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Three Leicester players dropped for West Ham loss over Covid breach

John Percy
·6-min read
Hamza Choudhury, James Maddison and Ayoze Perez were dropped for Leicester's game at West Ham
Hamza Choudhury, James Maddison and Ayoze Perez were dropped for Leicester's game at West Ham

Leicester City trio James Maddison, Ayoze Perez and Hamza Choudhury were axed from their side’s damaging defeat at West Ham United after breaking Covid regulations by attending a party.

Brendan Rodgers said he chose to punish the players by leaving them out of his squad, instead of issuing them with fines, in order to protect the "values" he has tried to instil in the club.

Maddison’s omission could prove fatal for his hopes of making Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this summer’s European Championships, although Rodgers said he will return to the fold ahead of next week’s FA Cup semi-final.

It is understood the party was held last weekend by Perez, the forward, and Rodgers said the trio fell “way below” the standards he expects from his squad, especially at this pivotal point of the season.

"The guys who were not involved today would have been," said Rodgers, whose side fell to a 3-2 defeat at the London Stadium. "However, as a consequence of their behaviour, they were not.

"I could easily fine players but then the dynamic is not quite right. Now we draw a line under it and they rejoin the squad. They are all good guys, good lads, but we have a standard on and off the pitch that we have to adhere to."

Brendan Rodgers said the trio fell 'way below' the standards he expects from his squad - PA
Brendan Rodgers said the trio fell 'way below' the standards he expects from his squad - PA

Asked about the timing of the Covid breach, coming at this crucial point of the campaign with Leicester hunting a place in the Champions League, Rodgers said: "It was not ideal, but that is how strongly I felt on it.

"We were coming into a game that was very, very important but there are some things more important than football. You have to respect what the nation is going through and you have to respect what our values are in the club.

"From a personal perspective I was bitterly disappointed. It’s a mistake they have made and it’s in the past now. It would have been easy for me to give them a week’s fine but for me it is about more than that, it is something that in the longer term will help them."

Maddison has only recently returned from a hip injury and this latest incident could leave him facing a battle to win back his international place. Though he missed out on last month's World Cup qualifiers, Maddison has been watched by Southgate on a number of occasions this season.

In October 2019, Southgate warned his England players that he continually monitors their behaviour, shortly after Maddison was photographed at a poker table in a casino. On that occasion, Rodgers defended the £25 million signing and insisted his reputation as a troublemaker was undeserved.

A Leicester City spokesman said: "The club has made its expectations around adherence to COVID-19 protocols abundantly clear to all its personnel.

"It is extremely disappointing, therefore, to learn of a breach that had the potential to undermine the efforts of club staff to protect the environments in which our teams train and play. Appropriate measures have been taken to prevent our team bubbles being compromised.

"We wholly expect our people to behave in a way that reflects the national effort and the sacrifices made by our communities to control the spread of the virus. Those involved have apologised for their poor judgement. Our response to the matter will be concluded internally."

Perez's absence comes at a time when the forward has been in arguably the best form of his Leicester career since his move from Newcastle in July 2019.

Choudhury could be facing an uncertain future as a Leicester player after he was warned over his discipline by Rodgers last season.

Former Leicester defender Ben Chilwell and Choudhury were both left out of the squad for the game at Burnley last January, and subsequently fined, for turning up late to a training session.

Choudhury was a loan target for Newcastle and West Brom in the January transfer window, and it is likely he will be made available this summer.

Comment: Maddison's chances of Euros selection have disappeared

By Jason Burt

If James Maddison had any hope of making the England squad for Euro 2020 then it has surely disappeared now. The Leicester City playmaker was up against it anyway, given the competition he faces for a place, but to be disciplined and dropped by his club for a fixture that Gareth Southgate was attending has probably sealed it.

The England manager was at the London Stadium to watch Leicester take on West Ham so what better opportunity could it have been for Maddison to give him food for thought that he – rather than Jesse Lingard – should be making a late run for the squad.

Southgate is a pragmatist. But is also a principled one. There is no vindictiveness to him but having delivered a warning to Maddison after that casino incident back in October 2019 – when he pulled out of the squad through illness only to pictured at a casino a few days later – with the simple statement of needing to be "high-performance, low maintenance" then it could not be clearer.

Maddison was picked for the next squad – and made his debut as a substitute against Montenegro – but has not played since. Southgate will have wanted to look at him and work with him to find out more about the player. Injury has been a factor as has the emergence of others but there is the lingering suspicion that Southgate remains wary of his behaviour.

It now seems unlikely Gareth Southgate will select James Maddison for the Euros - THE FA
It now seems unlikely Gareth Southgate will select James Maddison for the Euros - THE FA

Obviously attending a party under normal circumstances is no great offence. But – as we are all acutely aware and despite the gradual easing of restrictions – we still live in far from normal times. Maddison, Ayoze Perez and Hamza Choudhury have abused that. The rules are clear and have been abused.

The trio have not been fined and will be in the squad for next weekend’s FA Cup semi-final but being excluded from such a crucial game is damaging enough. Maddison has previously admitted he felt hurt after being left out of England squads. If he misbehaved again then he can expect to continue to feel like that.

In truth the 24-year-old is already on the fringes and is pushing himself even more into the margins. Jack Grealish, who has also had to convince Southgate, and Phil Foden, who was punished for his own indiscretions in Iceland, have shown there are ways back – as there have to be – but this is not the first time Maddison has allowed doubts to be raised over him.

Beyond that he was already behind Grealish, Foden, Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham, Lingard and so on for a creative midfield/attacking role.

No-one doubts Maddison's talent – and he also speaks wonderfully well about his craft – but there is a crucial factor that is undermining him. Can he be relied upon? It is unlikely that Southgate will take that unnecessary risk.