Leicester say goodbye to Academy legend Trevor Peake
Written by Simon Austin — May 27, 2020
THE enforced closure of Leicester City’s Academy means Trevor Peake won’t get an official send-off following his retirement this month.
That’s how the modest 63-year-old prefers it though - no fuss, no fanfare.
“I prefer walking quietly out of the back door without anyone noticing,” he tells TGG.
Once the Foxes have moved into their new £80m training centre near the village of Seagrave in August, the Under-18 coach hopes to “find a pub nearby that can hold a few people for a drink.”
There are likely to be more than a few, because Peake has become a Leicester legend since joining in 2003, calmly guiding the progress of hundreds of young players and gaining the affection and respect of his colleagues.
Academy Manager Ian Cawley tells TGG: “Trevor is a very genuine person who always puts the best interests of the lads at the heart of everything he does.
“Part of our process in coach development is to interview the players about the coaches. What they all say is that when Trev speaks, they listen. We have a strapline of ‘men of integrity’ at the Academy and Trevor personifies that.”
When you talk to people about Peake, a word that keeps cropping up is humility. He’s an FA Cup winner who talks about his “limited ability” as a player, and a highly-regarded coach who jokes about his “100% record as a manager - one game and one defeat”.
Gordon Strachan, who hired the former defender to work with Coventry’s reserves before his subsequent move across the Midlands, tells TGG: “There are people who will tell you how they’re born winners, but Trevor has this humility about him.
“His job isn’t talking about himself but making other people better.”
“Any player who has come through our system over the last 15 years, Trevor will have been a big part of their career path,” Cawley explains.
That includes current first teamers Harvey Barnes, Ben Chilwell and Hamza Choudhury (pictured below), who are regarded as three of the brightest young English talents in the Premier League.
Peake worked with the trio with the U16s and U18s and says they’re the benchmark for players currently coming through the ranks at the club.
“Those three have shown they have the ability to play at the top level, which is terrific, because it’s a very very high level now,” he says.
“Barnesy and Hamza have been with us since they were nine-years-old and Ben came in a little bit later from MK Dons. They all had talent, but in the end it’s not the most talented, technical kids who make it - attitude and application is far in front.
“Some of those things maybe came a bit later in Hamza’s career, because he was one of the ones who didn’t always train to the best of his ability, but the penny dropped in time for him to make a real mark. And what a lovely fella he is, by the way.”
Typically, Peake says much of the credit should go to the coaches who worked with the trio at the beginning of their football journey.
“You have to appreciate the work that people have done to get them in the position they are now," he says. “I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about the U10 coaches, the U11 coaches, the ones who you never hear about.
"To have the impact those lads did at U18 level and onwards, they had to have been very well coached throughout the club. Players need to be brought forward earlier than they were in years gone by.
"They have to be very technically proficient, able to play with both feet, from 12, 13, whereas it used to be 15 or 16.”
The Academy Peake is leaving behind is almost unrecognisable from the one he joined 17 years ago. Back then, the club had only just come out of administration and “we were short on numbers, there was a little bit of fear about the place.”
Whereas now they’re regularly up against the best youth teams in the country, back then their fixtures were against the likes of Cardiff, Portsmouth and Bristol City.
Under EPPP, there are almost 50 full-time staff at the Academy, the facilities are outstanding and the youngsters are based there. In Peake’s early years at Leicester it was a very different scenario.
“My day would consist of being with the U18s during the day and taking the U16s in the evening on a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The session would end at 8.30pm, but it was my job to take them down to the train station in the mini bus, because some of them had to get back to Nottingham.
“I’d get home at 10 o’clock. They were long hours but so enjoyable. It doesn’t matter if it’s enjoyable.”
Peake does sometimes worry that players at a Category One Academy like Leicester’s could have things a little too easy.
“The players get looked after, the pitches are fantastic. It can be a worry that they get used to staying in a nice hotel the night before a game, having all the support and facilities that they do.
“They might think the next step will be the same and not realise the standard they are trying to achieve, which is phenomenal.”
FA CUP WINNER
Peake’s own passage into professional football couldn’t have been more different to that of Barnes, Choudhury and Chilwell.
After leaving school at 15, he did a five-year apprenticeship with the engineering firm Clarkson’s in his hometown of Nuneaton.
“I was in the factory from eight to five, making bits and bobs on a lathe, then playing for Nuneaton Borough in the evenings and weekends, travelling to places like Dover and Hastings.”
When he was 21, the centre-half was offered the opportunity to play full-time football for Lincoln City.
“I think the factory were as pleased as I was, because my work had always played second fiddle to my football and it probably showed.”
After a season in the third tier, his big break came with Coventry City, and over the course of eight years he became a club legend for the Sky Blues.
Their 1987 FA Cup final win over a star-studded Spurs side remains one of the most iconic games in the famous competition’s history.
“Unless you were a Coventry supporter, you probably didn’t know many of our players,” he says. “But we had resilience and a terrific team spirit.
“We used to spend a lot of time together, going to the horse racing and nights out, and our manager, John Sillett was a great character.
“We went behind after two minutes to a goal by Clive Allen, but we didn’t panic and Dave Bennett equalised a few minutes later, before that brilliant diving header from Keith Houchen and then Gary Mabbutt’s own goal in extra time. It’s a game a lot of people still remember, which is fantastic.”
Peake’s first taste of coaching came at the final post on his playing journey, at Luton Town, but it was at Coventry City that he decided it should become his vocation.
Manager Gordon Strachan brought him there as U17s coach and then reserve team boss and Peake says he learned "about standards and making the intensity of training the same as the game” from the Scot.
Strachan, in turn, tells TGG: “Trevor was first class. He got the most out of himself as a player and then did the same as a coach. For me, he was a great balance, because most of my coaching staff were hyper-active and desperate to get things done in a hurry, whereas Trevor had this ‘let’s sit back and have a think lads’ attitude.
“He’d been a legend at the club as a player, but after a while you get past that stage and your coaching has to speak for itself. Trevor showed he had humility, knowledge and a desire to make players better.”
Unlike Strachan, the Midlander never had a desire to coach at first-team level.
“You have to be available 24 hours a day,” he explains. “I’m a very private person and it didn’t take me long to realise if I was going to be a coach, it was with the younger age groups.”
He did have one game as a first-team boss though - when he stood in as joint caretaker manager with former team-mate Steve Ogrizovic for the final game of the 2001/2 season, a 1-0 defeat by Blackburn Rovers.
After 40 years in pro football, Peake says he’s looking forward to simply watching games as a spectator.
“I’m looking forward to going to the new training ground and having a look round there and watching some games. What a great experience that will be. I’m sure I’ll go back to watch some of the games, especially the 16s and 18s and maybe the reserves.”
He also hopes to catch up with old friends, including Director of Football Jon Rudkin, who first employed him when he was Academy Manager and is “a very good coach and my go-to man ever since I joined”, and U23 coach Steve Beaglehole, who “made me feel so welcome from day one."
Current Academy Manager Cawley says Peake helped “create not only good players but good young men as well" and adds “Trev will be sorely missed, but I hope to still get him around and about to pick his brains.”
Looking back on his four decades in the game, Peake says “I’ve been so fortunate to continue with something I’ve loved since I was six or seven years old. And I’ve been paid for it, too. How mad is that?”