By Matt Rowson
There are few things in life that are more pointless than Radio Five Live traffic bulletins.
They come in every half hour on the quarter-hour, and last a good couple of minutes each. That makes about five minutes an hour, so at least an hour a day, seven hours a week dedicated to these things. And they're worse than bloody useless. I spend an hour or so on the M1 on a good day during the week, but the car pool has long since taken a conscious decision to never deviate from route on the basis of advice unless an accident has reportedly "just happened". The time lags on these things are such that one suspects that couriers on penny farthings are being used to transmit updates across the country.
Last week I was sat stock still between Junctions 12 and 13 Northbound whilst the Radio 5 travel update informed me that traffic was "still" chocka Southbound at the same point. This was a lie, and I told the radio so in no uncertain terms. The M1 was apparently "still" chocka Southbound when I pulled into the office an hour later. I don't really feel too precious about the BBC making mistakes with "my" licence fee, but someone really ought to tell them not to bother. Or if you're going to talk bollocks, make it entertaining bollocks.
"The M1 is closed at Junction 12 because a herd of gnu is stampeding across the northbound carriageway. Southbound slow due to onlookers".
"Hold-ups on the M25 at Chorleywood, where the clockwise carriageway has turned into blancmange. Police are urging drivers to proceed with care."
"The A414 has fallen off just outside Hemel Hempstead. Diversions in operation."
Much more fun, and no less useful.
One of the few things more pointless than Radio Five traffic reports is Leicester City. The club has had its fair share of promotions and relegations between the top two divisions over the years but, in more general terms, the Leicester City side has either been aggressive, obnoxious but effective (Martin O'Neill's sides in particular) or aggressive, obnoxious and a bit rubbish (Peter Taylor, pretty much any other point in history).
The current side, our visitors on Saturday, would appear to fall into the latter category having stumbled along a bit recently and not won a League match away from home since January. Optimists claim to have witnessed improvement in recent weeks, but critics cite indecisive selection, a wobbly defence and excessively direct play whilst manager Craig Levein himself admits that the midfield "isn't working" yet.
One area where the Foxes do appear to be strong is in goal. A former Celtic keeper for whom the Bhoys paid £1.5m in 2000, Rab Douglas has the number one shirt but has missed the last few games after what has been described as a "freak ankle injury" sustained at home. He's supposedly in with a shout for Saturday, but given apparently capable backup in Australian Paul Henderson, Levein might opt to give Douglas more time. Should he not make it, young Irishman Conrad Logan will be on the bench.
At the back, Alan Maybury serves the third and final game of a suspension incurred for a sending off at home to QPR... however his form this season has reportedly been so poor that we're probably losing out here. Right back will consequently either be eighteen year old Richard Stearman or Swede Patrick Gerrbrand, who was signed in the summer but thanks to injury only made his debut off the bench during Leicester's last run-out at Derby. Gerrbrand can also play in the centre, but here faces competition from Patrick McCarthy, who's already managed to serve a one-match ban for five bookings, Dion Dublin, still flicking from front to back, his limited distribution the key limitation in the defensive role, and former Blackburn defender Nils-Eric Johansson. Johansson could also be moved across to left back in place of another Aussie, utility man Patrick Kisnorbo who is solid defensively but limited going forward. Peter Gilbert, another summer capture from Plymouth, seems to be down the pecking order.
In midfield, a key problem seems to have been a lack of width. Ryan Smith caught many people's attention when coming off the bench at Pride Park and is already seen as a potential solution here, but the on-loan youngster misses Saturday's game through a suspension incurred with Arsenal's reserve side. Guinean international Momo Sylla, another recruit from north of the border, is another wide option but tends to disappear for long periods and has recently been relegated to the bench.
If Sylla doesn't return, wide positions are likely to be taken by the brutal Danny Tiatto, recently retired from international consideration, and Stephen Hughes (not that one), who scored his first goal for City in this fixture last season. Neither is thought to be best employed in wide midfield positions but the squad's other wide men, Lee Morris and Jason Wilcox, are terminally injured and terminally slow respectively. Ex-Forest flake Gareth Williams and the boisterous Joey Gudjonsson, impressive in recent fixtures, are likely to take the central positions although Kisnorbo is another who can be employed here.
Up front, Ian Hume was a bold signing from Tranmere Rovers for a £500k initial fee; after a shaky start, the Scottish-born Canadian international scored his first goal for City in the Derby game. He is likely to start, alongside either lumpy target man Mark de Vries, like Kisnorbo and Maybury a former charge of Levein's at Hearts, or the pointlessly quick Elvis Hammond, a deadline-day signing from Fulham. Even if playing at the back, Dublin is likely to contribute to the attacking effort at set pieces - he was hugely important in clawing Leicester a point from this tie at the end of Ray Lewington's reign last season.
As for ourselves, anxious attention will be paid to the suggestions of team news that reach us as the weekend approaches. Mindful of the words "at the earliest" with respect to this game and our forward line's anticipated recovery from respective injuries, it was a little concerning to note that Marlon did not, as trailed, play forty-five minutes for Jamaica over the weekend. Without him or Darius, one senses that we are rather like a tank with a blocked cannon; tough and robust, but only likely to cause damage by attrition.
In the longer term, this is the first of another glut of fixtures with midweek games for the next three weeks. Getting this little spell off to a good start would seem to be imperative, particularly since our next three games see us on the road... and at the mercy of Radio 5's travel reports.