Filed: Friday, 21st December 2012
By: Preview Percy
Next up we have Everton who visit the Boleyn for a 3pm kick-off on Saturday. Unless of course certain predictions in the Mayan calendar turn out to be true. In which case kick-off might be delayed a bit. TfL have declared a Christmas truce on engineering works on the tube so apart from a few bits of the DLR here and there your journey by tube should be plain sailing.
The less arrogant half of Merseyside arrive in unusual circumstances. Over the past few years it has been the tradition for them to start the season slowly before picking up points and moving up the table. This season, however, they have reversed their usual policy and have started well. Following Arsenal’s win on Monday night, they currently lie in sixth spot with 27 points from 17 games. That’s four points and five places above us as things stand.
Recent form has been a bit mixed, admittedly. They’ve won just the one of their last six – a highly amusing 2-1 victory over Tottenham in a match in which they were 1-0 down as the clock turned 90. They’ve only lost the one in that period, a 2-1 reverse at Reading in mid-November. The rest, you will have worked out, ended up in draws. All of these ended up 1-1, the opponents being Norwich and Arsenal at home and Man City and Stoke away.
The Stoke away fixture provided much to talk about, with the Belgian Marouane Fellaini garnering most of the headlines over his contretemps with Ryan Shawcross. I do have a tiniest thread of sympathy for Fellaini, given that his opponents last weekend constantly and openly flout both the laws and the spirit of the game. There can be few outside the Potteries who haven’t wanted to exact some sort of retribution on the likes of Shawcross and Huth so one can understand the loss of discipline if not actually going so far as to condone it.
It was quite refreshing also to hear David Moyes’ comments on the subject. Most managers asked about such an incident would either fudge the question (“I’m not going to comment on that – we’ll deal with that internally”) or, if you’re Arsene Wenger, just lie (I didn’t see the incident that you have video of me looking straight at”). So Moyes’ comments that such actions are unacceptable and that he had told the player so are a welcome change from the usual rubbish.
I feel less impressed by the “apology” attributed to Fellaini himself mind – that had all the hallmarks of “it’s a fair cop guv” being released in the hope that any retrospective action taken by the authorities might somehow be mitigated by such a plea. As it happens, the three match ban that will keep him out of this match is the minimum that he might have expected.
Looking at those who will be playing, Tim Howard will be their custodian of the onion bag. Howard originally arrived from Man Utd on loan – and, although the rules back then allowed players to play against their parent cubs, Man Utd enforced a so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” to ensure their employee didn’t play against them. His replacement had a poor game, which Man Utd won.
Once the Premier League’s kangaroo court had fined us for transgressing the rules on third party influence it was pointed out that the Howard arrangement was an actual (rather than theoretical) breach of the same rules. Rather than hit Man Utd with the same punishment the authorities came up with a “gentlemen’s agreements don’t count” fudge, which meant that they didn’t have to consider awarding the title to runners-up Chelsea. They quickly followed this up with an amendment to the rules to prevent them being caught in the embarrassing position of having to punish Man Utd again.
Howard famously suffers from Tourette’s syndrome. Popular mythology would have us believe that Tourette’s sufferers pepper every conversation with expletives though the truth is that happens in only the more extreme of cases. Arse. Howard scored with a wind-assisted clearance against Bolton last season though he refused to celebrate out of sympathy for Bogdan, his opposite number. Not over the goal, more over the brightly red-haired ‘keeper being forced to wear a pink shirt.
Left back Leighton Baines is one who is having a fine season. He’s unlucky to not have more caps for his country, often being behind Ashley Cole in the pecking order, Cole’s selection often being made out of habit than for any logical reason involving form. The usual skipper is Phil Neville but he’s got an injured fetlock or something that he picked up in the defeat to Reading so those of you working on some sort of taunt involving the fact that he’s not as good as his not-particularly-talented brother can put your biros away.
This week we are able to combine the usual Crimewatch award with the “ex-Hammer” slot. Herr Thomas Hitzlsperger looked to be a promising signing at the start of our last relegation season. He even came with a readymade nickname of “Der Hammer”. However, his understandable desire to throw himself into West Ham United culture meant that he became the 4,763rd player to pick up a serious injury before he’d kicked a ball for us in anger.
By the time he finally got fit he was too late to influence things. For our final game of the relegation season, Kevin Keen’s pitch as caretaker manager for the full job included making Hitzlsperger captain for the Sunderland match, a position that it was implied would be made permanent should Keen get the job. The job went to Mr Allardyce and Der Hammer didn’t stick around long enough to be introduced.
Hitzlsperger’s Crimewatch Award is awarded for the chutzpah shown in mitigation whilst being sentenced for speeding at 107mph on the A14. In a desperate attempt to avoid a ban, the player claimed that, since he was unemployed, he would need to be able to continue to drive in order to find a new club. It seems not to have occurred to anyone that a professional footballer earning many thousands a week might just have enough change down the back of the sofa for a cab.
Or, failing that, that the agent of a professional footballer earning a percentage of many thousands a week might just have their own car in which to give their meal ticket a lift. Hitzlsperger therefore ended up with a £750 fine and six points on his licence. I would be intrigued to find out if anyone else out there is unemployed and escaped a ban in similar circumstances.
Elsewhere in midfield, in one of Roy Hodgson’s stranger moves, midfielder Leon Osman gained his first cap in the recent England friendly in Sweden. A steady performer, one can’t nevertheless help but wonder about the thought process that went into awarding a cap to a 31-year-old who is unlikely to add too many to that total. Still his selection did mean that Mark Noble did avoid injury from a non-competitive match, though I’d wager he’d have preferred to have got his first cap.
With his nine siblings, Osman has had a successful recording career over the years, though he wasn’t the one who wrote the seminal ecology-based anti-pollution anthem “Crazy Horses”. He did, however, come up with that wailing synth sound, following an accident involving an experiment with an elastic band, a nine volt battery and the neighbour’s cat. Strangely, this is an experiment I intend to replicate once I’ve caught up with the Avram Grant Rest Home For The Bewildered spotty work experience Herbert that was responsible for this week’s research.
Top scorer at present is the absent Fellaini who has eight – all in the league. Second on that list is Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic whos six goals thus far have also all come in the league. Jelavic arrived in January from Rangers who tried to spark up a bidding war between ourselves and the Toffeemen.
Our interest in the player cooled when it appeared that Rangers were after £8m for the player whilst the player himself didn’t appear too keen to moderate his salary demands, something that would have been required if he’d come to the Boleyn. In the end Everton shelled out a reported £5m, which was closer to what we wanted to pay, though presumably they were more able to meet the player’s wage demands. Jelavic is what you might call an “uncomplicated” player which means Ginge could be in for a bit of fun.
The other main striker is sweaty Stephen Naismith. Naismith is also an alumnus of Rangers where he played alongside Jelavic for a while. He’s currently involved in a legal battle with those involved in “New Rangers” (a bit like “New Coke” in that it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth). When “Old Rangers” went down the pan the player contracts were transferred to “New Rangers”. However the legal niceties of such a move are subject to question. The player maintains that the descent into insolvency of “Old Rangers” meant that the original contract became void, leaving him to be a free agent. “New Rangers” beg to differ.
Gers fans are bitter about the whole affair pointing out that Naismith had spent much of the two years immediately preceding his departure recovering from a serious knee injury so he’s probably more popular at Parkhead than he is in the Ibrox area at the moment. Naismith is also deployed in midfield from time to time and both he and another possible alternative for a striking role, Victor Anichebe, have three for the season thus far.
Anichebe has been used sparingly this season having made just the six appearances of which four were from the bench and he wasn’t about for the Stoke match last week. Though born in Nigeria, for whom he plays at international level, he’s been in Liverpool since the age of one and is a product of the Everton youth system. He probably won’t be looking forward to a reunion with Kevin Nolan.
A frankly disgraceful tackle from our skipper whilst playing for Newcastle in 2009 put Anichebe out of the game for a whole year with a severely damaged cartilage in his right knee. Anichebe’s contract at the time included a whole bunch of stuff that was appearance-based and Newcastle ended up settling out of court with the player for what was a reported six-figure sum for potential loss of earnings. Although Nolan did apologise at the time I think it’s fair to say that it wasn’t the skipper’s finest hour.
Having written all that, I’m now told by the Avram Grant Rest Home for the Bewildered spotty work experience Herbert that Anichebe has a knackered hamstring so at least he’ll be spared the embarrassing handshake moment. His absence means that it would be pointless of me to point out that he is the Everton player to have made the most substitute appearances in the club’s history. So I won’t.
Us? A good point last week under the circumstances I thought. Winston Reid once more was outstanding – a performance that was all the more poignant given the nightmare that was his previous visit to the Hawthorns a few years ago.
Injury news is the same as ever though the appearance of Jack Collison in a Development Squad match during the week suggests that there is a pinprick of light beginning to develop at the end of that particular tunnel. Yossi was last seen hanging around West London, there being no room at our own physio complex though some sources reckon that he may be close to a return to the squad.
We’re looking at a few weeks for Diarra, Carroll and Vaz Te, though Diarra is apparently “in full training” according to Mr Gold on that there twitter thing the other day.That means that the team just about picks itself really – and being at home we should be able to muster a full complement of seven subs, even if one of them has to be a spotty work experience Herbert. In the meantime I reckon Mr Allardyce is far from gutted that the Boxing Day trip to Arsenal is off, giving the players a few more days of recovery.
This will be a tough one. Our record in recent years against Everton at the Boleyn has not been the greatest – though it has to be said that there have been a couple of cases of daylight robbery in that time, where they’ve somehow picked up all three points when even a single point would have flattered them.
They’ve drawn a lot lately, and, in some of those games, they ought to have put the game to bed well before the opposition picked up an equaliser. We have that bare bones thing going on and, whilst the likely eleven starters are decent enough, the bench is going to look thinner than the suspiciously-shaped turkey that they’ll be serving us here at the rest home.
Last week proved (again) that there are guts in our squad and we’ll need those qualities to see us through the holiday period to when we can look forward to possibly seeing the return of one or two players. My instinct therefore is to place the proceeds of the Avram Grant Rest Home For The Bewildered collection to buy the spotty work experience Herbert a tube of acne cream (£2.50) on a wager with Mr Winstone for the match to end up as a 1-1 draw.
Enjoy the game and merry Christmas!
When last we met at the Boleyn: Drew 1-1 (December 2010). An own goal from Hibbert that Upton Girlie still claims belongs to the brass-botherer Kovac was cancelled out by Coleman. Declared open season on Tomkins as a succession of visiting players left the defender flattened on the ground. Our match report notes an inability to beat the first man at corners. We’ve had two years to sort that issue out….
Referee: Anthony Taylor. Last seen handling the 3-0 win over Fulham in August. A relative newcomer to the Select Group he hasn’t yet succumbed to the Dean Syndrome of believing that we’ve all come to watch him.
Danger Man: Nickica Jelavic. There’s a long tradition of players that we were interested in but never signed turning up to bite us on the backside. Here’s another potential member of that club.
Daft Fact Of The Week: The mother of one of KUMB.com's moderators used to work as a waitress in a posh restaurant in Hampshire which was often used by former Everton hero Alan Ball when he was manager at Pompey. The mod’s Mum – who has never really kept up to date with football – was clearing away the coffee cups and asked the diminutive late World Cup winner “do I know you from somewhere?” Ball smiled patiently and informed the waitress that he was a former professional footballer. “That’s it!” exclaimed the waitress “You’re Bobby Charlton!”
Stat man John: Northcutt's corner
Head to Head
Pld 124; West Ham Utd 36, Everton 61, Draws 27.
2nd February 1907: West Ham Utd 1-2 Everton (Boleyn Ground, FA Cup)
22nd January 2011: Everton 2-2 West Ham Utd (Goodison Park, Premier League)
11th February 1961: West Ham Utd 4-0 Everton (Boleyn Ground, Division One)
22nd October 1927: Everton 7-0 West Ham Utd (Goodison Park, Division One)
1982/83 Alvin Martin (h); 1991/92 Tim Breacker (a); 1995/96 Ludek Miklosko (a); 2000/01 Stuart Pearce (h); 2008/09 James Tomkins (a); 2010/11 Freddie Piquionne (a).
They Played For Both
Ray Atteveld; David Burrows; Tony Cottee; Charlie Crossley; David Unsworth; Ian Bishop; Joe Blythe; Mark Ward; Slaven Bilic; Danny Williamson; Lucas Neill; Thomas Hitzlsperger.
The Classic Match: "I'm dreaming of a Frank Lampard"
16th April 1980: West Ham Utd 2-1 Everton
John Lyall's second division side were underdogs in this replayed FA Cup semi final. Goalless after 90 minutes, during which Billy Bonds had been a defensive colossus, the game entered extra time. With both sides visibly flagging after their second highly-charged meeting inside 96 hours mistakes were inevitable and inside four minutes of the restart, Alan Devonshire put West Ham ahead. United were just seven minutes from Wembley when Wright crossed from the right to allow Bob Latchford to score with a diving header at Phil Parkes' near post. A second replay seemed inevitable - that is, until an unlikely hero stepped up with just two minutes to play.
Trevor Brooking's cross to the far side of the penalty box was nodded back into the centre by David Cross and right-back Frank Lampard, only in the team due to Alvin Martin's tonsollitis, dived forwards to head towards goal. Toffee's 'keeper Martin Hodge appeared to have it covered but Lampard's header took a single bounce before crossing the line. Without doubt the most important of the 22 goals he scored during his 674-game career, Lampard raced away towards the far corner flag before dancing a merry and impromptu jig around the corner flag. His celebration spawned a terrace chant - sang to the tune of Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas' - in its honour and Lampard took his place in West Ham folklore as a result. Expect to hear it sung at the Boleyn sometime today.
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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