The X Factor winner talks about her debut solo album, Paul Dickov and why Roy Hodgson should take some 'snarling pitbulls' to the World Cup
What grabbed you about Leicester? What was it with the club that attracted you?
“Well, I only moved to Leicester in 2000 and, although I used to play football I wasn't a Leicester fan at the time. I didn't have a team to support really. I used to be a Chelsea fan when I was a lot younger but I didn't really support a club, but when I met my husband in 2002, when we first got together, he was a massive Leicester fan. So he was taking me to games early on in our relationship and that started becoming a regular thing and then, when we had children – when they were old enough – we got season tickets and took the kids.
"It was then that I sort of fell in love with the atmosphere and going to the game and the process of getting to know the club and getting to know the players. So it was around about 2005, 2006, that I started to really get into Leicester.”
So it's your husband's fault?
“It's my husband's fault! And I kind of married into it so it was like 'you will marry me but you have to support Leicester' and I said okay. I'm so glad I did, as well, because this is where I live, this is where I call my home and there are many people out there who support clubs which are hundreds of miles away and they never go to games and they don't even know what it's like to be at the ground but, for me, if and when I can go I'm there!
"I've got a season ticket that I've got for this year and had last season and we love going. We take the kids and it's just a great atmosphere, they love it. My daughter loves Leicester and my son adores Filbert the Fox, the mascot. They absolutely love it and when Leicester score it's all worth it. It's just amazing, the feeling is great and it's such a family club. It's great.”
You said you became a Leicester fan in 05/06, what's your best memory of being a Foxes fan?
“I think, for me, it's going to the games and just learning all the songs that everyone was singing and watching my other half get so passionate about it.
"I started going when Paul Dickov played for Leicester, so he was my favourite player at the time because he just goes in hard. I've played football and I learned, back in the day, if you go in for a slide tackle, you either break their leg or they break your leg! He was one of those players that, if he missed the ball, that was it, he was up the wing and he was going for that ball and he wasn't going to stop until he got it. That's the passion I liked.
"And I just remember going to the Forest games – they're the ones you want to go to, because the rivalry between the two clubs is unbelievable – so they're the ones I remember. A Forest game was the first one I went to and I think we won!”
You've been busy promoting your album. How much has that got in the way of being able to see Leicester?
“I'm on tour at the minute and it's killing me that I'm not going to the games because I know the players now and I go in the players lounge and I can get tickets to go and watch it with the wives and the other halves of the players and I'm missing it.
"But the thing is, I don't want to go because they're doing so well and if I do go and they lose I'll blame myself because they've not lost a game for so long. It'd be my fault if that happened so I kind of don't want to go until I can see in black and white that they've been promoted and then I'll go.
"But I've already put in my diary that I don't want anything booked in on the last day of the season. I'm going to the last game against Doncaster at home, you've got to go to the last game of the season, especially if you're going to be promoted to the Premiership so I just hope they do it. It's looking pretty promising but I'm not going to say they've done it until I can see it with my own eyes!”
How exciting is it for you, now that you know the players on a personal level, to see them doing so well?
“You know what? There are so many people's perceptions of the players and of the players' girlfriends and wives and stuff, but they're all so nice and so down to earth. The support that I've had from Leicester City has been absolutely amazing from everyone, from the people that work there, from the players, from the Chief Exec of the club, from the fans, its been absolutely amazing and I've been taken in with open arms as part of the family of the club.
"I'm just so happy and I've become really close friends with a few of the players, we go out for meals and stuff like that, so I'm over the moon. They're such nice people and I'm so pleased that I've got the chance to represent Leicester all over the world.”
You sang on the pitch at the King Power Stadium recently, when your new album comes out do you think you could serenade the fans again?
“I would love to do that! You know what, to do that on the last game of the season would be awesome. I'd love to do that, come on at half-time and have a bit of a sing-song. How awesome would that be? I'm doing the Player of the Year awards this year, already, so I'm performing and they've given me a table of 10, so I'm happy as Larry!”
You recently announced your pregnancy, if it's a boy is there any chance of you naming him after Nigel Pearson, if Leicester do go up?
“No, I don't think I'll be calling my son Nigel! As much as he's an absolute legend, no, I can't see that.
"But I've got to say, about Nigel Pearson, if there's a Manager of the Year award he should get it because the thought processes that have gone through that man's head when he's been managing the club have been absolutely spot-on for the whole of the season. He's literally done magic with that side, with regards to perfect timing with substitutions and the teams that he puts out. It's almost too good to be true.
"This man is unbelievable and I'd love to know what goes on in his head because he's so passionate. I've met him a couple of times, he's a big fan of mine, and he's a lovely guy. He's so passionate about Leicester City. He took a lot of flak at the start of the season but he's turned it around, he asked people to trust him and people have done that and he's done what he's set out to do. They've just got to hold onto that now. I don't want to tempt anything but he's done such an amazing job, I'm so pleased.”
Do you think he could be tempted away?
“If we went up to the Premier League and we stayed there I would be very worried that someone was going to come in and nab him away, to be honest. And we've got quite a few players who have really come into their own this season.
"Jamie Vardy (a 27-year-old striker with 16 goals to his name this season) has just absolutely blown everything out of the water this season. If he doesn't get an award at the Player of the Year at the end of the season, I'll eat my feet. He's absolutely stonking.
"His form has been absolutely amazing, if he doesn't get offered (a deal by a big club) I'd be very surprised because he's done really well this season. We need to keep them! We've got some money coming our way if we go up and we need to make sure we offer them enough money for them to stay!”
It's a long-shot but should Roy Hodgson be looking at Vardy? You seem to think so...
“Oh my God definitely! The boy has got passion, he's a young lad and he's got some real passion when he plays. He's got so much passion, he's like a pitbull, you let him off the lead and he's gone. He's just so hot-headed and passionate about the game, he's done so well and really come into his own this season. You need people like that playing for England.
"And it would seem Hodgson is looking further afield this season, I've seen him at some pretty strange clubs looking at form for different players. He's not just going to Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal. He's off looking elsewhere which is what we need. We need talent that is a bit under the radar.”
Looking ahead to the World Cup, can England win it?
“I think we need a fresh team, we need to mix it up. We need 10 pitbulls and then a leader. John Terry and a load of pitbulls on that pitch who are hungry for it, that's what we need.
"Especially people like Jamie Vardy, get 11 players like that in the team and imagine what they'd do. For the people that have done it for years it's like 'yeah, we're at the World Cup, I'll do it this year' but there's no hunger because it's not the first time they've done it. We need fresh players who are literally like snarling pitbulls. Get them on the pitch. They'll want it, they'll want it bad, the hunger's going to be there ahead of the guys who have done it before.
"If we pick some players that really, really want to play for England then yeah, we've got a good chance. If he puts out the same squad he did in Euro 2012 we've got no hope. Change is good, change can work and I think we need to take that risk.
"We need to change things, because every single time we go into a competition we know what's going to happen; we go down the pub, we watch the game and then everyone spends two hours moaning at the TV because it's not going our way. Just get a new squad out there, with some players who have done it before, wisdom-wise, and it could work.
"I know this is coming from a woman and I'm thinking outside the box a little bit but I think something needs to change this year and not just do what everyone expects us to do and put out the same old squad.”
Going back to music, can you maybe draw some parallels with what you've been talking about and what you did with the X Factor, where you just went for it?
“You've got nothing to lose by going for it. At the end of the day, I just went out there and sang like my life depended on it and someone took a chance on me. If you looked at me in the street you'd have gone 'she ain't got the X Factor' but someone took a chance on me and there are so many kids out there, so many youngsters coming through, that need a chance.
"And giving someone that chance gives them confidence, and it makes them perform a lot better. The amount I've improved with everything in the last three or four months is unbelievable. Imagine what that'd do with a footballer who had the chance to go and be on the World Cup stage, the confidence boost would make them 10x better than they are when they're out there on a Saturday playing a league game.
"It's amazing what you can do to someone when you give them an opportunity. It can change everything.”
Sticking with music, how excited are you for the world to hear The Power of Love?
“I'm very, very excited. The songs on there are songs that I've sung from the heart, they're songs that I'm passionate about and I just can't wait for people to hear it. There are so many people who have said already, ones who have already received the album, that 'this song takes me back'. People are reminiscing so I'm hoping that's what it does. I hope it makes people go 'yes! I remember this song!'
“That's what I want to do.”
Sam Bailey's debut album, The Power of Love, is out now http://www.sam-bailey.com/