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West Ham United v Barnsley


Filed: Friday, 16th December 2011
By: Preview Percy


Preview Percy is full of his usual festive joy. His recent review of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for “Grumpy Old Git” magazine read “A story that started well but was completely spoilt by the ending”, whilst his petition to reintroduce the death penalty for carol singers will soon have as many as one signature on it once he’s remembered where he has left his biro. He’s taken time out from shouting “Father Christmas doesn’t exist” at the local kids to write a few words about this week’s visit of Barnsley. As ever John Northcutt will be providing a welcome respite at the end with a fresh air dose of facts and figures....

And the Championship season trundles merrily along as we welcome Barnsley for what (with regular FA Cup 3rd round visits) seems to be a traditional festive season visit to the Boleyn, albeit a few weeks earlier than usual. The tubes will be running a “normal” service – which may or may not be a good thing.

Our opponents this weekend were formed back in 1887 (when I were a lad). I don’t normally delve too far back into the origins of our opponents in these pages but, as regular readers will be aware, we do love a good name in these parts. The fact is that the Tykes were founded by a clergyman with the marvellous title Reverend Tiverton Preedy who, but for the 120 year gap, sounds like he would surely have been good pals with our own Archdeacon Elwin Crockett.

Barnsley are one of those select band of clubs that have spent but a single season in the top flight. I believe I also read somewhere once that they hold the record for the most number of seasons in Division 2 (or whatever), though I’m damned if I can remember where I read it. It might have been oh so different had they not suffered at the hands of the bribery and corruption that saw Arsenal (with the assistance of Liverpool & Man Utd who were in danger of losing their places following a spot of match fixing) get mysteriously promoted to Division 1 despite about six hundred clubs being better placed when football resumed after the First World War. One of those clubs was a lesser mob from North London apparently. But they don’t like to mention it much.

Our opponents currently lie in 12th spot with 30 points from their 21 matches. This is five points off Leeds who are the team with their grubby little mitts on the last play-off place at present. They had been on a relatively decent run of form in recent weeks having won four on the trot since losing at Brighton on 6 November, after which they won 2-0 at home to Doncaster, 2-1 away at Leeds, 4-3 away at Peterboro’ and 2-1 at home to Palace. However the wheels on that run fell off in rather spectacular style last weekend as they let slip a 2-0 half time lead to lose 5-3 at home to Ipswich.

The manager is Keith Hill. Hill arrived in the summer following the resignation of former boss Mark Robins. Hill had enjoyed some success at former club Rochdale, taking them to consecutive play-off finals before finally getting them promoted automatically to the third division in 2009/10. They finished a respectable 9th in the third tier last season prompting the Barnsley to come knocking at the door once Robins had fallen on his sword. Hill originally announced he was staying put at Spotland, but he had a change of heart and was installed at Oakwell at the start of June alongside half his former Rochdale backroom staff.

Luke Steele is in charge of onion-bag incursion prevention. In reviewing past previews I noted that the ‘keeper has one of the more unusual FA disciplinary black marks against his name for the scandalous crime of wearing a polo-neck undershirt bearing a visible sponsor’s logo under his goalkeeper’s shirt, a sin that cost him £1,000 in fines. One trusts that messrs Suarez and Terry will receive suitably commensurate sanction in the event that they are found guilty in their respective hearings.

The skipper is the long-serving (well 7 years is long-serving these days) Bobby Hassell. Hassell took over the armband at the start of this season on the arrival of Hill and can operate either on the right or in the middle of defence. Quite apart from anything else he is to be applauded for eschewing the modern trend for footballers christened “Robert” to swan about the place referring to themselves as “Rob” (sorry Mr Green) or even (shudder) “Robbie” electing instead for the more traditional soubriquet.

I was cheered at the possible thought of our attack coming up against defender Steve Foster, given that the headband-sporting defender must be in his 50’s by now. However, I was disappointed to discover that it will not be the former Brighton, Villa, Luton and (depressingly) England player that Barnsley have on their books but a 31 year old player who was a contemporary of Dean Ashton at the start of his career at Crewe Alexandra. Foster (Tyke version) has been with Barnsley for four years having spent nine years at Grestey Road and just over a year at Burnley. Finding opportunities with the Clarets limited he joined Barnsley in 2007 for £100,000 – a sum which, back in my day, was a lot of money for a top flight player. Foster will forever dine out on his headed goal which helped Barnsley to a 2-1 win at Anfield in the cup a few years back. Meanwhile I was most amused to see that the Foster of Brighton fame looks as if he is highly unlikely to be requiring the services of a headband these days.

Up front they have Portuguese U21 cap Ricardo Vaz Te. Vaz Te will be familiar to our manager having signed on youth terms for Bolton during Mr Allardyce’s tenure at the Horwich Reebok (as it ought to be called). Injuries limited his appearances in the Bolton first XI and after a loan spell at Hull he was released by the Trotters in 2010. Barnsley is the player’s third club since the end of 2009/10. He had a six month spell which, for football reasons, appears to have been a pretty dispiriting experience with the player getting less than 10 starts in that time. He next pitched up at Hibs in February which must also have been pretty dispiriting, if only for the fact that it’s in Scotland. Despite a crowd-pleasing goal against local rivals Hearts, Hibs did not renew his deal at the end of the season. He signed a one season deal with Barnsley in the close season and seems to have been the form striker in recent weeks .

In keeping with our tradition of honouring splendid names I next give you the one and only Rueben Courtney Noble-Lazarus. Noble-Lazarus is a quite superb name in its own right. Add Rueben & Courtney into the equation and it becomes quite brilliant. I have absolutely no idea if he’s any good as, at 18, the winger/striker is not what you would call a first team regular, presumably because of the prohibitive cost of shirt lettering.

Of course splendid names are not the only tradition of this column. One also likes to highlight the various brushes with the law that opposition players may have had over the years. Happily, in the form of Nile Ranger, we are able to combine both Namewatch and Crimewatch. Ranger is currently on loan from Newcastle. Unlike many players, whose criminal behaviour often appears to develop from a strange belief that being professional footballers allows them to do damn well what they like, Ranger’s visits to the wrong side of the law commenced before his football career. He started off by doing 11 weeks in a Young Offenders Institute (a bit like this rest home only when someone around here asks “who’s the daddy” it’s because they can’t remember) for an armed street robbery in Muswell Hill. Nevertheless he managed to get himself into Southampton’s youth system before they tired of his attitude. I suppose that with his background it was no surprise that he managed to get snapped up by Dennis Wise who was at Newcastle at the time. However, despite winning the Jackie Milburn trophy for young player of the year in 2009 controversy has never been far away. Back in August he was arrested and charged with assault in Newcastle City Centre, an event that saw him left out of the Magpies first team set up for three months. No sooner had he returned to the squad than he was charged with being drunk and disorderly, again in the middle of “Toon”. The full hearing into both sets of charges is due to take place in January (two days before his loan spell officially ends) and, whilst Alan Pardew has supported the player publicly, few would be surprised if Ranger were shown the door at Cheap Trainers Stadium (or whatever it’s called these days) should the verdicts go against the player. As I said to Nurse Rita only the other day: such a shame to see talent go to waste. Should he go on to have a long and fruitful career in the game I’d suggest that he takes Hill out for a beer by way of thanks. If that’s not too dangerous a thought.

Ok our turn. Well if Burnley was an understandable “blip” Reading was nothing short of a full blown ten slices of Stilton nightmare. The annoying thing is that, though we weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders, we’d probably have ended up going home with a point from a dull goalless draw but for our new-found ability to shoot ourselves in the foot. Joey was just silly to get involved with Hunt and was always just one mistimed challenge away from the disaster that befell him. Collison’s sending off was also daft – though Reading boss Brian McDermott is clearly lying through his teeth by suggesting that Kebe wasn’t on a wind-up. The comment to the effect that Collison could have “ended Kebe’s career” was simply laughable – unless Kebe was considering a career change into acting. There again the Madejski is traditionally a truth-free zone so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised if the chairman’s dubious morals filter their way through to the team and management. All in all I reckon that Kebe’s first five minutes or so at the Boleyn in the return match may well see him on the receiving end of infinitely more treatment than he required last weekend.

Demel came, he saw, he was carried off which leaves us a bit short on that side. Though it’s not my preferred position for the lad, I would have thought that Julien Faubert might be taking a step back into the right back slot. We might see the return of Henri “Angela” Lansbury to the fold. He apparently travelled to Reading last weekend but was not included in the 16. Given that, one would expect his next step to be up to the bench but the injuries and suspensions might push him into a return a bit sooner than anticipated.

Taylor’s calf, despite encouraging noises to the effect that they’d discovered the source of the problem last week, still looks like keeping him out of contention and we’re a while away from seeing Reid, Baldock and O’Neil (though in the latter case it is nice to be even able to mention him seriously in a preview).

Ok, Barnsley were on a good run which came to an end last week. There have been a lot of goals in their matches of late – in addition to their 5-3 defeat to Ipswich they also were on the right end of a 4-3 win in the Peterborough match. This – and a -1 goal difference in 12th place - suggests that defensive organisation might not be their strong suit and that a bus-parking exercise at the Boleyn might not be their best option.

Although we are stretched in terms of numbers we should still have enough in the first choice players that are available to win this one (though how many times have we (ok-“ I”) said that over the years). This week’s totally unreliable prediction therefore is for a high scoring win – possibly a not as close as it sounds 3-2 to us. Off to the bookies with you and bet on any other result you like!

Enjoy the game!

When last we met: : Considering we have rarely been in the same division in recent years we seem to play them a lot in the Cup. Back in January we prevailed 2-0 in the 3rd round with a goal on the half hour from Jonathon Spector (who couldn’t stop scoring for those few weeks) and a late late one from Freddie Piquionne, which, I am informed, was his last goal at the Boleyn Ground.

Danger man: Ricardo Vaz Te – Currently their in form striker of choice.

Referee: Scott Mathieson Last seen by us handling our win up at Doncaster. I can’t recall anything about him from that match, which is, of course, a good thing.

Daft fact of the week: Former tv chatshow host Michael Parkinson is, apparently, a Barnsley fan. He rarely brings the matter up in conversation though, preferring to reminisce about his encounter with Rod Hull & Emu. New Wave Of British Heavy Metal outfit Saxon also hail from Barnsley. Their version of the Christopher Cross AOR hit “Ride Like The Wind” is surely one of the strangest choices of cover version since Val Doonican’s decision to release his version of the Dead Kennedys’ “Too Drunk To ****”. Or did I dream that after those ten slices of stilton?

Stat man John: Northcutt's corner

Head-to-head

Played 53: West Ham wins 30, Barnsley wins 9, Drawn 14.
League Record: West Ham wins 24, Barnsley wins 7, Drawn 13.

Biggest Win/Defeat

January 1998: West Ham Utd 6 Barnsley 0 (FA Premiership)
September 1919: Barnsley 7 West Ham Utd 0 (Division 2)

They played for both

David Speedie, Anton Otulakowski, William Johnson, Grant McCann and Kyel Reid. Our Development Squad manager, Ian Hendon, played briefly for Barnsley in 1992.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







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