Leicester Preview - home, Feb 12th
Five managers, several sets of players, just three points off the relegation zone and fifteen games to go. The crazy story of the 2007-2008 season under the ownership of Milan Mandaric.
A four-one hiding by Martin Allen`s Leicester was an early eye-opener back in August and as my first away trip of the season, it was hardly inspiring stuff yet I`ve still spent plenty following the 'Orns this season. Steve Kabba started up top that day for Watford and was largely anonymous; how times have changed, a win on the cards this time? After a poor Winter spell, Watford are stepping into Spring unbeaten in three having romped to victory against Wolves, drawn with Sheffield United beforehand and beaten Ipswich last Saturday.
Leicester themselves looked to be coming into a bit of form with new manager Ian Holloway but victories over Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace were forgotten with defeat against old club Plymouth.
Instrumental in a recent upturn have been forwards Steve Howard and Barry Hayles. The bulky duo, both the wrong side of thirty have been around and both have Premiership experience. Howard was recruited on loan from Derby and fits the Holloway mould of a muscular, bulky, powerful centre forward as does Barry Hayles who has been at Bristol Rovers and Argyle with Holloway.
January was busy for Holloway as he also recruited former Ram, Matthew Oakley to play alongside Stephen Clemence. An experienced duo who have plied much of their respective careers fighting Premiership relegation, both know how to get out of this division having won promotion with Derby and Birmingham last season.
Also arriving were Ben Alnwick (Who spent time on-loan at Luton earlier in the season), Jamie Clapham who arrived from Wolves on a short-term deal and winger, Gabor Bori from MTK Budapest.
Ian Hume should start on the right wing and the Canadian has been a huge success since he arrived from Tranmere Rovers. Scorer of a blinding drive against Mart Poom earlier in the season, Hume has added only another six since then, though playing out wide has not helped.
DJ Campbell is another to have struggled for goals this term since joining from Birmingham under Allen. Allen worked with the former Brentford man back in 2005 and then sold him on for 500k. Watford missed out on Campbell but his 1.6million move has brought just 4 goals, that 400k per goal. Expensive eh? Not that we`ve had any such problems…
Nathan Ellington of course worked under Holloway at Bristol Rovers where he made his name alongside Jason Roberts, now at Blackburn. Powerful defender Dan Shittu was an inspired Holloway signing at Loftus Road whilst James Chambers was a Golden Boy last season.
At the back Gareth McAuley has been a revelation this season having signed from Lincoln a couple of seasons back. A powerful figure who cuts a 6`3" frame, the Ulsterman has been influential at the back alongside Aussie Patrick Kisnorbo. New-boy Jamie Clapham is vying with youngster Joe Mattock for the left back slot whilst the falling from grace of Alan Maybury has opened the way for weekly sub James Chambers to cement his right-back position.
Leicester`s squad evidently does not lack quality and Scott Sinclair could well be joining the Foxes on-loan sooner rather than later so numbers are not lacking either. This season is about survival for Holloway and co, but next season could be a totally different cup of tea…or in Leicester-fashion, maybe not…
Lee (c); Mariappa, Bromby, Shittu, Sadler; Smith, Williamson, Eustace, McAnuff; Henderson and Ellington.
Alnwick; Chambers, McAuley, Kisnorbo, Clapham; Hume, Oakley, Clemence (c), Bori; Hayles and Howard.
0708: Leicester 4-1 Watford
0506: Leicester 2-2 Watford
Watford 1-2 Leicester
0405: Watford 2-2 Leicester