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West Ham United v Manchester United

Filed: Saturday, 7th February 2015
By: Preview Percy

A cricketing blacksmith, a shopping channel table lamp, a pitch for an ITV sitcom and some dandruff. Welcome to the strange world of Preview Percy. Warning: article may contain some stuff about this weekend's match against Man Utd. But we wouldn't bank on it.....

Having just got back from Merseyside we next face another of the dodgy brigade as we entertain the child poisoners of Man Utd at the Boleyn this Sunday. Kick-off is 4.15pm. No idea why.

Transport is a bit mixed – there’s no Hammersmith & City line to Upton Park but they’ve extending the Circle Line out to Barking to compensate so you may have to make adjustments to your journey, particularly if you’re coming in from Metropolitan Line. The London Overground is shut between Stratford and Gospel Oak if that forms part of your route. Good job we have an extra day to get there then.

Our visitors arrive somehow in 3rd spot having gleaned 43 points from their 17 games so far. Their last couple of games probably sum up their season to this point. Their 2-0 win at QPR had their supporters moaning throughout the first half – something that continued even after they had been told that they weren’t the team in hoops. Although things improved for them in the second half it was not the most convincing of victories. And then there was Leicester, when apparently they had three shots and three goals.

Elsewhere on this site (the Forum) the boss has a thread up pointing out the favourable treatment that certain clubs get from the officials. I think that thread can easily be closed down now with the words “Case Proven” stamped on it. Can you stamp something on a thread?
Damned if I know, but a photo of Nolan’s disallowed goal up there earlier this season placed next to Van Persie’s “so far offside he was in a different postcode” effort that helped them to defeat Leicester last weekend should remove all doubt on the subject. I don’t suppose you can blame Van Persie – it’s just that he seems to have some sort of camouflage thing going about him that makes him invisible to officials whenever he’s in an offside position. Remember he did it to us at the Boleyn a couple of years back.

They are of course on their third manager in as many years after David Moyes’ departure before the end of last season. Actually, make that four if you count Ryan “Injured for internationals” Giggs (more on that topic later) and his spell as caretaker last season. There were rumours that when Giggs was given the temporary role, each player was asked into the office and ordered to give Giggs their wives’ mobile numbers (“er, we’re updating the next of kin emergency contact list. Honest.).

Currently the incumbent is Dutchman Louis Van Gaal. Sometimes famous people remind you of less famous people. In Van Gaal’s case, years ago when I was evacuated to Hampshire, the local blacksmith was the village cricket team’s opening bowler. Van Gall reminds me of his wife. He (Van Gaal not the blacksmith) currently has a case pending for moaning about the referee in the recent cup tie against Cambridge. Who said satire was dead?!

In common with the rest of the world it seems to have been a quiet transfer window for them. Anyone else find themselves almost feeling sorry for the Sky reporters freezing their bits off outside grounds in the manner of a shopping channel presenter who turns up for work only to discover that they have to talk for 45 minutes about a table lamp? No. me neither. One of the stranger deals of the day saw Bolton defender Andy Kellett come in to Salford on loan to the end of term with Saidy Janko going the other way. Kellett’s previous loan spell had been to Plymouth so his reluctance to believe his boss was being serious when the move was proposed was understandable.

The other arrival during the window (technically speaking) was Victor Valdes. The ex-Barcelona player did his cruciate knee ligaments back in March. Valdes had already announced that he did not intend to renew his contract at the end of the season so the injury effectively brought his Barca career to an end. In October he was given a chance to complete his recovery from the injury by Van Gaal by training with the Salford lot.

This went well enough for the player to be given an 18 month deal as cover for David “Doughnut Thief” De Gea who currently has the no.1 slot. Van Gaal surprised many by sticking with De Gea for the FA Cup rather than giving Valdes the nod. During her research for this piece, the work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips came up with one of those little facts that almost (but not quite) makes me wish we actually paid her something occasionally, namely that the trophy awarded to the best ‘keeper in “La Ligua” each season is called the Zamora Trophy. Valdes managed to pick up 5 trophies during his Spanish career – including four in a row between 08/09 and 11/12.

Perhaps the reason they were so circumspect during this transfer window might be linked to the money guys looking a little bit nervously at Van Gaal’s efforts during the last one. The deal that took Falcao to The Theatre Of Tacky Marketing Slogans for example looks to be a bit pricey. £6m for a transfer fee is, of course, peanuts in this day and age. However, as a loan fee it seems a lot for a player who has managed only four goals this season.

The deal included Salford having to meet the player’s reported £265k a week wages in full. That comes to even more given that he came from Monaco where the tax situation is a little more advantageous (eh Harry?!) so adding HMRC’s cut into the equation they’ll probably have shelled out over £20m by the end of the season to find out that he’s not that great. Still it could have been worse – at least if he doesn’t improve they don’t have to exercise their option to buy, an exercise which would set them back a cool £43m.

One signing who has been quietly getting on with it has been the Dutch midfielder Daley Blind who, until his signing last summer I had assumed was a newspaper for referees. He came in for £13.8m from Ajax and, though his Premier League career has been a bit stop start due to injury, his return has helped them in somehow grinding out the results that have somehow kept them in third spot. It could be an interesting match-up between him and Song – assuming Song isn’t pressed into service in defence following the injury crisis that seems to have suddenly occurred chez nous.

Talking of us, I see we’ve been fined £71,000 for playing Sakho against Bristol City. In FIFA terms it’s pretty small beer – that’s probably Blatter’s entertainment bill for the weekend sorted - but it’s still annoying when in this country alone I can think of clubs that have really taken the p*ss over the years with regard to such matters without so much as a raised eyebrow from an organisation so corrupt the Mafia send their executives there for training.

So I look forward for Liverpool and this week’s opponents having to cough up multi millions in retrospective fines now that the principle has been established – and if a player’s national association rep gets paid off not to complain as has happened in the past what’s to stop the club’s next opponents from filing a complaint about the eligibility or otherwise of the players involved? Yes it will be chaos but frankly if you want a scapegoat look no further than Sheffield United for setting the precedent.

Whilst we’re on the subject of the Cuppa Soup, whilst there is a lot to shake one’s head at with regard to the political side of African football – not least the bungs paid that enabled Blatter to get his corrupt snout into the FIFA trough in the first place – I will doff my cap to the CAF for one bit of news that came out of the tournament this week. In the match between Equatorial Guinea and Tunisia, the host nation were awarded, and subsequently converted, one of the most dubious penalties ever seen outside Anfield. Predictably the rest of the match got a bit feisty and all hell broke loose at the end.

Had that happened in a Premier League match any criticism of the officials would have been met by the usual auto-response from PGMOL to the effect that their own (unaudited and unverified) stats prove that their employees get over 90 per cent of decisions right so all the errors that you see are merely figments of your imagination. However such mealy-mouthed stuff was not for CAF, who took one look at the decision and banned the official for six months. I guess that when it’s the federation that controls referees rather than the referees themselves you can do that sort of thing.

As for last week’s match, we were so poor that Liverpool didn’t need to dip into their refereeing reserves that have “won” them so many trophies in the past. They still dived a lot – Sturridge’s first contribution to the match was an embarrassing launch into mid-air that only an idiot would have fallen for. So obviously Andre Marriner fell for it.

There were a number of reasons that contributed to our downfall. Tactically it looks to me that playing Nolan at the front of the midfield four is a bit daft when, in Downing, we have a player who is in the form of his life in that role. Downing is completely wasted out wide.

Now this column is not one to have a dig at its own players but I’m rapidly beginning to wonder if there ought to be room for Nolan in the starting line-up. I appreciate that in the past a lot of his work off the ball was unappreciated but to these eyes he doesn’t look fit enough. He looks like I used to if I’d been out on the lash all week and had to play in midfield on Saturday afternoons (rather than up front where my lack of energy was covered up by the fact that the defenders I used to face were invariably in the same state meaning that I usually scored a few). I’d be slightly cheesed-off if I were, say, a fit to play Mark Noble and had been banished to the bench. That would certainly explain why Nobes didn’t appear to be over dismissive of the step down in class to QPR that was being mooted last week.

Another big factor in our defeat was injury. Collins was hobbling about from quite early on and one wonders why he was allowed to carry on for so long with what is supposedly a hamstring injury, which surely is not something that will improve by “running it off”.

Collins has “late fitness test ” next to his name on the injury list. Kouyate may be available for a return though. He returned late with an ankle injury from Cuppa Soup duty outside the timescale provided for in the FIFA regulations. Perhaps we should stick a complaint in and FIFA could fine Senegal, ooh, I don’t know, say £71,000 for the rule breach. Plus of course our share of the plane hire that we had to resort to in order to get the player back this side of Easter. Or don’t the rules apply to Senegal? In an election year? When bought African votes are so important?

Meanwhile back here things got so bad last week that Reid’s premature departure left us with ten men in the closing stages, leaving us eternally thankful that we weren’t playing anyone decent. Reid is also “late fitness test” as is Carroll, who has been upgraded from looking at West Brom in the Cup for a return. Jenkinson should be fit for a return though Tomkins is another “late fitness test” job.

Should Carroll not make it it should mean a start for the strike-force of Valencia and Sakho (assuming we’re not letting FIFA pick our team for us this week). That’s a partnership that looked quite good earlier in the season so maybe it’s “silver lining” time with regard to Carroll’s absence. In fact, even if Carroll passes his fitness test I’d probably go with him on the bench – just to freshen things up a bit.

Prediction? Well as usual we’ll be battling against 12 men with this lot with referees tending to turn a blind eye to little things like the laws of the game whenever we play them. We also have the possibility of us having a makeshift central defensive pairing with all those late fitness tests in prospect so there’s a lot to overcome there.

Nevertheless we must be due a correct refereeing decision in our favour against them – even if you blindfolded a referee gave him earplugs and told him to blow the whistle every so often, the law of averages should see them get one right from time to time so why not now? With that in mind I’ll put the New Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered’s fund for me to stand for FIFA president (£2.50) on a 1-1 draw this time around. Respect the point etc.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn: Lost 0-2 March 2014 Predictably Sky went loopy over Rooney’s 50 yarder, turning their usual blind eye to the blatant foul during the build-up. They’re like that with their house team.

Danger Man: Robin Van Persie – has the advantage of being able to operate outside the scope of the offside law.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg A really bad sitcom is just waiting to be written about referees. I can see the trailer now: “Laugh at the wacky and zany exploits of Catastrophe Clatts as he lurches from one controversial moment to another, annoying the hell out of everyone – incuding his own bosses – at the same time!” It’s the sort of thing ITV have on all the time. If it ever gets made I want my cut.

Daft Fact Of The Week: Though we seem to have been the only club ever to have been fined for the offence, under Ferguson this weekend’s opponents were notorious serial offenders for having players pick up injuries just before international matches. Ryan Giggs missed 18 consecutive international friendly matches for Wales over a nine-year period whilst Paul Scholes once withdrew from an England squad with dandruff.

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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