Lescott finally top of the league with Man City and England
The highest compliment you could pay Joleon Lescott regarding his Euro 2012 performances would be that Rio Ferdinand was not missed. After the furore surrounding Ferdinand’s omission, Lescott excelled in shouldering scepticism and a nation’s hopes, capping a remarkable season where the Manchester City defender finally banished doubts and demanded a reappraisal of his reputation.
Labelled Mr Consistency at Everton, Lescott’s initial performances at City were anything but. A drawn-out, painful departure from Merseyside resulted in Mark Hughes parting with £24m to secure his services, before losing his job soon after. Niggling injuries and poor performances coupled with the weight of a hefty transfer fee and the need to impress a new manager resulted in an indifferent start to his City career. The turning point proved to be Kolo Toure’s suspension for failing a drug test. Lescott deputised and has since formed a formidable partnership with Vincent Kompany.
Champions League qualification was achieved and an FA Cup followed, a first trophy in 35 years for City, with Lescott integral ahead of a monumental season for the club. Lescott scored in a 3-2 Community Shield loss to Manchester United last summer, but City avenged the defeat with a significant 6-1 win at Old Trafford in October, as Roberto Mancini’s side made their strongest ever start to a season.
He scored in a 3-2 win against Tottenham in January and got the winner against Aston Villa in a 1-0 February victory, as City entered the final game of the season, at home against lowly QPR, needing to match Manchester United’s result to secure the title. Having taken the lead, a lapse in concentration allowed Djibril Cisse to capitalise on a Lescott mistake and equalise. Rangers briefly led before City’s late flurry secured the title and spared Lescott’s blushes.
Fortune appeared to favour Lescott. Had his mistake cost City the title his reputation may have suffered irreparable damage. Instead he ended the season as a champion. His gaffe was not uncharacteristic, with a history of past indiscretions resulting from lapses in concentration, but it is an aspect of his game that has improved and his contribution to a defence that conceded only 29 league goals was considerable. Lescott also benefitted from Ferdinand’s exclusion from Roy Hodgson’s England squad and Gary Cahill’s fractured jaw to earn a place alongside John Terry in the heart of the Three Lions defence.
Playing in an unfamiliar role on the right of central defence to accommodate Terry, Lescott excelled, scoring the opening goal in a 1-1 draw against France and defending stoically against Sweden, Ukraine and Italy. England invited pressure and relied heavily on the heroics of their back four. Having made his international debut in 2007, Lescott has endured a patchy England career thus far, but regular involvement now looks assured and he will hope that recent performances will cement his place in the side.
Having survived a serious car accident as a child and recovered from a ruptured cruciate ligament injury during his time at Wolves, Lescott was due a bit of luck to compliment his ability and hard work. At 29 years of age, he can bask in his finest season to date and is finally top of the league, with an associated chant in his honour. Maintaining those high standards at a fiercely ambitious club will provide an even greater challenge.
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