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'I have never known an owner so popular' - Former Leicester City manager Martin O'Neill pays tribute

The Ireland manager paid tribute to late Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who tragically passed away over the weekend.

Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

MARTIN O’NEILL has paid tribute to the late Leicester City owner owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who tragically died over the weekend when his helicopter crashed outside the club’s stadium on Saturday.

Srivaddhanaprabha bought the Foxes in 2010 and was instrumental in leading the club to the Premier League title in 2016, when odds had the side favoured at 5000/1.

“He was everything to Leicester City,” O’Neill told the BBC on Monday. “The money that he put into the hospital and to the university, and I have just never known an owner so popular — that wasn’t just made up, it was serious. It’s a desperate day.

“His popularity was far beyond Leicester, but Leicester would have taken the bulk of that. But overall, just for the disaster to happen so close to the football club — it’s very difficult to take in at the moment.”

Soccer - FA Carling Premiership - Leicester City Press Conference O'Neill was in charge of Leicester between December 1995 and June 2000. Source: EMPICS Sport

Ireland boss O’Neill managed Leicester for four and a half years between 1995 and 2000, helping the club gain promotion to the top-flight on top of two League Cup titles.

He reflected on his time at the club, but said that the club’s Premier League success two years ago was an unforgettable achievement — one which came to fruition because of the influence of Srivaddhanaprabha at the King Power Stadium.

“I had really great days there myself,” said O’Neill. “We’d very decent success — won a couple of trophies as well too, but winning the Premier League a couple of years ago was absolutely phenomenal.

The manager has to take great credit for that, but let’s be fair, I don’t think any of that would have happened at all had it not been for the presence of the owner.

“I think all of Leicester are pretty well aware of that. What he did was he gave them the opportunity; he gave them everything that they needed really. A fantastic achievement and one that was well merited.

“He went into the community — he made donations to universities and to the hospital, and the Leicester people took to him. That’s the great thing about it — you can see that outpouring of grief at this moment.

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Leicester helicopter crash Supporters pay tribute at the King Power Stadium. Source: Mike Egerton

“It’s genuine as they come and I think that that speaks volumes of the type of man we are talking about.”

The 61-year-old billionaire was one of five passengers who lost their lives when a helicopter crashed and burst into flames having taken off shortly after Leicester’s 1-1 draw with West Ham on Saturday.

Police named the four other victims as Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, two members of Vichai’s staff, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.

A book of condolence will be opened at the King Power Stadium from Tuesday, with the team postponing its Premier League fixture against Southampton that evening.

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Aaron Gallagher

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