It is “living the dream” according to Liam Moore, the 21 year old centre-half who is currently starring in Leicester City’s Championship promotion bid. After making hi breakthrough for the Foxes at the beginning of last season before being loaned out to Brentford for the second half of the campaign, Moore has sustained himself as a regular this time around as Nigel Pearson’s side sit top of the league after 30 games.
They extended the lead at the top to ten points over Queens Park Rangers after a 0-1 win at Bournemouth, their 9th consecutive win and tenth clean sheet of the season. Moore was missing after he suffered broken ribs in the recent victory over Middlesbrough, though his presence alongside Wes Morgan across the season has been a major factor in the solid foundations that Pearson has built his promotion bid on. They have conceded more than 1 goal in a match on just 7 occasions this season and at 0.97 goals conceded per game, only Burnley, Brighton and QPR have a better ratio.
After making his debut for the club against Crystal Palace in January 2012, what followed was a regular spot in the side at the start of the following season. In his 13 appearances, in which he made 9 starts, his run of form good enough to attract scouting interest from Manchester United, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Everton. Arsenal were also interested, sending a scout to watch Moore turn in a promising display as Leicester picked up a 1-0 win at Blackpool. Leicester were keen to fend off any potential interest however, tying him down to a 3-year contract in September 2012, and with the Foxes keen to manage the development of the then-19 year old carefully, he was loaned out to Brentford the following February.
18 months later and again Moore’s future on the agenda at the King Power stadium as Leicester have made it clear they will wait until the summer before opening any talks on a new deal. By then, Moore will have just 12 months left on his current deal and it is rumoured that 4 Premier League clubs have already cast their eye over the centre-half in the last month.
Fulham made 2 bids in the January window, testing Leicester’s resolve with first a £2 million bid before improving it and again seeing it dismissed. Pearson, who himself will wait until the summer before being offered a new deal as Leicester try to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations, was bullish in the face of the London club’s interest, saying
“I don’t know if they [transfer rumours] are legitimate or not? I just keep smiling”, though he will be aware that such uncertainty will remain over his players as they approach the summer; it is only Morgan, Moore’s defensive partner, that has so far signed a new deal.
The 30 year old Morgan is seen by Pearson as a vital character in the dressing room as they chase promotion, saying his experience is invaluable and there is little doubt that his wise head, having experienced promotion to the Championship with Nottingham Forest as well as appearing in the second tier’s team of the year twice playing for Leicester, has had a huge influence on Moore’s progress.
Despite turning 21 just last week, Moore has expressed surprising maturity as he has established himself into a side that has had to deal with the pressure of being favourites for a return to the top-flight. The young defender was on the bench as the Foxes missed out on last year’s play-off final in heartbreaking circumstances to Watford and this year he has produced some outstanding form, earning man of the match for a resilient display in the 0-1 win at Derby and shining in a 0-0 draw with Leeds. September was an unbeaten month for the club and Moore again stood out, picking up the Football League’s player of the month after scoring his first professional goal in the 2-0 win over Wigan.
“As a young player he has developed very well. He has worked exceptionally hard. He is playing alongside experienced players and experienced players can sometimes be the best coaches” said Pearson after seeing his defender pick up the accolade.
Moore’s form has also earned a recall to England’s under-21 side, a whole year after picking up his first cap against Northern Ireland and it is his committed, intelligent displays at the back that have appealed so greatly to his club boss.
“Liam is good example for other young players who need to be ready to take their chance when it comes along, and he’s been able to do that”, said Pearson who originally handed the defender a place to cover the injured Sean St Ledger back in August.
Moore has also covered Ritchie De Laet at right-back and has also slotted in at defensive midfield, illustrating the versatility that Pearson views as a hugely important asset. “When you consider he’s a young lad, he started last season for us alongside Wes and he played an important part at both centre-back and right back”, he said.
Fast, tall and naturally athletic and at just under 14 stone, Moore also possesses a strong physique that enables him to compete in the battle with opposition centre-forwards and having made 36 successful tackles so far together with a remarkable 170 clearances in his 23 appearances, he begins to portray an uncompromising centre-half in the image of his coach.
“I think I can be in that bracket as well,”Moore said when compared with Pearson.“I don’t want to take chances. I like to dominate my striker and not give them a sniff.” “I aim to come off the pitch hoping the striker knows he has been in a game, remembers the name Liam Moore and does not want to come up against me again”.
For a defender who relishes the physical side of the game, Moore is also very comfortable on the ball and adaptive to Leicester’s willingness to build from the back, attempting 734 passes so far at a rate of 30.6 per game.
It is not until mid-February when Moore is expected back from his rib-enforced lay-off, though he will be set to play a significant role in Leicester’s run-in where they will seek to complete the job they have been attempting for the past five years. “It perhaps means more to me than lads who don’t live so close to here”, Moore has said, making no secret of his love for his home-town club and his desire to achieve with them. Nigel Pearson has had to endure the criticisms that are attached to the lavish spending he has enjoyed under the club’s wealthy Thai owners, but the foundations are being built on a locally born 21 year old who captained their 2011 FA Youth Cup quarter-finalists. The interest from Fulham may have been potentially divisive as his future remains slightly uncertain but for the time being, Liam Moore is showing there is no place quite like home.