In Australia, the term "Claytons" has evolved into the popular lingo for a poor substitute: something does the job, but feels somewhat empty or wanting. It derives from the non-alcoholic beverage "Claytons", usually served mixed with soda, coke or ginger ale and marketed heavily in the 1980s as "the drink you have when you're not having a drink". The slogan has stuck: now, the term Claytons denotes the unofficial and insubstantial.
This season Leicester City will field the Claytons Premier League team. They are the Premiership team that isn't. The midlands side, flush with South East Asian cash, have so far this summer brought in a number of solid Premiership players to reinforce a club which finished tenth last term. Though they started the season poorly, then-chairman Milan Mandaric fired Paulo Sousa and installed infamous Swede Sven-Goran Ericksson who led the Foxes on a mad dash up the Championship ladder.
Since the season's conclusion, Leicester have brought in no fewer than eight players at the expense of only one first-teamer, centre-back Jack Hobbs. Rumours persist that the Foxes are also likely to move for Everton striker Yakubu. Four of those players - John Pantsil, David Nugent, Kasper Schmeichel and Paul Konchesky - have significant top-flight experience while new central defensive coupling Sean St Ledger and Matt Mills were both sought by Premier League clubs and join ex-Palace man Neil Danns as certifiable stars of the Championship.
|The worst "kill marry shag" of all time? courtesy: whoateallthepies.com|
Thai businessman Vichai Raksriaksorn is one of the heavyweights behind their newfound spending, while Eriksson is a coach whose recent results with younger teams suggest his flair for teaching is far from extinguished. Interestingly, the former England gaffer has experience with South East Asian bankrolling as his time with Manchester City coincided with the ill-fated Chairmanship of ex-Thailand Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
With the new blood purchased combined with a midfield already boasting Richie Wellens, captain Andy King and the recently re-signed Franck Moussa, the Foxes appear primed for a tilt at the Championship title. In fact, their squad appears stronger on paper - especially defensively - than some Premier League sides: would you bet against them in a home-and-away tie with Wigan, any of the promoted sides or even Blackburn?
Eriksson, always a keen competitior, and his Chairman could hardly have picked a better time to reinforce. Though they paid handsomely for Mills (₤5 million!), they were able to spend substantial - but bargain, nonetheless - sums on custodian Peltier, Schmeichel, Anfield misfit Konchesky and St Ledger. Danns, Pantsil and Nugent arrived on Bosman moves, leaving the Foxes reinforced all over the pitch. What's impressive is they've strengthened at the expense of direct promotion rivals Reading and Leeds United. Leicester also hulk up while other adversaries scramble for players, most notably Cardiff City, Nottingham Forest and Millwall.
They also have invested before a season in which none of the three relegated teams from last year's Premiership are obvious candidates to regain their top-flight status. Birmingham suffer from a multitude of expensive contracts who wish to leave for pastures Premiership; Blackpool must see if their free-wheeling style suits Kevin Phillips and Barry Ferguson rather than David Vaughan, Charlie Adam and (probably) DJ Campbell while West Ham could win the division or finish twelfth.
Considering experts aren't sure what to expect from much of the league, the Championship promises to be a season of intrigue. At least in Leicester there should be clarity of expectation: spending like this belies an aim for their first Premier League football since 2004.