MICAH RICHARDS: The day I threw a dart at Kasper Schmeichel's leg

MICAH RICHARDS: The day I threw a dart into Kasper Schmeichel’s leg showed me the measure of the man… his FA Cup final outing is deserved reward for his dedication to the pursuit of excellence

  • I feared Man City could’ve sacked me when I threw a dart at Kasper Schmeichel
  • Kasper didn’t make a fuss of it and after that incident we warmed to each other
  • The Danish goalkeeper will lead out Leicester City in Saturday’s FA Cup final 
  • Schmeichel has to deal with his father’s shadow over him throughout his career

Kasper Schmeichel let out a scream and I began to panic. My team-mate had a dart sticking out of his calf and it was entirely my fault.

This situation had the potential to end very badly for me. Kasper and I were in Manchester City’s academy — he was 17, I was 15 — striving to become senior professionals. The escalation of some banter, though, left me wondering whether my dream was about to end.

Kasper and I were not close friends back then. He’d come to City after Manchester United let him go in his early teens. He had a shyness and could be cold; he used to put up barriers, which I often thought might be something to do with protecting himself as he had a famous father. 

Kasper Schmeichel and I warmed to each other at Man City after I threw a dart into his leg

Schmeichel has gone on to achieve great things and will lead Leicester out for the FA Cup final

Dressing rooms can be unforgiving places, especially when you are that young. I used to get called ‘Mucker’ by some of the Irish boys back then but it wasn’t very complimentary. It basically meant I was s***. I’d try to laugh it off, but this particular day Kasper had joined in the wind-up.

We had a communal area where we’d play darts to relax. I’d been called ‘Mucker’ one too many times by Kasper, who was standing not far from the board. Stupidly, I threw a dart in his general direction, with no intention of hitting him but hoping to give him a fright. To my horror, I got the angle wrong and it landed in his leg.

Kasper would have had every right to tell the coaching staff what I’d done. I was mortified, worried I might have done some damage to Kasper and in fear of the possible consequences — would they sack me? — but what happened next showed me I’d got him all wrong. He removed the dart with a wince and the matter ended, there and then. 

Schmeichel was handed first-team chances at City by then boss Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2007

It was a turning point in our relationship. We warmed to each other, and before long we had both reached City’s first team. He kept three clean sheets in his first three games in August 2007 when Sven Goran Eriksson was manager, including a shutout against Manchester United.

You have to remember he was only 20 when he made his Premier League debut for Sven. No goalkeeper has been the finished product at that age and he had to learn in the hardest league of all; his weakness back then was coming for crosses but that area was only ever going to improve.

If I was initially unsure about Kasper as a person, I never doubted his talent. He was the best keeper I’d seen at that age, an incredible shot-stopper. He was agile, too, with unshakeable belief. He wasn’t arrogant, just super-confident. Crucially, he also worked relentlessly. 

The Dane is now one of the Premier League’s most reliable goalkeepers at Leicester City

That used to rub some of the other lads up the wrong way. If it wasn’t bad enough that he had to put up with comments such as ‘you’re only here because of your dad’, he used to get called ‘busy’ for being in the gym or staying late to have rehab sessions when he had an issue with his knee.

I wish I’d had a similar attitude to work. He’s very much like James Milner, in that he does everything right to squeeze every last bit out of himself to make sure he’s fully prepared for what is coming on a Saturday. No stone was ever left unturned.

He definitely wanted to prove people wrong. Of course he had an incredible grounding and there is no doubt his dad instilled some qualities in him but what Kasper has achieved over the last 15 years has got nothing to do with Peter being one of the all-time goalkeeping greats. 

Schmeichel had other Football League loan spells at Darlington, Bury and Notts County

When I talk about Kasper working hard and having this drive, I think about him going on loan to Darlington and Bury, to Falkirk, Cardiff and Coventry. It didn’t matter where the opportunity to get games was, he’d go anywhere to learn and improve.

There was a season at Notts County under Sven, another year at Leeds. He found his spiritual home at Leicester in 2011, again with Sven as manager, but what he has gone on to prove over the subsequent decade is why he is a legend — and a Premier League winner — in his own right.

I’m fortunate to work with Peter for CBS on their Champions League coverage — if you think I can talk, you want to get into a conversation with him! — and I have been fortunate to get to know him very well. The way life has panned out, I’d be closer now to Peter than Kasper. 

Kasper’s father Peter (left) was a wonderful keeper but he is now a legend in his own right

Peter rarely wants to talk about Kasper. When he does, he keeps the discussion very straight and he never, ever makes comparisons between them as goalkeepers. In the moments that Kasper does enter the conversation, however, you can see Peter is filled with such pride and joy.

So he should be. When Kasper Schmeichel leads Leicester out in Saturday’s FA Cup final to make his 424th club appearance, it will be the latest reward for a life dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. 

He had a huge challenge to step out of his father’s shadow but what he has achieved is sensational. My respect for him could not be greater.

Firmino proves that class is permanent 

A friend of mine who is a Liverpool fan was expressing his concerns for Jurgen Klopp’s team recently and worried that they had reached the end of the line.

I never saw it that way. It has been a freak season, ruined by the injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, and some key players had lost form. It happens. I kept telling him, however, that the mid-winter blip was not going to be long-lasting.

Roberto Firmino is a class act, who was always going to recapture his best form. Thiago Alcantara just needed time. Trent Alexander-Arnold? Regular readers will know exactly how highly I rate him. It’s the same with Jordan Henderson, Mo Salah, Diogo Jota, Sadio Mane and many others.

Roberto Firmino showed signs of getting back to his best with a brace at Manchester United

I felt a performance like the one they produced at Manchester United on Thursday was coming. While I was disappointed with how they played against Real Madrid in the Champions League, they have been quietly picking up points in the Premier League.

They have taken 17 from the last 21 and I wouldn’t bet against them finishing in the top four. Long term, they will be the team to challenge Manchester City again next season. With that manager and that squad, it would be foolish to think anything else.

Micah’s man of the week

It’s the time when awards are handed out and it seems likely Pep Guardiola will be Manager of the Year, particularly if Manchester City win the Champions League.

In some ways, Sean Dyche’s achievement of again keeping Burnley in the Premier League is just as outstanding. Some judges thought Burnley’s time was going to be up this season but they are safe with games to spare.

Dyche plays a 4-4-2 but whenever new systems and styles are introduced, he finds a way of tailoring his set-up and galvanises his squad to get the results he needs. I doubt he’ll ever be considered for the top accolade for managers but he should be.

Sean Dyche keeping Burnley up is as impressive as Man City winning the Champions League

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