I have attempted a heap of "solutions" but non allow me give a simple

<span></span>

using functions.php /default-icons.php towards the category title, eg.

<li><a><span></span>Category 1</a></li>

the nearest I have come replaces the course publish count using str_replace. I'd rather not call the widget completely from the theme since it messes in the order or use jquery, is the a means to do this "easily" or will Wordpress not take.

Thanks

Certainly the simplest strategy is to edit the corefiles.

In case your using wordpress 3.2.1, visit the folder wordpress-includes and search for category-template.php

And visit line 874...

$link .= ' (' . intval($category->count) . ')';

and include what markup you'll need too, for instance span and getting rid of the brackets.

$link .= '<span>' . intval($category->count) . '</span>';

and Voila