So much has been made about Jamie Vardy and his incredible rise to the top of the English Premier League this season, that we’ve forgotten about some of the other incredible stories of this Leicester City team. For example, Danny Drinkwater, an ex-Manchester United player who was never given a chance to play for the club and has now gone on to become one of the league’s best centre midfielders, proving that Manchester United should have never let him go.
Born and raised in Manchester, Danny Drinkwater joined Manchester United’s youth academy at the age of nine. From 1999 to 2009, Drinkwater played as a reserve team player, progressing through the youth ranks until he was finally ready for the big time and was given a shot to make a name for himself when he was called up to an end of season Premier League game against Hull City, in which he sat on the bench for the entire game. In the 2009-10 season, Drinkwater was finally given a chance to play, except it still wasn’t in the Premier League, it was in League One, with Huddersfield Town. The English midfielder became a regular in the League one outfit, scoring 2 goals in 33 matches.
The following season he was given a chance to play in the English Championship and underwent two less successful loan spells at Cardiff and Watford, where he featued in 21 Championship matches between the two clubs, without scoring a goal. But after impressing on loan at Barnsley for the first half of the 2011-12 season, Leicester City finally broke the bank to sign the English midfielder from Manchester United. For the remainder of that season, he maintained a regular starting position in Leicester’s team, playing in 19 matches as the club fought for promotion. The following season, he became one of the team’s most reliable players, featuring in 42 matches and scoring 1 goal for the club. But it wasn’t until the 2013-14 season that he really started to shine. The defensive midfielder featured in 45 of the 46 English Championship matches in 2013-14, scoring 7 goals with 3 assists, as Leicester City won the title with an incredible tally of 102 points. The talented midfielder was named as Leicester City’s Player of the Year for 2013-14 and was named to the Championship PFA Team of the Year alongside teammates Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan.
Danny Drinkwater after scoring a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw against Watford on February 8th, 2014.
When the time finally came for Danny Drinkwater to play in the Premier League and prove all those who ever doubted him wrong, it wasn’t exactly a dream return. The midfielder featured in just 23 matches under Nigel Pearson in the 2014-15 season as Leicester City struggled to survive and for most of the season were bottom of the table. But then everything changed when Claudio Ranieri came in as the new coach and took Leicester City to new heights. Drinkwater flourished under Ranieri in 2015-16, having what was his best ever season in a Leicester City shirt as he scored 2 goals with 7 assists in 35 Premier League matches. Incredibly industrious and always on the move looking for the ball, Drinkwater was also fantastic in all areas of the field, making 3 tackles per game, 1.6 interceptions per game, 1.2 shots per game and 57 passes per game according to WhoScored?.com. He also made 6 Team of the Week appearances on my Team of the Week edition (that’s more than players like Anthony Martial, David Silva and Christian Eriksen) and was one of Leicester City’s most important players in their incredible title winning season.
His unbelievable rise to the top of the league has now seen him be named in Roy Hodgson’s provisional 26-man squad for Euro 2016 and he is highly likely to be selected for the full squad for the tournament this summer. After an incredible season and with him still being at the age of just 26, there is certainly more to come from this incredible midfielder and he is likely to get even better. Next season, the Manchester United-rejectee will be playing in the UEFA Champions League, a competition Manchester United will take no part in, and he might just push on and show everyone what he is really capable of in the biggest stage of all club football. Danny Drinkwater is an excellent footballer whose rise to the top has been one of many incredible stories in this Leicester City title winning season. As for next season, he is likely to get even better.