'The players are devastated' – Leiceister boss Puel says club is 'numb and in shock' after helicopter tragedy

Leicester manager Claude Puel insists the result is not important when they play Cardiff on Saturday – the first match since the helicopter crash which killed club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Leicester manager Claude Puel insists the result is not important when they play Cardiff on Saturday – the first match since the helicopter crash which killed club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Srivaddhanaprabha and four others died in the tragedy just outside the King Power Stadium shortly after Leicester’s 1-1 home draw with West Ham last Saturday.

Leicester’s next scheduled fixture was duly postponed – a Carabao Cup tie at home to Southampton – but it was confirmed on Tuesday that the forthcoming Premier League match away to Cardiff would go ahead as planned.

Puel feels he and his players have a responsibility to “continue the Leicester City he built” and the team will play for Srivaddhanaprabha and his family in Wales this weekend.

“Playing football has not been at (the) front of our minds this week,” said Puel at his press conference on Thursday at the King Power Stadium, as he faced the media for the first time since the tragedy.

“But for this weekend, and all the matches thereafter, we play to honour a man who did so much for our club.

“The result is not important, but our desire, our actions to give our best on the pitch to honour our chairman, is the most important thing.

“We have a responsibility about the memory and the work he put in place. I’m confident after I saw my players at training that they can give their best.

“We have a responsibility to play for him and perform for him. We will play for him, for ‘Top’ (Aiyawatt, Srivaddhanaprabha’s son) and his family.”

Puel revealed how he and his players talked through their feelings as a group on Monday at the club’s training ground.

“All the players are devastated,” Puel continued. “All my squad was with a lot of sadness and upset about this event. It’s a difficult moment, just after the incident.

“Along this week, on Monday, we made a meeting at the training ground to speak, to share our feelings, it was important not to forget. Just to talk between ourselves and to share this difficult moment.”

Leicester’s players and staff have been offered grief counselling in the wake of the disaster.

Puel said: “A lot of people have been made available to help the players and staff. I think everyone’s reaction to this event is different and we have to understand that people can have a different reaction but we put in place all the help necessary for all the people.”

Although they are set to return to the pitch, their playing commitments could clash with the funeral, which begins on Saturday and could last for up to a week.

Puel said: “I want to give players the opportunity to go if they want to but I don’t know about the logistics. But the players want to go and support Vichai’s family.”

Puel began his press conference with a prepared statement as he faced the media for the first time since the crash on Saturday night.

It was delivered with emotion, compassion, warmth, humanity and class, in keeping with the dignified way Leicester have handled this tragedy.

“This has been without doubt one of the hardest weeks in the history of this football club,” he said.

“The tragic loss of five lives has left us numb and in shock and our prayers and love remain with Vichai’s family and with all of the families who have lost a loved one.

“Vichai made Leicester City into what it is. He made it a family and made a dream. He invested in the club, the city and he invested in the people.

“He truly was loved by everyone inside and outside the club. Personally it was a privilege to work for him. It was a privilege for the faith he showed in me and the moments we shared. To see all of the messages and the flowers and shirts outside the stadium this week shows how many lives he touched.

“He leaves behind a legacy that will be remembered forever and his vision for the club that myself as manager we take forward.

“I have never been prouder to be manager of this club. In such difficult circumstances – from staff, players and fans, they have shown what a special club this is.

“Playing football has not been on our minds this last week but for this weekend and all matches after we will play to honour and remember a man who did so much for our club.”

Earlier in the day, former Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri paid his respects to Srivaddhanaprabha by visiting the ever-growing shrine to the club’s owner at the King Power Stadium.

The 67-year-old Italian oversaw Leicester’s Premier League title win during the 2015-16 season.

Ranieri, who was in charge between 2015 and 2017, was accompanied by Srivaddhanaprabha’s son Aiyawatt as he laid a wreath for the Thai billionaire.

Meanwhile, Puel offered an update on Daniel Amartey, who has undergone surgery after suffering a serious ankle injury in the 1-1 draw with West Ham.

“Daniel has had surgery and it was a success,” Puel revealed. “He will normally not be available for four months.

“I had sadness towards Daniel after the game, to sacrifice himself for the team like that.”

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