Jamie Vardy has described this week as the hardest of his life but said Leicester City’s players want to face Cardiff today and are determined to secure a positive result.
The striker is grieving for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Leicester chairman who was a guest at his wedding in 2016. He spoke of his wish to attend Srivaddhanaprabha’s funeral, which starts today in Bangkok and runs through to next Friday.
Squad and staff fly to Thailand after the game and are due back on Tuesday morning.
First, Vardy and his team-mates want to produce a performance against Neil Warnock’s Cardiff to honour Srivaddhanaprabha (below), who died last Saturday in a helicopter crash. They left by coach at 1.30pm yesterday but, before setting off, laid a floral tribute at the north stand dedicated to ‘The Boss’.
They also mingled with fans who came to offer condolences. Vardy put an arm around emotional team-mate Kasper Schmeichel.
Foxes manager Claude Puel said he would delay naming his team in case any players decide they are not ready. Vardy, for one, wants to start. ‘We know what we’ve got to do, we’re going to go out there and honour his name, put in a performance which will hopefully get the win,’ he said. I know people say the result doesn’t matter but we want to make it a positive result. It’s going to be tough — very emotional.’
Vardy had a close relationship with Srivaddhanaprabha, who sanctioned his £1million signing from Fleetwood in 2012, and with the Thai businessman’s son Aiyawatt, known as Top.
‘He wasn’t just a chairman, he was part of your extended family,’ said Vardy. ‘It didn’t matter who you were, he would always make the time for you, always smiling. He was a fun-loving guy. That was him from day one, he never changed one bit.
‘He was like the father figure of the group, wanting to be like that not just with the players, but the fans as well. Those will be the things engraved in your mind.
‘It’s been the hardest week of my life, it really has. We came in on Monday and there wasn’t any training. It was more people remembering all the good times with Khun Vichai.
‘Obviously we’ve got support. And Top knows the lads and everyone around the city is with him. We need to make sure we continue that now.
‘It will be massively important to go to the funeral. We are one big family and one of the main reasons for that is Khun Vichai.’
Vardy praised the way Aiyawatt has handled himself over such a difficult period. ‘It’s unbelievable,’ Vardy said. ‘He’s obviously hurting but he’s come out so quick to say he’s carrying on his dad’s legacy. Top has always been at his dad’s side. They were inseparable.’
Puel will assess his players’ mental state before confirming his line-up.
‘I wanted to wait and understand the different feelings about my players,’ said the Frenchman. ‘We will make the choice on perhaps the day of the game.
‘But (from) what I saw this week . . . I think all the players would like to play.’
He added: ‘I don’t want to use this event to find a solidarity to win the games. I don’t want to manipulate the emotions to play football. I want just that we have the capacity to give our best and to honour the chairman.
‘We are professional and we want to move on and compete.’