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West Ham United v Millwall


Filed: Friday, 3rd February 2012
By: Preview Percy


Preview Percy has given him every chance but his patience has finally snapped. Meanwhile, taking a break from writing angry letters to the head of Channel 4 regarding how poor he thinks the new host of "Countdown" is, he dropped us a few lines about this weekend's visit of Millwall. John Northcutt calmly follows with a few items of statistical interest...

Next up we are at home to Millwall for a 12.30 kick-off on Saturday. For obvious reasons there’ll be no tickets available for purchase on the day and with all the added security I’d allow yourself a decent amount of time if you have pre-purchased tickets to collect. Trains and tubes in the area are engineering work-free, though if your usual journey involves the Victoria Line you may need to check for alternatives. Those of you with a flying saucer strapped to your houses (or, for our visitors, caravans) can pick up the match on Sky.

Our opponents arrive at the Boleyn on the edge of a spot of bother. They currently lie 4th from bottom albeit five points clear of Doncaster and Forest who are the teams immediately below them. They are also a further two clear of bottom-placed Coventry. So, whilst the position isn't great there is at least a bit of a cushion there at the moment.

Current form over the last six has been mixed. They've won two and lost four in the league. The wins came at home to Pompey on Boxing Day (1-0) and at Barnsley a couple of weeks ago (3-1). The defeats came at home to Palace (0-1), away at Bristol City (0-1 courtesy of a Nicky Maynard effort), at home to Birmingham (0-6) and at home to Watford the other night (0-2). Such results suggest a lack of consistency – prior to the Boxing Day victory you have to go back nearly a month to the 3-2 win over Doncaster to find the next three pointer, and prior to that there's a further three weeks before you find their 3-0 defeat of Coventry.

The man in the hot seat is former Watford journeyman defender/midfielder Kenny Jackett. In getting the work experience kid onto the research for this I was surprised to note that Jackett's playing career was ended by injury at the age of 28 – he was one of those players that seemed to be around for years. However, in 1990 a dodgy knee saw him moved from the playing staff at Watford – his only club – on to the coaching staff. He spent a year or so as manager though that didn't exactly work out for him and he returned to the background working under Graham “Turnip” Taylor. Gianluca Vialli decided he was surplus to requirements in 2001 whereupon he joined Ian Holloway's set-up at QPR, though how much of a word he was able to get in edgeways isn't recorded. He then spent a few years at Swansea (Jackett is of Welsh extraction and won over 30 caps for the Taffies) before spending six months as assistant manager at Man City. Whether or not he regrets leaving for the Den only a few months before the really big petrodollars arrived one can only speculate – if nothing else the payoff had they got rid of him would have probably set him up for life. However, arrive he did at Bermondsey where lucky white heather rather than daffodils are the foliage of choice. After one failed attempt at the playoffs (v Scunthorpe) it was second time lucky as they beat pre-Paolo Swindon 1-0 to gain promotion to the Championship. Last season he guided them to a creditable 9th.

The usual 'keeper David Forde is an ex-Hammer albeit one of those who didn't trouble the first team shirt printers during his spell at the Boleyn between 2002-2004 when his opportunities were limited by others. It's been a similar story at international level where he has but a handful of appearances to his name.

In defence Aussie Shane Lowry was signed for an undisclosed fee last week from Aston Villa. He'd been on Villa's books since 2009 without making a first XI league appearance, though he did feature in the Europa League. The Villains farmed him out to Plymouth, Leeds (who he helped promote), Sheffield United (who he helped relegate) and latterly Millwall, who he originally joined on loan in November. Originally declaring himself to be Irish and capped as such at U17 & U19 level, the Perth (the convict one rather than the sweaty one) born defender decided he was an Aussie after all and now features in the Socceroos full squad.

Another window arrival was striker Andy Keogh. Dubliner Keogh was well down the pecking order at Wolves having spent most of the past couple of years on loan with spells at Cardiff, Bristol City and Leeds under his belt. Millwall secured his services, again for an undisclosed fee, on deadline day.

Their top scorer by a long chalk is Darius Henderson. Henderson signed in the summer from Sheffield United whose relegation (I still enjoy saying that) meant that they couldn't afford his wages. He's netted 16 times in 23 matches which is a decent return by any standards. The next top scorers are Jay Simpson (at time of writing back with parent club Arsenal) and Liam Trotter (who ought to be a local boy but isn’t) both of whom have four to their name.

Against Watford they started with an 18 year-old, Harry Kane, up front alongside Henderson, though he was replaced after less than an hour. Kane arrived on loan from Spurs with 20 year-old midfielder Ryan Nelson at the start of the window, both deals lasting until the end of the season. Of the two, Kane has made the larger number of appearances, appearing in four league and three FA Cup matches since his arrival. Both of his two goals thus far came in the 5-0 Cup defeat of Dagenham & Redbridge, a match in which Henderson picked up a hat-trick.

Mason has been struggling with a groin problem and missed the Watford defeat as did Skipper Paul Robinson with a thigh strain. Robinson is rated as “50-50” for the match by Jackett, though presumably they'll be pulling out all the stops to get him fit for the cameras.

And so to us and a few words about Tuesday's disaster. It was coming. It could easily have happened against Forest where some smarter finishing could have seen us go 3-0 down before we had our first chance. Sadly the warning wasn't heeded. Those of us lucky enough to have the manager personally email us each week after each match were told “We'll work out what went wrong and put it right”. Well what went wrong was that, as we have been doing all season, we went into a match with a plan to nullify the opposition rather than have them worry about us. The fact that we've won games using such tactics has served as justification when it ought to have been seen as papering over the cracks. In short, the time for “working out what went wrong” was straight after the Forest match. Had we done so then rather than being distracted by the three points we got away with maybe Tuesday wouldn't have happened.

With the stitches in Noble’s mouth from Tuesday expected to heal nicely as long as he lays off the Salt & Vinegar crisps for a day or two (wince), with the exception of Diop (Hamstring) we should have a full squad to select from. We will therefore be looking to the new signings to give us a much needed boost. It seems strange that three attacking players should arrive on a day when the defence had such a 'mare but it should be remembered that goals from open play have been something of a rarity in recent weeks. Piquionne & Carew have impressed nobody for ages – least of all the manager apparently - whilst Cole has never been effective when played on his own up front. Baldock also seems out of sorts, though one suspects that his match fitness might improve were he given more starts rather than being sacrificed to the bench at the altar of 4-5-1 every other week.

Whether or not any of the new signings make the starting line-up so soon after joining the club will be interesting. The manager’s comments regarding Morrison’s fitness levels suggest that we’re less likely to see him than the other two but I'd be tempted to try Maynard and Baldock together as a starting partnership. That is, of course, assuming that we're willing to try this wacky experiment of playing with two strikers together. If nothing else Maynard has the evil eye over this weekend's opponents having netted a double in Bristol City's 2-1 win at the Den in November, also getting the 1-0 win in the return fixture at Ashton Gate last month.

Vaz Te? Well obviously all those Tevez rumours that everyone's distant relatives assured us were “nailed on” failed to factor dyslexia into the mix. I'm struggling to get excited about his signing but, let's face it, it wouldn't be a proper transfer window without the manager picking up one of his ex-Bolton charges would it. Barnsley resurrected a career that seemed to be going nowhere fast and, whilst Keith Hill's parting comments understandably contained a large element of “churl” I do wonder whether we will see the best of the player.

Ravel Morrison's arrival also attracted a lot of comment, as much, if not more, relating to his off the pitch character as to his undoubted talent. Had the player been older I'd have been doing my nut in the same way as I did when the manager threatened to sign El Haj Diouf. The fact that I remained calm this time is testament to the increased sedative doses they give us here at the Avram Grant Rest Home For The Bewildered every deadline day. Also, unlike the loathesome Diouf, Morrison has at least the excuse of the foolishness of youth to fall back on, meaning that (unlike Diouf) he might grow up. I'm not sure moving to Newcastle (as was proposed at one stage) would have been a great move for the lad – that particular city is even more of a goldfish bowl than Manchester though the cynical side of me (which is most of me) struggles with the idea that the player's “advisors” had much in the way of altruism in recommending London as a destination. Time will tell.

Prediction? Well in a bizarre way the Ipswich defeat might just have sent the appropriate message just at the right time. As mentioned we palpably learned nothing from the Forest match so hopefully the penny will have dropped that if you set out to attack your opponents it increases your chances of scoring against them as opposed to sitting there and inviting them to score. I'd be more worried had we been outplayed by Ipswich and somehow scraped a draw with all the “respect the point” twaddle that would have ensued. I believe you youngsters call it a “reality check”. I'll therefore go for a 3-1 backlash in our favour as we finally cotton on to the fact that going for the win is the best way of avoiding defeat.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met: Drew 0-0 A poor game enlivened by Lansbury's audacious long distance effort from the kick-off as 'keeper Forde was messing about with the goal net. Bentley missed a late sitter. The best thing about the whole weekend was the fact that I went on a very pleasant holiday after the match.

Referee: Mike Jones The fact that he is still involved in the game in any shape or form after his showing in last season's FA Cup Quarter Final tells you everything about the contempt that the football authorities have for the paying public. After having his ear bent by the home manager at the Britannia he spent the rest of the match trying to even things up with a string of decisions that, in my opinion, were nothing short of dishonest.

Of course in suggesting that the referee's performance might not have been up to scratch Avram Grant found himself £20,000 worse off, the authorities thus achieving the near impossible feat of making us feel sorry for Grant.

To summarise, they've given a high profile match requiring intelligence, honesty and integrity to an official noted for lacking any such qualities. Nice one.

Danger Man: Darius Henderson Top scorer and in a spot of form.

Daft fact of the week: The film “Green Street” was dire enough. However the sequel makes the original look like Citizen Kane. Imagine the scenario: You run a prison that is overcrowded and you have instructions to reduce the prison population. Do you:

a) go through the files and release only those whose behaviour bodes well for a release back into society; or

b) decide that some releases can be decided on the result of a football match between West Ham & Millwall supporting inmates.

Clue: The answer is so stupid that even Spurs supporters would find the required suspension of disbelief too much to handle. Probably.


Stat man John: Northcutt's corner

Friendlies

Jan 1949 H 1-1 Woodgate
Oct 1955 A 4-2 Dare 2 Hooper Moore
May 1972 A 5-3 Hurst 2 Robson Tyler O.G
Dec 1974 A 4-3 A Taylor 2 Brooking Robson

Sent Off

Steve Bywater Away 2003-04
Marlon Harewood Away 2004-05

They Played For Both

Clive Allen, Paul Allen, Charlie Ambler, Joe Blythe, Albert Carnelly,Tony Cottee, Harry Cripps, Brian Dear, Charlie Dove, Benny Fenton, Joe Hart, Tommy Inns, Dave Mangnall, Tommy Moore, Frank Neary, Lucas Neill, Harry Obeney, Anton Otulakowski, Graham Paddon, Teddy Sheringham, Fred Shreeve, Jim Standen, Mauricio Taricco

Former player Billy Bonds was the Millwall manager in 1997-98 and our current manager Sam Allardyce played for Millwall between 1981 and 1983.


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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