Filed: Saturday, 8th December 2012
By: Preview Percy
Next we play host to Liverpool FC on Sunday when kick-off at the Boleyn is 4pm to accommodate the needs of digital satellite broadcasting type stuff.
Travel news is that the Eastern extremity of the DLR between Canning Town & Beckton and the Overground Barking-Gospel Oak lines both have engineering works with replacement bus services in place. Plus, if earlier this week is anything to go by, the various train companies seem unable to cope with the fact that the temperature dropped a little in December so keep an eye on the internet.
Liverpool. Not best keen on the place myself. Despite their continual claims to having a “great sense of humour”, make the slightest joke at their expense and see how much they laugh. Here at the Avram Grant Home For The Bewildered we have a thriving debating society and, during our discourse on Scottish independence I once suggested that we could donate Liverpool to the sweaties as a going away present. Well you should have heard the bitter and angry protests that ensued. Mostly from Scotland admittedly.
The visitors this weekend currently lie in 11th place with 19 points from 15 games. That’s three places and two points behind us at present. That’s an improvement on a wretched start to the season which hilariously saw them flirting with the relegation zone. Their last 6 in the league have seen them win two (3-0 at home to Wigan and last week’s 1-0 home victory over Southampton), Drawn three (1-1 with Chelsea away and Newcastle at home, and 0-0 at Swansea) and lost just the once 2-1 at Spurs who were hanging on for grim life at the end. On the road they’ve struggled of late, their sole victory coming at Norwich where they trounced the Canaries 5-2 way back in September.
They’ve suffered many indignities this season, not least the extended advert for the American market that constituted the Fox TV documentary that was broadcast a while back. The project may or may not have served its purpose across the pond in raising the club’s profile amongst the septics, but over here it proved to be a bit of an embarrassment. The low point of the programme was the infamous Brendan Rodgers “I have three envelopes containing the names of three players that I know will let us down this season” speech. It’s a shame that none of the assembled squad were up on their football history – I mean how funny would it have been for one of them to stand up and ask “do you mean like Alex Ferguson boss? Only I’m pretty sure that the envelopes were empty when he did that trick 20 years ago”.
Rodgers arrived from Swansea in the summer after the club had held talks with Wigan about bringing in Martinez. Whelan stuck a silly price on the manager’s head as an opening gambit which failed spectacularly when Liverpool declined to haggle and went back to plan A which had been Rodgers all along. Rodgers first task was to sort out the striker situation, a task already in progress by the rather obvious tapping up of Clint Dempsey that was taking place. Liverpool’s record over transfers over the years has been pretty appalling by any standards and the strange reluctance by the authorities to apply the rules has merely served to encourage them. However, even by their standards, the release of an online announcement that they’d signed Dempsey before they’d even asked Fulham to talk to the player was a bit much.
Fulham to their credit stood firm and flogged the player to Spurs, stopping only to report Liverpool to the authorities on the way. The investigation is ongoing I believe.
This left Rodgers with a problem since, not being enamoured of Andy Carroll he’d allow the player to better himself, at least temporarily, by letting him go to a better club on loan. This left the Anfield mob with only one proper striker in the form of talented cheat Luis Suarez.
Now Suarez, it cannot be denied, has skill and talent coming out of his ears and the reliance that Liverpool have placed on him this year is reflected in the fact that, up to a few weeks ago, without Suarez’s contribution to the goals for column, Liverpool would have been bottom with two points. The last few matches have put a dent in that stat but it’s still the case that he has been mainly the one responsible for dragging them out of the drop zone. It’s also a fact that, despite the usual whining from Anfield that he’s been hard done by from referees, he’s an outrageous diver. He’ll be missing this weekend through suspension having picked up his 5th booking of the season – a deliberate handball in an attempt to score against Southampton last week - so it’ll be interesting to see how much they cope without his influence.
They won’t be short of players willing to tumble of course. Steve Gerrard has, by and large, gotten away with murder in that respect over the years, presumably on the grounds that he is English. The TV companies have something of a love affair with “Stevie G” as evidenced by some of the commentary in the England v Italy match in Euro 2012. You’d have been forgiven for thinking that he’d been solely responsible for keeping England in the tournament rather than, as was actually the case, watching the Italians knock the ball about like the rest of us. The funniest bit of commentary came as another Italian chance went begging: “Gerrard did just enough to put him off there” came the announcement as the replay showed Gerrard arriving on the scene a full two seconds after his opponent had shot wide.
Gerrard is also this week’s Crimewatch award winner for his services to various Liverpool “faces” to whom he still allegedly owes the odd favour. There have been all sorts of rumours regarding his private life over the years. Some laughably inaccurate others less so. Suffice to say that Shrove Tuesday probably isn’t the most celebrated day chez Gerrard.
Apart from Suarez during those rare moments when he stays on his feet, the main bright spot of their season so far has been the emergence of Raheem Sterling. He’s quite an exciting player blessed with pace and skill and recently gained his first full international cap for England in the recent friendly in Sweden. Sterling started off in the QPR youth system before being poached by Liverpool. Jamaican born and brought up in Wembley, he threw himself into the scouse way of life by becoming a father to two kids by two different women, the kids being born ten days apart.
By the time you read this Sterling will have turned 18 which means that he will be able to sign a long-term contract. Quite where they are with the contract at present depends who you listen to. Rodgers has stated publicly that he reckons Sterling would be foolish not to sign a new deal, whilst at one stage Sterling was moaning that he hadn’t been offered anything to sign. Sterling’s current deal is said to expire at the end of next season so the negotiations are going to be interesting. It has been claimed that the Salford mob have already made an initial enquiry despite the fact that Liverpool would probably rather go out of business than sell a decent player in that direction. The other lot in Manchester are also said to be interested.
This all means that there is a bit of a balancing act to be done. Liverpool will be reluctant to pay superstar wages to a kid whilst having to consider that the player might be able to leave sooner rather than later for a knock-down fee if things are not resolved. On the other hand, Sterling’s advisors will, of course, be looking for a bumper pay rise to reflect his increased standing in the game and the fact that he already has two lots of child maintenance to pay. For what it’s worth I reckon he’ll stay – for the time being. However, such is the paucity of playing resources at Anfield these days the player is virtually a fixture in the team already and, whilst no doubt he wants to play every game, one cannot but muse as to whether it would be better for him in the long run to be nursmaided a bit.
Of course Stirling’s attaining of the age of majority also means that he will now be able to visit public houses without let or hindrance. How true the story is I’m not sure but the legend has it that he was recently asked to leave a branch of Aussie chain “Walkabout” on the grounds that he was under 18. It seems that he was grassed-up by some eagle eyed Everton fans who were worried that the presence of a Liverpool player was lowering the tone of the establishment (if that’s possible in a Walkabout, in Liverpool). Just to make things nice and legal the Toffees fans are said to have confirmed the player’s age with reference to the internet on their mobile phones. Whilst it wouldn’t have actually been illegal for the player – who was said to have been knocking back only soft drinks - to have been in the pub, his presence did apparently contravene the pub chain’s admissions policy. Amazing. Who knew Walkabout had an admissions policy?
Stewart Downing. Never understood the point myself. Even when people were lauding him as the next best thing at Boro’ there seemed to be a distinct averageness about the player. It seems that Rodgers is of similar opinion as reports suggest that he’ll be on his way come the next window as the club attempts to free up funds for a striker. In the meantime Rodgers has been deploying him at left-back from time to time but he’s more likely to be on the bench.
There are two ex-Hammers in the first team squad. It fair breaks the heart to see Joe Cole struggling. From playing for a club that pretty much told him to do what he liked on the pitch he’s ended up at a succession of places that have endeavoured to fit him into some kind of “system”, which kinda defeated the point really. He didn’t feature in the 18 for last week’s Southampton match and was only an unused sub in the Europa League match against Udinese on Thursday which suggests that we’re unlikely to see much of him this weekend.
Unlike Glen Johnson. Johnson already has one of our coveted Crimewatch awards for nicking a toilet seat from B&Q a few years back, presumably as the result of a bet and was, indirectly, responsible for saving our bacon when Abrahamovic’s millions arrived. He signed a new deal in 2011 but nobody seems too keen to reveal how long the extension is for, lest vultures start to circle round – though he’s been around for years he’s still only 28. He scored against us at Anfield as we rolled over for them up there last time and was the scorer of their goal when we turned them over 3-1 in February 2011 at the Boleyn.
The absence of Suarez leaves them a bit short in the striking dept. and it’s been suggested that Jonjo Shelvey will be pushed forward in his absence. Shelvey is from Romford originally and started off at Arsenal with their kids. Then he moved to our own Academy set up where his Dad was a coach and his brother was already amongst the ranks. There was some sort of disagreement with the club as to how the other Shelvey sibling was being treated, so both upped sticks to south of the river, ending up at Charlton. He also possesses one of the beakiest noses in football (you don’t get stuff like this in the BBC preview) so may have a problem keeping onside.
Us? Well last week was interesting wasn’t it. As poor as we were in the first half the second half was a different kettle of fish altogether, and it’ll be that performance we’ll be looking to emulate this weekend. Much as I rate Tomkins as a central defender, the difference in performances between the two halves showed once and for all that he’s not a midfielder. And how pleasing was it to see a manager make sensible substitutions to rectify the position? That’s been something a rarity at the Boleyn over the years, where substitutions often appeared to have been made on the basis that the player had played his subs so was due a runout.
On the injury front Yossi might come into contention to face the team that poached him all those years ago in another illegal transfer deal. I’m not sure if he would have been fit for last week had the loan rules not precluded his involvement but the week offwill have given him a rest. Linda’s ankle might also have healed up for him to come into contention. The loan rules agaim mean that Carroll wouldn’t have been available for selection anyway, irrespective of his injury so Carlton Cole will be given the chance to continue up front. All in all I’d expect, nay hope to see us start with the XI that started the second half last weekend assuming all are fit.
We were guilty of giving our opponents far too much respect in the first 45 last weekend. It’s hard to see the manager allowing the players to make the same mistake again, even if Liverpool were anything to write home about. Although without Suarez they aren’t half the team, they still have the odd player capable of causing problems, and Agger will be a threat from set pieces. However, the confidence boost from last week will stand for a hellova lot in this one so I’ll be sending the Avram Grant Rest Home For The Bewildered’s collection towards Raheem Sterling’s child maintenance (£2.50) along to the Ray Winstone turf accountancy office with the instruction that the wager be for us to win 2-1.
Enjoy the game!
When last we met (at the Boleyn): Won 3-1. Parker, Ba and Cole gave us all three points – Johnson scored for the visitors. Suarez dived a lot. So did Gerrard. Jem had a nightmare interview with Martin Allen at half-time. Funny old day all round really.
Referee: Lee Probert. Had an absolute stinker on his last visit to the Boleyn for the Southampton, game where he fell for absolutely every con trick in the book. A bit worrying.
Danger Man: Raheem Sterling. Too early for burnout, his pace and skill will cause problems. Daniel Agger will also be a threat from set pieces.
Daft fact of the week: Cilla Black is from Liverpool. I realise she doesn’t mention it much, but the complete lack of talent for anything involving music or comedy, and the fact that she lives in the same part of Berkshire as Jimmy Tarbuck rather gives the game away when you think about it.
Stat man John: Northcutt's corner
Head to Head
Pld 122; West Ham Utd 24, Liverpool 64, Draws 34.
21st February 1914: West Ham Utd 1-1 Liverpool (Boleyn Ground, FA Cup)
27th February 2011: West Ham Utd 3-1 Liverpool (Boleyn Ground, Premier League)
1st September 1930: West Ham Utd 7-0 Liverpool (Boleyn Ground, Division One)
7th April 1984: Liverpool 6-0 West Ham Utd (Anfield, Division One)
1985/86: Ray Stewart (a); 1994/95: Tony Cottee (a); 2005/06: Hayden Mullins (h).
They Played For Both
Craig Bellamy; Yossi Benayoun; David Burrows; Titi Camara; Andy Carroll; Joe Cole; Julian Dicks; Ray Houghton; Don Hutchison; Paul Ince; David James; Glen Johnson; Rob Jones; Paul Konchesky; Javier Mascherano; Mike Marsh; Neil Mellor; Neil Ruddock; Danny Shone; Rigobert Song; Tom Stanley.
The former West Ham United captain George Kay later became manager at Liverpool.
The Classic Match
30th November 1988: West Ham Utd 4-1 Liverpool
Believe it or not, there was once a time when Paul Ince wasn't universally reviled in the east End of London. On a cold winter's night and at the tender age of just 19, the precocious teenager produced the kind of performance that suggested his long-term future may not lay at West Ham, as the-then mighty Liverpool fell to their heaviest defeat since the Second World War. Ince scored the first two of West Ham's four goals on the night - in the 21st and 24th minute - as the visitors were simply brushed aside. An own goal from Steve Staunton and one from Tony Gale sent the Hammers through to the quarter finals where Aston Villa awaited; Liverpool eventually finished runners-up in the league behind Arsenal whilst West Ham were relegated - and John Lyall subsequently dismissed. Ince was to play just once in the second division for West Ham before moving to Manchester United; the less said about that, the better.
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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