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Leicester boss hails Zim wonderkid

Teenage midfielder Tawanda Maswanhise has left Leicester City manager, Brendan Rodgers, buzzing with excitement.

THEATRE OF DREAMS. . . Teenage midfielder, Tawanda Maswanhise, warms up on the Old Trafford turf, on Tuesday night, on the day he got his breakthrough first team slot at English Premiership side Leicester City — Getty Images.
THEATRE OF DREAMS. . . Teenage midfielder, Tawanda Maswanhise, warms up on the Old Trafford turf, on Tuesday night, on the day he got his breakthrough first team slot at English Premiership side Leicester City — Getty Images.

The Northern Irishman has hailed the starlet as a player bursting with a lot of potential.

However, the Foxes boss still feels a lot of work needs to be done, to polish the raw diamond.

On Tuesday night, Maswanhise was handed a breakthrough appearance, in the Leicester first team squad, at Old Trafford.

“He’s a young player I like,” Rodgers said. “I’ve seen him playing for the Under-18s. He’s quick, he’s direct. He’s got a lot of strengths and he’s got a lot of potential, but a lot of work to do.

“Bringing in young players, like we’ve done with Luke (Thomas) before, it gives them the experience.

“To feel the preparation, to sit on the bench, to see the quality of the players, it gives him a flavour of the level and preparation he needs to be here. That was the idea.”

Maswanhise played his first game for the Foxes Under-23s in March, as a substitute, in their 3-1 defeat to West Ham.

He has spent the majority of the campaign with the team’s Under-18s, scoring once and assisting six in 20 Under-18 Premier League appearances.

He also set up both goals in an FA Youth Cup win over Exeter in March.

Writing on social media after the game, Maswanhise said: “Massive win and good experience to be on the bench, many more opportunities to come.”

The midfielder has impressed Rodgers with his performances for the Foxes’ Under-18s, for whom he has been the top assist provider this season, primarily playing on the wing.

For the past couple of weeks he has been training with the first team.

While his footballing experience is limited so far, he has pedigree as the son of a former sprinter, Jeffrey Maswanhise, who representing Zimbabwe in the 400m at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games.

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The teenage starlet could even make his Wembley bow tomorrow when Leicester battle Chelsea in the final of the world’s most prestigious domestic knockout tournament.

After making his breakthrough at the Theatre of Dreams, a Wembley appearance will be another chapter of his Cinderella tale this week.

Ahead of that showdown against the Blues, Rodgers addressed the English media yesterday, touching on a number of issues, including Jonny Evans’ injury.

“We’ll give him (Evans) another day, he’s progressed really well, he was outside today (yesterday) and looked very good,’’ said Rodgers.

“We’ll see how that reacts, we’ll make the final decision tomorrow (today).

“It’s a discussion between myself and Jonny. You’ve got to speak with the players. He’s a warrior, and even if he’s not 100 per cent, he’ll be out there.

“It’s a huge game, a physical game, so we need physicality and if that’s hindered for him, we’ll have to consider.

“We’re still very positive he will play. It’s a showpiece so, of course, he will want to play. He has been immense. It would be a loss for us, but we have players who could come in.

“Everyone else is fit and available, apart from the obvious guys.”

Star midfielder, James Maddison, started from the bench, alongside Maswanhise, at Old Trafford, on Tuesday night.

Rodgers was asked if he would throw the midfielder into the starting XI tomorrow or he would stick with his strategy at Old Trafford.

“There are a number of things to consider in a game of this magnitude. There is probably not a manager in the country who rates Maddison as highly as I do,’’ Rodgers said.

“Ricardo, we’ve seen the levels he can get to but, in these games, it’s about more than that. You have to weigh up the physical nature of the game.

“If the players are not up to the level, do they have a way to make an impact in a different part of the game? That’s a strategy we’ll come up with over the next 24 hours.”

Not since 1969 have City played in an FA Cup final.

A limited number of fans will allowed to watch the world’s most prestigious domestic football knockout tournament.

“It’s going to be huge, to know that such a special occasion is going to have people there looking after us,’’ said Rodgers. ‘’For supporters themselves, Wembley is iconic so to get to watch their team there it will be special.

“It’s better than having no supporters there, that’s for sure.

“We’re conscious that it’s still a test event to try and get all supporters back in. It will be nice to have supporters there.” — Sports Reporter/Leicester Mercury.