helping win promotion two years ago – a campaign that saw him make the team of the season and was also named Foxes player of the year. Form this season saw him earn a first England cap, against the Netherlands at the end of March.
N’Golo Kante: 10 out of 10
As with Fuchs, the diminutive French midfielder has come from relatively nowhere to inspire the Foxes. Plucked from Caen last summer by Leicester scout Steve Walsh and has taken the top-flight by storm this season, making the shortlist for PFA player of the year and being included in the team of the season. Began career at Boulogne, where his playing style was likened to Claude Makelele and Lassana Diarra, before departing for Caen a season later and helping them gain promotion back into the French top-tier. Made his France debut this spring and scored on just his second appearance, against Russia on his 25th birthday in March. First player among European leading leagues to make 100 tackles this season and opened scoring against Watford in November.
Riyad Mahrez: 10 out of 10
Voted PFA player of the season last weekend, the Algerian has dazzled the Premier League with his pace and trickery all season. Born in northern Paris spent early stages of his career in the fourth tier of French football, at Quimper and then Le Havre. Struggled to gain recognition owing to his slender build but developed his ball skills and wing play. Another player scouted by Steve Walsh, who had initially gone to see another player but was impressed by Mahrez. The midfielder initiailly thought Leicester to be a rugby side. Made debut in early 2014, helping side win promotion. Featured for his country at the 2014 World Cup. Impressed in patches last season but a lot more consistent this term and was named PFA player of the season hours after opening the scoring in rout against Swansea. Has been involved in (scoring or assisting) 28 goals this season – only team-mate Jamie Vardy can match that in the top-flight this season.
Shinji Okazaki: 8 out of 10
Small in stature, the Japanese forward has played a part in every league match since the turn of the year, after a bit-part role in the first half of the campaign. Had been plying his trade in Germany for four years before moving to the East Midlands last summer. Has won exactly 100 caps for Japan, scoring almost a goal a game. Began his career at Shimizu in 2005 before moving to Stuttgart in early 2011. Impressed before shining further at Mainz after 2013 transfer. Two years later he moved to the Premier League for £7m. Scored first goal at West Ham in August and strike against Everton in December ensured Leicester topped the table at Christmas. Overhead goal against Newcastle in March earned crucial a three points as Tottenham cranked up the late-season pressure.
Jamie Vardy: 10 out of 10
Probably the most romantic of tales within a Leicester side full of inspirational rags to riches stories. Versatile forward, 29, has risen from non-league football and Stocksbridge Park to breaking the Premier League scoring record and netting for England against the world champions in Berlin. Rejected by Sheffield Wednesday, he started at the bottom. Followed three years at Stocksbridge with a year each at Halifax and Fleetwood – winning player of the year and a league title at both. Earned a non-league record £1m switch to Leicester in 2012. Played part in getting Foxes promotion, impressing more in his second season in both the Championship and, this term, the Premier League. Struck superb volley against Liverpool in February and England goals against Germany and the Netherlands in March cemented his claims for a Euro 2016 place.
Claudio Ranieri: 10 out of 10
Affable Italian whose previous experience in England saw him characterised as a bumbling tinkerman in four years at Chelsea. A defender as a player, he boasts extensive coaching history in Italy – with seven different sides – Spain and France as well a disastrous spell with the Greek national side, which saw his charges lose to the Faroe Islands. Managerial achievements include various lower league titles and domestic Cups but never previously a top-flight crown. His appointment at Leicester last July ended a nine month hiatus from the game. Promises of pizzas for clean sheets inspired early-season form.
Before the trophy presentation, Leicester must take on Everton and look to avoid a repeat of 2014, when they infamously celebrated hard after winning the Championship and lost their next game 4-1 to Brighton.
“Somebody told me about that,” smiled Ranieri.
“If it happens again I will kill them with my bare hands.”