By Matt Rowson
A new development this season is ITV's Sunday morning programme covering the lower divisions, imaginatively (and tellingly) entitled "The Championship". A cynic might remember "The Premiership" in all its fawning glory, the clumsy hyperbole employed to laud the trophy they'd seized from the BBC and the furiously unswervable focus on Arsenal, United and Chelsea. A cynic, without viewing the new show, might expect the worst.
Unfortunately, when it comes to ITV in general and ITV Sport in particular, you can't be too cynical... "The Championship", it transpires, is a steaming pile of cack. The two shows so far have presented extended-ish highlights of one Big Game (Leicester-West Ham and Wolves-Leeds so far, suggesting a trend but providing no goals) with rather rushed goals from the rest of Division Two and an utterly incomprehensible five minutes of arbitrarily selected goals from the lower two divisions tacked onto the end. In fact, the only value added by ITV thus far has been the inadvertently comical sight (and sound) of Andy Townsend, yer "man-in-the-street" pundit, seated between two of Millwall's finest at the New Den on Saturday, sharing opinions on the game's progress. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Townsend's profound insights have never felt more at home (Andy: "An improvement on midweek though, yeah?"; Friend: "Oh yeah, yeah, big improvement on midweek...").
Having only descended from the Premiership last season, and with a squad boasting no fewer than ten thirtysomething Premiership veterans that Gaby, Ally and Andy will at least have heard of, Leicester seem destined to be firm favourites. ITV's life will be made easier if the Foxes live up to their pre-season billing rather than the messy showing reported at Millwall and, broadly, thus far. Consensus on the goalless draw with West Ham, slightly fortunate win at Derby and defeat at Millwall complains of a lack of cohesion between midfield and strikers, an inability to string passes together throughout the team, a lack of pace in defence and a lack of collective effort and of that magic ingredient, "passion". Only one voice on the messageboards thus far has been heard to utter the lazy and slightly pathetic "everyone raises their game against us" mantra (as if Leicester are regarded as anything other than the dross that this division is made of). It will be interesting to time how long it takes Andy T to repeat the same line of logic should Leicester's season not go to plan.
Son-of-a-former-Watford-keeper Ian Walker will be between the sticks for Leicester. He was in the England squad at Euro 2004, you know. Danny Coyne departed for last weekend's opponents Burnley over the summer; his place on the bench has been taken by another former fourth-choice England keeper, Kevin Pressman.
Leicester have always boasted a good line in ugly centre-halves, and this squad is no exception. Matt Elliott, who did so much for Ipswich's rearguard last season, is out with a knee injury, however Nikos Dabizas, who played the David May role in Greece's victorious Euro 2004 squad, will play. He will be partnered either by Matt Heath, who has been out with a hamstring problem, or wily old bastard Martin Keown, whose match fitness has been questioned.
City will have a problem at right-back since Chris Makin will be suspended following his dismissal at the New Den. Makin is the second Leicester new boy to receive a red card already this season, suggesting that the new signings are quickly being schooled in what's expected of them. Scottish cap Peter Canero seems to be the likeliest replacement judging from the squad list.
On the left, the charming Danny Tiatto could make his Leicester debut having missed the first three games of the season with suspension. How a player who has managed twelve league starts over the past two seasons has managed to accumulate a three-match ban is slightly perplexing, but the Leicester support seems confident that in any event the consequent withdrawal of Jordan Stewart is a Good Thing. Jason Wilcox is, as a result, likely to push up from left-back to left midfield, with the jury still out on the viability of a thirty-three year old winger who only managed three games last season through injury. Wilcox has played three times for England. Yes, really. Former Derby frontman Lee Morris has been rechristened "Lee Morris - Injured" on one City site... yet to make his City debut, he is currently out with a groin problem so he won't be reprising his trick of scoring against us just yet.
Perhaps uncharacteristically for a Mickey Adams side, the effete central midfield pairing of Frenchman Lilian Nalis and former Forest skipper Gareth Williams appears to have been suffering from a lack of bite so far. This could be remedied with the introduction of violent Icelandic international Joey Gudjonsson, probably for Nalis, to resume acquaintance with his compatriots in our ranks. Former Everton man Scott Gemmill has started the season on the bench.
James Scowcroft has been featuring on the right of midfield, a position to which he has largely been restricted to questionable effect since his recruitment by Peter Taylor, having been a centre forward at Ipswich. He was linked in Sunday's papers with a £1million move to Pompey, in which case Keith Gillespie is likely to come in from the bench.
Up front, with Dion Dublin serving the last of his three match ban for kicking Rufus Brevett during the season opener, the big question is who will partner charmless little scrote David Connolly - still much beloved at Vicarage Road. Nathan Blake appears to be in the box seat, but he has yet to impress with his lack of mobility being put down to a lack of match fitness. Yeah, right. Trevor Benjamin was recruited as "one for the future" by Taylor, Leicester fans are still waiting but his uncomplicated style has its moments. Scowcroft would be a further possibility.
Team of old bastards or not, Leicester away is the toughest match we've faced so far; however with our pace in attack versus Leicester's ageing defence we're not going into it without hope. And being Leicester, we might even be featured on "The Championship" on Sunday morning. Weekend lie-ins have never been so attractive.