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Leicester defender James Justin insists there is 'unity' in Foxes squad despite tough pre-season

Just eight months ago, James Justin stared at his teammates on a nearby pitch at Leicester’s training base, desperate for full fitness so he could join them. Now his eyes are on much higher prices.

After climbing parts of Mont Blanc during their pre-season training camp in Evian, Justin is confident Leicester can once again reach the heights of 2020 and 2021, as they secured consecutive fifth places and won the FA Cup. He is also aiming for a place in the English World Cup selection.

Since they made history at Wembley last year, it has been a little more difficult for Leicester. Brendan Rodgers’ team rallied to finish eighth last season, but despite the manager’s call for new signings, they are the only club in the top five of Europe’s leagues to sign a senior player this summer.

Leicester City defender James Justin insists the club's critics are wrong to write them off

Leicester City defender James Justin insists the club’s critics are wrong to write them off

Chelsea have bid for Wesley Fofana and Newcastle for James Maddison, while captain Kasper Schmeichel has long joined Nice and is leaving with Leicester’s blessing.

To make matters worse, Ricardo Pereira will be out for at least six months with a ruptured Achilles tendon, while Harvey Barnes will miss the opening weeks of the season with a knee problem.

Still, Justin, who Rodgers said was worth £50million last season, has a challenging message for those who doubt Leicester. After Sunday’s season opener against Brentford, three of their next four games will be against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.

If the prospect of losing key players worries supporters, Justin’s response should encourage them.

The Foxes are struggling after a tough preseason, but Justin says they're united

The Foxes are struggling after a tough preseason, but Justin says they're united

The Foxes are struggling after a tough preseason, but Justin says they’re united

Speaking to Sportsmail at King Power Stadium just before attending a ceremony for Buddhist monks to bless the pitch, he said: ‘We have so much talent and that’s why you see these numbers being thrown around.

“It’s a testament to the players we have that these teams want them. Hopefully we can keep everyone together. If not, we have to live with it, move on and do what we have always done in the past.

“We’ve lost big players before, like when Ben Chilwell moved to Chelsea (in the summer of 2020) and when Harry Maguire came to Manchester United the year before.

“After that, we didn’t do badly and we have to move forward. If players do leave, we wish them well and focus on ourselves.

He says Leicester will adjust to any spending with James Maddison linked to Newcastle

He says Leicester will adjust to any spending with James Maddison linked to Newcastle

Wesley Fofana is subject to Chelsea offer

Wesley Fofana is subject to Chelsea offer

He says Leicester will adjust to all spending with James Maddison (left) and Wesley Fofana, both linked to big money moves

1659765519 503 Leicester defender James Justin insists there is 039unity039 in

1659765519 503 Leicester defender James Justin insists there is 039unity039 in

“We play against some top teams at the beginning of the season, but we can compete with those teams and know that we can get points from them. They may have star individuals, but you can’t think they’re better than you and you can’t succumb to the pressure.

“The time in Evian really helped ignite that spark. During the preseason we spent a lot of time together and laid the foundations, like we did during my first season. It is about togetherness, unity and respect.

“You can’t be afraid to tell someone when they’ve done something wrong, but tell it the right way. More importantly, if you’re on the receiving end, do it the right way. Don’t be an arm thrower.’

These values ​​are similar to those promoted by Gareth Southgate, who is a huge fan of Justin. The England manager admires the 24-year-old’s attitude and versatility, who can operate on the flanks as well as the left side of a back three.

Southgate even said Justin would have been included in his squad for last summer’s Euro 2020 if he hadn’t suffered the knee injury in February that left him out of action for nearly a year.

Justin praised the 'talent' on the side and said they were sure to get points on the board

Justin praised the 'talent' on the side and said they were sure to get points on the board

Justin praised the ‘talent’ on the side and said they were sure to get points on the board

“It was a bit bittersweet,” said Justin, who eventually made his full debut in Hungary’s 1-0 defeat in the Nations League in June.

“But it gave me that extra fuel to come back well and pick up where I left off.

“I feel like I’ve done that, but there’s more to come. Hopefully we start the season strong and give many of us a chance to get into the squad. That’s what everyone wants and by playing well and improving our game it would help Leicester too.

“The level is so high and so intense in the training sessions in England. When I found out I was going to win my first cap, it was one of those moments to take a deep breath. There’s nothing like singing the national anthem there.’

Justin didn’t take the easy road to the top. He made his first start for Luton, then in League Two, as an 18-year-old in a League Cup tie against Aston Villa and recalls being ‘kicked in the air’ by senior pros in training who were not kind to a teenager do ‘something cheeky’ on the ball.

Justin spoke about how he came back from a long-term injury to become an England international

Justin spoke about how he came back from a long-term injury to become an England international

Justin spoke about how he came back from a long-term injury to become an England international

When he moved to Leicester in June 2019 Justin was largely kept out of the team by Pereira and Chilwell and when he got his chance towards the end of that season and into the following season the ground was empty due to the pandemic.

Then came knee ligament damage in an FA Cup win over Brighton in February 2021, which abruptly halted Justin’s progress.

The injury left him only a spectator on one of the best days in Leicester’s history, when they defeated Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

“One of the hardest times was when I was almost there in terms of fitness,” Justin recalls. “I would do my rehab on one field and train the team on the other, so I would catch a glimpse.

“I would try to focus on myself, but it’s impossible. You’re always going to look back and stare a little because you’re just waiting to be there.”

Justin is happy to be center stage again.

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