Filed: Saturday, 15th December 2012
By: Preview Percy
Next we visit The Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion for a 4pm kick-off on Sunday. I can’t see any engineering work is due to take place on any of the normal routes up there but as ever check before you travel.
The Baggies (or “men in ill-fitting trousers” as it was once allegedly translated into Chinese) have enjoyed a fine start to the season having won eight, drawn two and lost six of their 16 matches so far. This leaves them in sixth place on 26 points, four places and four points above us. Current form has been slightly less impressive.
Whilst out of their last six they’ve won three (2-1 away at Wigan, 2-1 at home to Chelsea and 4-2 away at Sunderland) and lost three (3-1 at Swansea, 1-0 at home to Stoke and 2-0 away at Arsenal) the three defeats have come in their last three matches. They haven’t won since November 24th and will therefore be seeking to end the run that continued last weekend thanks to yet another disgraceful display of diving at the Emirates. Assisted it has to be said by yet another substandard performance in the middle from Mike Jones. Incidentally, I am indebted to all 200 of you who chose to share the "now he’s been to Bradford, Corzola knows what a real dive is" text message with me.
The run of defeats has come too late to avoid manager Steve Clarke from picking up the dreaded “Manager of the Month” award (is it still sponsored by Bells Whisky?). Clarke of course is no stranger to us having had the job of assisting Gianfranco Zola in his ultimately unsuccessful spell at the Boleyn, an era that preceded the even less successful Avram Grant era.
Zola and Clarke were unfortunate in that their tenure included the “rudderless ship” period in which the club was owned by those Icelandic chaps who had been charged with sorting out the mess left by the previous Icelandic chaps. This included trying to save banks and effectively sorting out a whole country, so it was possibly quite understandable that they didn’t get themselves overly involved in the running of a football club.
Unfortunately, this situation meant that funding for the club was effectively done on a hand to mouth basis, investment in the team was next to nothing, a situation not helped by the fact that what meagre resources there were got wasted on the likes of Savio. When the current owners came in they were keen to install their own man and, once Zola had been dismissed, Clarke went soon after. After a spell working with Dalglish at Liverpool (presumably as an interpreter) Clarke left to join West Brom, a job that became his first full-blown managerial role.
First choice ‘keeper is Ben Foster who finally abandoned what looked as if it was going to be a whole career on loan from Man Utd when he signed a full proper grown-up contract with the Throstles. Like myself, Foster has made himself “temporarily unavailable” for England selection, citing his desire to prolong his club career by giving himself more recovery time between matches, the idea being that he would avoid niggling injuries.
There is therefore some irony (in the incorrect Alanis Morrissette-type use of that word) in the fact that a recurring groin problem has kept him on the sidelines in recent weeks and the usual sources suggest that a late fitness test will be required to see if he is fit for Sunday. The weirdly-named Boaz Myhill will deputise should Foster not make the cut.
Another on the Late Fitness Test list is defender Liam Ridgewell. Ridgewell is, technically, an ex-Hammer having spent a nominal two years at the Academy. However, he had effectively left the club long before his eventual official move to Villa, with whom he was an FA Youth Cup winner. Maybe it’s the funny accent or something in the water but having moved up to the Midlands he seems pretty settled in the area and his career now involves spells with Villa, Birmingham City and West Brom.
It’s probably fair to say that the local branch of Pickfords doesn’t get any excitement out of transfer speculation when his name is involved and supporters of Wolves and Walsall are probably quietly waiting their turn for him to turn up as his career winds down. Ridgewell recently hit the headlines as photographs of him wiping his backside with £20 notes appeared on the web. The photos were apparently taken 8 months ago but it’s only recently that the good people of the West Midlands took offence, mainly because few people in that part of the world had ever seen a £20 note.
In midfield they will have James Morrison. Morrison, was capped at every age level for England but when it came to full recognition he decided to pledge his allegiance to Scotland having (like many others) discovered the existence of a Scottish grandmother at almost exactly the same time that he realised that his chances of a full England cap were virtually non-existent.
He is usually used on the wing or as an attacking midfielder but reports out of Smethwick suggest that he may be used in a withdrawn role if Argentinian midfielder Claudio Yacob fails to recover from a hamstring injury (another late fitness test case). Meanwhile, Morrison is the only Midlands-based Scottish international footballer to be interred in the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, though the Rugby League careers of Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde are, of course, well-documented.
Up front they will have top scorer (seven goals) Shane Long. Think Kevin Nolan but more irritating. Long was discovered in 2004 by a chap called Pat Dolan who was then manager of Cork City. Dagenham-born Dolan left the Leesiders in 2005 and shortly after Reading signed both Long and Kevin Doyle having allegedly become aware of confidential release clauses in the players’ contracts.
Nobody’s quite sure how Reading might have become aware of such release clauses and we’re sure that the fact that Reading coach (and former Hammer) Eamonn Dolan is Pat Dolan’s twin brother is totally coincidental. Long has a habit of committing those horrible niggly fouls that wind players up almost as much as the full over the ball two-footer so a spot of discipline won’t go amiss this weekend.
Also available up front will be Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku famously refused to hold the Champions League trophy on the grounds that he hadn’t felt involved in winning it, an honourable position to take that obviously didn’t occur to John Terry. In his native Belgium Lukaku was awarded the 2011 “Belgian Ebony Shoe” award, the oddly-named trophy given to the best player in the Belgian League of African descent. Previous winners of the award include Mido, who was most disappointed to discover that the award was a “shoe” rather than a “chew”.
Lukaku is second top scorer to Long having found the net five times this season. However, the fact that 10 of his 14 league appearances have come from the bench suggests that he’s been used as an “impact sub” (as opposed to all those substitutions that are made in the hope that the new player will have no influence on the game at all, I suppose). Lukaku was at one point linked with a move to the Boleyn, but only by a slightly hard of hearing journalist after a good lunch.
Lukaku has been behind Uzbek-Nigerian Peter Odemwingie. Odemwingie arrived a few years back having had horrible racist abuse from supporters at his former club Lokomotiv Moscow, who presumably would rather have someone like John Terry in the team. The Muscovites celebrated Odemwingie’s departure with the same sort of enthusiasm as a Scouser getting a dole cheque. It’s not recorded what punishment UEFA dished out but rumours persist that the Russians were fined three packets of digestives for their actions, a fine which, if confirmed, would still be a record today for a racial offence.
Unusually this week for Crimewatch corner we look to the coaching staff rather than the players for the award recipient – though there is an honourable mention for midfielder Scott Allan who is on loan at Pompey and was questioned by Hampshire plod over his running over of a pedestrian last month. However, Academy coach Mark O’Shea is the clear winner of this week’s award.
O'Shea was arrested back in April after allegations of a sexual nature were made against him. A look at the internet failed to establish how the case had progressed, though those of you who like to make up your own punchlines to this sort of thing will no doubt be chortling over the fact that there is a Mark O’Shea at a local safari park whose main job there appears to be “snake handler”.
Us? One was highly disappointed last week to not get anything out of that one – heck I’d have been slightly miffed with a draw. The turning point was obviously Diame’s injury and he’ll be a big miss for however long it’s going to be. The player himself suggested three weeks but I reckon there was something lost in translation for that one. In Diame and Cole, who was a revelation, we had the two best players on the pitch and neither deserved to be on the losing side.
Hilariously, one thick scouser (tautology I know) pointed to the five minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half as evidence of some sort of FA conspiracy, ignoring the fact that Diame’s injury, the various second half substitutions and the scousers’ habit of going down in fake agony every few seconds during stoppage time all contributed to the added time. Meanwhile if you want a conspiracy involving the most corrupt club in the country you could do worse than look at the authorities’ continued failure to take any action over their transfer activities for which any other club would have been in big trouble by now.
Injury news is not great. Apart from Diame, who joins the long termers Carroll, Vaz Te Collison and Diarra (a name beginning to sound suspiciously like Dyer), we’ll also be without Benayoun whose been sent back to Chelsea to get his knee sorted out, and probably McCartney who, having recovered from a recent ankle problem, has now managed to do his knee in whilst training. Bare bones then.
Now I’m an old codger who whiles away his days here at the Avram Grant Rest Home For the Bewildered going all rheumy-eyed at all the matches that I’ve seen over the years that have elapsed since I first suggested to a 10-year-old Arnold Hills that he might want to think about setting up a football team when he grew up.
Whilst I wouldn’t in anyway profess to be more of an expert than the management, I would say that all the games that I have seen over those years have given me some sort of knowledge about the game and one thing that I’m pretty sure of is this: James Tomkins – fine defender. Not so fine in midfield. Now I don’t see them in training but the Tomkins in midfield experiment is one that I’ve never felt too comfortable with – and I suspect that the player may be of similar opinion so, if we have any left that are fit to play, I’d prefer to see a midfielder in midfield this weekend. If that’s ok.
Prediction? Quite simply I think that this one will end up evens. With that in mind, Mr Winstone will be receiving the contents of the Avram Grant Rest Home Collection to provide Liam Ridgewell with something more suitable with which to wipe his bum (£2.50 and a Liverpool scarf) with a view to the whole darn lot going on a 2-2 draw and hang the consequences!
Enjoy the game!
When last we met at the Hawthorns: Drew 3-3 (February 2011). File this match in the section marked “Bonkers”. Winston Reid had a complete nightmare, conceding an OG and being fortunate to get away with a clear penalty shout as we went 3-0 down. Cole had a goal wrongly chalked off for offside. In the second half full debutant Dember Ba picked up a couple either side of a brave Cole header and both sides failed to take good chances to take all three points. Winston Reid is much better these days.
Referee: Phil Dowd. Notoriously calorifically-challenged official who will need a rest break just after the toss-up. Last seen at the Boleyn hauling his carcass around during the 3-1 home defeat to Arsenal. Hopefully he’s got his breath back by now.
Danger Man: Shane Long. Top scorer and a right horrible little so and so to boot.
Daft Fact Of The Week: The world of science and mathematics continues to be baffled by a phenomenon called “The Hawthorns Paradox”. The average home gate up there is a shade over 25,000 each match. However, apart from Frank Skinner, and the bloke who wrote “New Tricks” and gave all the characters Baggies-related names, statistically speaking West Brom supporters do not actually exist.
You don’t believe me? Ok ask yourself this: Do you, or does anyone you know actually know a West Brom fan? Thought not. It has been postulated that they come from another dimension each week - a theory backed up by the fact that their ground is the highest above sea-level in England which means that they are closer to any wormhole in space that might exist over Smethwick. Or something. (Note to Ed:– can we afford Dr Brian Cox to check this out? Ed’s note: No).
Stat man John: Northcutt's corner
Head to Head
Pld 122; West Ham Utd 35, WBA 37, Draws 19.
13th January 1913: WBA 1-1 West Ham Utd (The Hawthorns, FA Cup)
12th February 2011: WBA 3-3 West Ham Utd (The Hawthorns, Premier League)
16th April 1965: West Ham Utd 6-1 WBA (Boleyn Ground, Division One)
24th October 1925: WBA 7-1 West Ham Utd (The Hawthorns, Division One)
1981/92: Paul Allen (h); 2003/04: Jermain Defoe (h).
They Played For Both
David Cross; Danny Gabbidon; Tommy Green; Bobby Gould; Geoff Hurst; Tudor Martin; Nigel Quashie; Gary Strodder; Frank Nouble; Harry Kinsell.
Steve Clarke, Gianfranco Zola's former number two at West Ham is the current West Brom manager.
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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