Text  Larger | Smaller | Default


West Ham United v Stoke City

Filed: Friday, 30th August 2013
By: Preview Percy

We've kept Preview Percy busy this week. Well it stops him from going out and breaking all those restraining orders. Here's his look at this weekend's opponents Stoke City....

Next we entertain Stoke City at the Boleyn – 3pm kick-off on a Saturday. Excellent.

I have a major shock for you all at this point. Are you sitting down? Put that cuppa down. Seriously. Ready? Ok here goes: There are no engineering works on the District Line this weekend. I know, incredible isn’t it? The last time that happened Arsenal had won a trophy – I think it was the Inter Cities Fairs Cup.

Our visitors this weekend come having replaced the manager during the close season. Tony Pulis had spent most of his career at the Britannia openly boasting of how he spent training sessions coaching his players in how to break the laws of the game. Quite how he escaped a disrepute charge for tis is a mystery. Actually it isn’t – the FA are in charge of disciplinary matters so nobody should have been in the least bit surprised.

Towards the end of last season their form was a bit patchy and the stirrings of fans’ unrest were there – at our 1-0 win at their place there was a "Pulis Out" banner on display for example.

Pulis is supposed to have turned up for a meeting at the end of last season with a big dossier over his vision for the view of the club’s future. Chairman Peter Coates, possibly worried by a whole generation of Academy players being taught how to dive, punch and kick, decided that it was time for a change in footballing direction and, although the official announcement stated that the parting of the ways was “by mutual agreement” few bought that particular euphemism.

Pulis’s replacement was Mark Hughes who had a few issues to sort out. Someone had left a pig’s head in Kenwyne Jones’ locker, something that resulted in Jones putting a brick through the car window of team-mate Glenn Whelan. This event was dismissed by Pulis as some sort of light-hearted high spirits, though given that it costs a few thousand to replace a sidelight on the average footballer’s car, lord knows how much it cost to replace a whole window. I somehow doubt that that Brummie bloke from the ads would have been able to repair it with his “special resin” anyway.

There were other disciplinary issues to be dealt with. Striker Camerone Jerome found himself a cool £50k lighter in the wallet having infringed betting rules – though everyone was keen to point out that the offence involved neither match-fixing nor any matches in which the player or Stoke had had any involvement. So that’s alright then. Jerome was highly critical of his former boss, by the way, suggesting that he had a favourite clique of players that were guaranteed a place irrespective of form.

Usually a new manager gets busy in the transfer market. However, with the transfer window about to close, their official site lists only three arrivals. And one of those is hardly a “new” signing, what with it being a re-signing of Jermaine Pennant. Pennant looked to be on his way from the Potteries having fallen out of favour during the latter part of last term. He spent a spell on loan at Wolves but failed to make any impression, other than to become the target of the boo-boys. On his return to the Britannia he was left on the sidelines and, since his contract expired at the close of the season, it looked like tag boy was on his way. However, the player was subsequently offered a one year deal and his name now sits proudly at the head of the list of new signings on their official site. Pennant’s chequered personal life has been covered in these columns before – my favourite story is the one about him getting a phone call from the bloke in charge of the car park at Zaragosa Railway Station asking him if he was thinking about picking up that Porsche Turbo he’d left there several months back. “Ah – so that’s where I left it”. Easily done I suppose.

The biggest outlay so far this summer was the €3.6m (no idea but it doesn’t sound much even if I knew what the exchange rate was) spent on left-back Erik Pieters, who arrived from PSV Eindhoven. Pieters was first choice left back for the Dutch national side for much of the past couple of years, though he did miss out on Euro 2012 due to a foot injury. In one of his final games for PSV he came on as sub and was involved in a defensive mix-up with the splendidly-named ‘keeper Boy Waterman which let in Ajax for what turned out to be the winner. Ajax went on to win the title and there are some that say that Pieters’ subsequent move to the Britannia was some form of punishment for his role in handing the Amsterdam side the title, although the player was quick to come out with the standard speech beloved of foreign players coming to these shores: “I have always wanted to play in the Premier League”.

Another who has “always wanted to play in the Premier League” is central defender Marc Munisea. Munisea arrived on a free from Barcelona, signing a four year deal in the process. The 21 year old was part of the squad that won the Euro U21 tournament this summer – though his pitch time was limited to a ten minute cameo at the end of the 3-0 victory in the final group match against the Dutch when qualification for the semi finals had already been assured.. His “full” international career to date consists of a solitary cap for the Catalonian “national” side. This is something of an anomaly in world football as, although there is a Catalonian FA it is neither a member of UEFA or FIFA so their matches are sort of only semi-officially recognised. Gibraltar’s recent election to full membership of UEFA and FIFA must have gone down well then.

Munisea was an unused sub in the 1-0 defeat at Anfield which opened their season with Huth and Shawcross preferred as the central partnership. Clearly the transition to total football is going to be a gradual one. They followed up that defeat with a home win against Palace – something I suspect may not be the last for them on the road. They then entertained Walsall in the League Cup coming out 3-1 winners, a slightly flattering result which came courtesy of a Kenwyne Jones hat-trick.

With the retirement of Michael Owen (who we all thought had knocked it on the head years ago), forward duties in the league have been entrusted to Peter Crouch and the somewhat hapless Jonathan Waters. Waters, you will recall, had the ultimate nightmare against Chelsea back in January, managing to score two own goals and miss a penalty all in the one match. He missed another penalty a few weeks later but, strangely, Stoke persisted with him as their spot-kick man into the current season. With only a couple of minutes left on the clock at Liverpool Agger’s, handball gave Stoke a lifeline which they handed to Walters, who promptly saw his poor kick saved by Mignolet. I wouldn’t have thought we’d be lucky enough to see Walters taking any spot kicks against us should they get one.

Our turn now. The Cheltenham match taught us little to be honest. I’d have thought that we already knew that Ravel Morrison has the potential to be a hell of a player. It’s always nice to see Academy youngsters get a run out and Chambers can be happy with his night’s work after a slightly nervy start, though I’d say he’s still a while away from a challenge for a regular place. Collison disappointed me though. He hasn’t featured in the league this season and did little to suggest that he should be pushing for more regular appearances, which is a shame as we all know that he’s a good player on his day.

We will obviously revert back to a “first team” line up for this one. Andy Carroll is still not ready – the international break trip to Barcelona where those not on national service will be playing Espanyol in a friendly should see him see some pitch time with a view to seeing him turn out at some point during the Southampton game. So expect to see returns for the likes of JJ, Reid, Ginge, Noble, Nolan, Jarvis etc. I suspect that Joey O’B might get the nod over Roland as well. At time of writing the elusive new striker signing seems as far away as ever with the deal to sign this Roger Ramjet character seemingly now dead in the water.

Prediction time. As mentioned the continued reliance on a central defensive partnership comprised of the far from Messi-like pairing of Huth and Shawcross does suggest that if the leopard is changing its spots, it’s not going to happen overnight. This would be the sort of battle that Carroll would relish. Maiga is a different sort of player so if we’re to get the best out of him it’ll be vital that we get play to his strengths and allow him to get amongst the defence on the deck.

Having said that, it’s not been the greatest of starts for them – Liverpool ought to have been out of sight well before Walters’ penalty faux pas and, let’s face it, they’re not going to be the last team to beat Palace at home this season are they? So I’m going to place the AGORHFTB fund to send Catherine Zeta Jones the fare to come and visit me (£2.50) – I believe that she’s rather partial to older gentlemen and finds herself a t a loose end at the moment – on a home win. I’ll plump for a battling 2-1 to us on this occasion.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn Drew 1-1 November 2012
Walters scored from a corner where most observers noted at least three fouls by Stoke players blocking off potential challenges to the penalty kid. Joey O’B steered home a second half equaliser that was probably the least we deserved.

Referee: Jon Moss. Took charge of the reverse fixture last season and remained resolute in the face of some of the worst dives seen outside Anfield. The only blot on his copybook that day was his refusal to get the yellow card out for such transgressions. Still not to be confused with the “I’m sorry but they were no good then and I’m not accepting irony as an excuse now” crap 80’s pop band drummer from Culture Club.

Danger Man: Ryan Shawcross – I use the word “danger” in its literal sense here – has a history of hospitalising opponents. His selection for an England squad is possibly the only time I’ve ever thought Carragher actually have been worth a call up.

Daft Fact Of The Week: The Captain of the Titanic Edward Smith, came from Stoke. With a captain from Stoke and its Port of Registry being Liverpool it’s little wonder that the ship ended up taking a dive, resulting in the demise of over 1,500 souls and the creation of a film so gobsmackingly awful it made Plan 9 From Outer Space look like Citizen Kane. Had he been around Walters would probably have missed the resulting penalty as well.

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.

Your Comments

comments powered by Disqus