Leicester united in sorrow during touching tribute to deceased owner
From the kit man to the cleaners. From the centre forward to the chef: This is Leicester City, united by their pain
- Leicester City held a private service at King Power Stadium for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha on Monday
- Foxes owner Srivaddhanaprabha was tragically killed in a helicopter accident over the weekend
- The deep impact of his death was laid bare in an outpouring of grief from players and staff at the stadium
- Jamie Vardy wiped away tears as Vichai’s son Aiyawatt laid a wreath in the King Power centre circle
- A number of players took up the option to speak to counsellors at the club following Vichai’s death
- The likes of former manager Claudio Ranieri have paid their respects to the popular Srivaddhanaprabha
- Aiyawatt, known as ‘Top’, is expected to assume his father’s role although talks are on hold at present
The deep impact of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s death was laid bare in an outpouring of grief from Leicester’s players and staff as his son Aiyawatt laid a wreath in the King Power Stadium centre circle.
Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy were visibly upset when a devastated Aiyawatt, the Leicester vice-chairman known as Top, made his way round the team to shake hands and receive hugs of condolence. Schmeichel and Vardy wiped away tears.
A number of players took up the option to speak to counsellors at the club’s Belvoir Drive training ground and found the process cathartic. Schmeichel and manager Claude Puel also addressed the squad and staff with moving speeches, issuing a message that the club must honour Srivaddhanaprabha by continuing with the same family mentality he created.
The deep impact of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s death was laid bare in an outpouring of grief from Leicester’s players and staff as his son Aiyawatt laid a wreath in the King Power Stadium centre circle
Vichai’s son and heir Aiyawatt (right) and his mother Aimon (left) were among the mourners who flew to the Midlands from Thailand to lay a wreath outside the King Power Stadium
Aiyawatt laid a wreath and prayed for his father, who lost his life after watching his beloved Leicester play on Saturday night
Mother and son were not joined by Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s other son and two daughters. But Somyot Poompanmoung – President of the Thai FA, and his wife Potjaman came to pay tribute
L-R: Son of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Aiyawatt, Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel attend the shrine on Monday afternoon
Top met with the players on Monday morning and fought back tears as he spoke. But he did reiterate his commitment to club, and talked about building on his father’s legacy. At the stadium, the entirety of Leicester’s staff lined the touchline for a moment’s reflection as Srivaddhanaprabha’s image was shown on the big screens next to a message of rest in peace. Top was joined by his mother, Aimon, the pair having flown over from Thailand to land in England on Sunday evening.
They had arrived at the ground at midday and first made their way to the site of the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of the Leicester chairman, two members of his staff, Nusara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz. Air accident investigators do not expect to move the aircraft until the weekend while continuing work.
Son and mother laid a wreath there and then did likewise at the sea of tributes that has spread across the gates to the north stand. The players and Puel followed and made their way through the crowds to read the touching notes left by hundreds of supporters. A spontaneous round of applause broke out. Top was overcome with sadness — slumping across the metal fencing — as he looked over the scene, his eyes shielded by sunglasses.
(R-L) Harry Maguire (C), Matty James, James Maddison and Wes Morgan look at the floral tributes on Monday
Leicester City’s English midfielder Maddison (L) embraces a member of the security team as he arrives at the stadium
Leicester City manager Claude Puel, who was at one stage rumoured to have been on the helicopter, pays his respects
Supporters paid tribute at Leicester City’s stadium following owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s death in a helicopter crash
It is expected he will assume his father’s role as Leicester chairman once the matter is addressed, although it is too early for such talks to take place properly. Chief executive Susan Whelan and director of football Jon Rudkin accompanied Top around the ground and will be leant on for additional support.
It was the first time the club had come together since Srivaddhanaprabha’s customary helicopter flight away from the King Power Stadium ended in disaster on Saturday evening. The players were said to be in no state to play tonight’s Carabao Cup tie, which was cancelled late on Sunday, and the atmosphere at the training ground on Monday was described as extremely sombre.
Rather than undertake a typical session, the players and staff arrived at Belvoir Drive and talked through the loss of the man responsible for turning the club into Premier League champions. The plan is for Leicester’s match at Cardiff on Saturday to go ahead, but the psychological state of the team will be assessed and the Premier League are sensitive to the unique trauma of the situation.
Claudio Ranieri, the manager who led the club to their 2016 triumph, paid his own tribute on Monday. Speaking to Sky Sports Italia, he said of Srivaddhanaprabha: ‘He always had a positive word for everyone. His positivity and ability to make everybody love him was clear for all to see. He came into the dressing room only to dispense kind words, never to reproach you. One time soon after my birthday, he arrived in the dressing room with a huge cake and made everyone sing Happy Birthday.
‘When we first met I immediately thought he was a positive person, full of energy. My objective when I arrived at Leicester was to secure Premier League safety, then we all know what happened.
‘Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha made a very important contribution to the Premier League victory, as he’d arrive 30 minutes before the game to embrace everyone. He never said a word out of turn, was always happy with a smile on his face. I am so sad right now, I want to join the family in their grief.’
Leicester City’s first team players pay their respects outside the Family Stand at the King Power Stadium keep on Monday
Aiyawatt says a prayer amid the floral tributes and a portrait of his father Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha on Mondy morning
Johnson lays a football shirt among floral tributes left to the victims of the helicopter crash at the King Power Stadium
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Alan Birchenall, the much-loved figure who played for Leicester in the 1970s and is now an ambassador and stadium announcer, explained how Srivaddhanaprabha had fostered such a depth of feeling.
‘When he arrived we couldn’t afford a crate of milk,’ he said. ‘Seriously. People brought their own milk in to make cups of tea. Now you are talking about splashing out £30million on a player. It is unbelievable. That’s the difference and why it is so emotional around the place. Everyone in the world knows the story. Lots of owners want to change club colours, or the badge. He didn’t change anything like that. What he changed was the mentality. Second best was not good enough. When he installed blue lighting in the tunnel the hue wasn’t right initially so he whipped it out.
‘He wanted his club to look and be the best. His heart and soul was into it and that’s why he was loved. When I had my incident last year he made sure I was alright. I had my drivers’ license taken away because of the heart attack and while I was convalescing he agreed for my son, Dean, to be taken on as an employee to drive me places, so I could carry on doing my ambassadorial work. It was a massive thing.
‘This football club will always owe a lot to him. His legacy will carry on. There is a new training facility that will hopefully go ahead, costing over £100m, and the stadium might be expanded.
‘The response from fans shows what he meant to them. I was at the stadium at 6.30am and people were laying flowers. The tributes will be round the whole ground soon.’
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