All the talk leading up to Leicester’s visit to Fleetwood in the third round of the FA Cup was about one man: Jamie Vardy.
It’s unsurprising, given the Foxes striker became the first £1million non-league player when he signed from the Cod Army in 2012.
His lower league antics and rise through the ranks are now a thing of legend, but there is one man who was determined to stop Vardy and co for more than one reason.
Fleetwood goalkeeper Chris Neal received a rather unusual matchday incentive to earn a year’s supply of pizza if he kept a clean sheet against Leicester when the two sides met on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking before the game he said: “Obviously players like Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy are the standout performers but I think if you look throughout their squad they’ve got world class quality throughout, so they are better players than we play every week but at the end of the day it’s 11 v 11 on the pitch.
“It’s probably a bit boring for me to say but preparation for it has been like any other game.
“The way the management has done the tactics have just been treated like a normal fixture, I think that’s the best way of keeping us level-headed and going into Saturday confident.
“I don’t think in football you can expect anything, you have to turn up on the day and see what happens.
“We’re going to look to make it hard for them, and keep a clean sheet for as long as we possibly can.”
Speaking to Dream Team at a Papa John’s event where the pizza brand was unveiled as the league one side’s new sponsor, Neal explained further about the pizza promotion, though admits getting into the fourth round of the competition is motivation enough to ensure he keeps his goals conceded column at zero.
Neal added: “As a club, we’re really looking forward to the challenge of hosting a Premier League club at Highbury.
“It should be a great occasion for our fans and I’m hoping to do my bit for the team by keeping a clean sheet.”
But the real question comes about the volume of pizza involved in the incentive – we’ve all heard about people receiving a ‘year’s supply’ of a product, but in real terms how much does it actually consist of?
“It’s great. If we manage to keep a clean sheet, I’ll earn a free pizza every week for a whole year from Papa Johns, not bad is it?” claims the Fleetwood goalkeeper.
Lo and behold Neal helped Fleetwood earn a 0-0 draw and a replay against Leicester, although Vardy was forced to sit the game out with injury.
Pizzas on you, Chris.
Papa John’s are sponsoring Fleetwood Town ahead of their big match by backing the underdogs with a special Jamie Vardy inspired promotion where fans can get a large pizza for £9.99 (RRP £18.99). Order now!