On Northern League Day, Trevor Benjamin, once a £1.5 million signing by Premier League Leicester City, will be managing Morpeth Town, the second division’s bottom side. In the opposite dugout, coaching North Shields, will be Graham Fenton, who also cost more than £1 million when he joined Leicester from Blackburn Rovers.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that Trevor Benjamin was the greatest striker ever to pull on the blue shirt of Leicester City. His goal-scoring record of 12 in 90 games wasn’t awe-inspiring to say the least. But rather unfairly, this fact – which will define Trevor’s time in the Fox County – doesn’t show the whole picture. Statistics have a bad habit of showing only a narrow view of the subject, and not taking into account things such as performance or team morale. And looking at his time at the club, Trevor was clearly a victim of this.
Upon receiving his signature, immense weight was immediately piled onto Tricky Trev (as he came to be known in our small portion of the East Midlands). Right from the start, Peter Taylor expected him to come to Filbert Street from a Division Two side and help to fill the gap made by the sale of England International Emile Heskey and established top-flight striker Stan Collymore. On top of that, Taylor had slapped a £1.5 million price tag on Trevor’s head, only adding to the pressure on the young striker.
Bad results, however, took the club from challenging for European places (and at one point top of the Premier League) to an underwhelming 13th position. The former England boss Taylor was relieved of his duties on September, and Trevor soon had a new manager to try to impress. Dave Bassett became the new man in charge, and it soon became apparent that he had his own ideas to try to save the club. After only managing a single goal since his arrival at Leicester, Benjamin was shipped out on loan to gain some much-needed first-team experience, and new strikers brought in to bolster the attack. Crystal Palace, Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion were all added to Trevor’s C.V. before the end of the season, and he could only watch as The Foxes were relegated to Division One. But it was in this division where he endeared himself to the Foxes’ faithful.
By the time Trev returned from his loans, Leicester had got another new boss. Dave Bassett relinquished the job in April once relegation was a certainty, and his assistant Micky Adams took up the reins. The building of a new stadium coupled with the drop meant that the club was haemorrhaging money. With a transfer ban due applied due to the club entering administration, the Jamaican International found himself with an important part to play in Leicester’s assault on promotion. Concluding the season by averaging a goal every 211 minutes (every 2.3 games), Benjamin helped Leicester to a second-place finish, and a subsequent promotion back to the top flight. Given the fact that he only started in 20 of his 39 games, and many of his substitute appearances were merely for the final few minutes of the game, 9 goals is a highly commendable total for a player considered as a “support striker”.
Unfortunately for Trevor, the return to the Premier League provided a huge cash-injection for the club, allowing Adams to strengthen his attacking options. Les Ferdinand was brought in on a one-year deal, and Marcus Bent signed on loan, thus making Benjamin surplus to requirements at the Walkers Stadium. 4 Premier League appearances followed by loan spells at Gillingham, Rushden and Brighton and again Trevor was helpless to prevent Leicester from dropping back down to the second tier.
With another new manager (the fourth in four years) pitching up at Filbert Way for the 2004/05 season, and just a year remaining on his contract, it became apparent that Tricky Trev was on his way out of the Walkers Stadium at the end of the term. During his final season, Craig Levein allowed Benjamin just 10 games to prove himself. During this time he managed to net twice, despite only starting 2 of his ten games. His most important goal came this season in a league game with local rivals Derby County. The travelling Foxes supporters were sent over the edge as a cool finish past the Rams goalkeeper earned a 2-1 victory, ensuring cult-status for Trevor. But typifying his luck (or lack of it) at the club, his final Leicester goal was cancelled out – and overshadowed – by a freak equaliser in a home fixture with Preston. The opposition goalkeeper Andy Lonergan made a clearance which travelled 90-odd yards, bounced over the head of City keeper Kevin Pressman and nestled into the back of the net. As the end of the season neared, Benjamin was sent out on loan to Northampton Town, and finally Coventry City (his seventh and eighth loan clubs respectively) and as the previous six times he did it with a smile on his face. His contract was left to expire, and Trevor left the club having never been fully shown the appreciation which he deserved at the Walkers’.
In hindsight, I regret that Leicester signed Trevor Benjamin back in 2001. Not because he was a bad player – far from it actually – but I feel my club was responsible for him not achieving all he could have. His record of 12 goals in 90 games doesn’t look great on paper, but it isn’t as simple as that. Trevor Benjamin didn’t fail Leicester City; Leicester City failed Trevor Benjamin.
A good run in the first team, and I think we would have seen more from Tricky Trev. Despite his testing times, he never gave up; he never stopped battling. Yet he was never given a fair crack of the whip. However, his enthusiasm for the game never waned and it is still clear to see. With this attitude, he will succeed given a chance. With the battle ahead at Morpeth Town, the manager is required to have amazing determination and strength. In my opinion, there is no better man for the task than Trevor Benjamin.
Blogger, football artist and full-time Leicester City fan, you can read much, much more from Ryan Hubbard at Los Revolucionarious and Modern Football. Follow him on twitter for all you’ll ever need to know about Gornik Zabre in 140 characters or less.