Filed: Friday, 13th February 2015
By: Preview Percy
Ah the magic of the FA Cup. Not even Preview Percy can ruin that. As usual he gives it a good go though.....
Next up,thanks to a combination of fixture computer quirks and the luck of the cup draw, this weekend sees our third match in three months against West Bromwich Albion in the 5th round of the FA Cup which is probably sponsored by someone or other who haven’t paid me to mention their name. Kick off is 12:45pm so that the phone company can show the game somewhere which means basically there’s little point in going to bed.
The good news is that the major engineering work that was supposed to be happening outside Euston have been cancelled. The bad news is that this is because the Chiltern lines are shut due to a landslip. Replacement buses will add an hour to the journey if you go that way.
When we last met on New Year’s Day they were in the midst of managerial change. Alan Irvine had gone between the time I’d started writing the preview and the time I’d got a few paragraphs in. Tony Pulis was the replacement. At the time they were 16th in the table having got 17 points from the 19 played to date. Since then they’ve played 6 more matches in the league picking up a further 9 points in the process, most recently beating an out-of-sorts Swansea 2-0 at the Hawthorns in midweek, a result that left them in 14th spot. Perhaps the more vital stat amongst those provided by the work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips is the one that has seen them increase the gap between them and the relegation zone from a single point to four points. Not exactly out of the woods but in the right direction nevertheless.
Their Cup run started with a 7-0 win over Gateshead, who football law obliges me to refer to as “the plucky non-leaguers”. They followed this with a 2-1 win at neighbours Birmingham to qualify for this tie. The two goals against Birmingham came courtesy of a double from Scouse Nigerian Victor Anichebe. You’ll recall that in the first part of our match up there he suckered Tomkins into a physical battle which wasn’t going too well for the defender what with Anichebe being a big lad and all. Thankfully Tomkins saw the error of his ways and stood off the striker by a yard or so which went some way to abating the threat. Anichebe has been rather injury prone of late – one local paper up there described him as being unable to complete 90 minutes without picking up a knock. He faces a fitness test before the match.
The other big lad available to them is the oddly-named Brown Ideye. Ideye might not have been about this weekend had our loan deal for Adebayor gone through. In the domino effect that followed Levy’s hissy fit, Carlton Cole had to get back in his motor and come back home from the Hawthorns having been told he couldn’t leave the Boleyn. As a consequence of that, Ideye’s proposed move to Qatar collapsed, whereupon the player promptly scored one and made one in the win over Swansea. Funny old world innit. Up to now the player has not been the biggest of hits in the Midlands, as evidenced by the club’s willingness to take a loss of slightly more than £6m on the £10m they shelled out last year for him had the Qatari deal gone through.
The prize asset of course is Saido Berahino who is showing the odd sign of the hype getting to be a bit much for him. He picked up a £3,400 fine and a 12 month driving ban last month for a drink driving offence – a seemingly all too common offence amongst professional footballers that depresses as much as it angers. Pulis then left the player out of the side after an ill-advised interview in which he suggested that he’d be off somewhere bigger in the close season. Not Spurs then. There is undoubtedly raw talent there but at the moment he is displaying all the hallmarks of being ill-served by his advisers, who ought to be shielding him from such interviews rather than setting them up for him. He’s by far and away their top scorer this season with 15 in all competitions. Four of those came in the cup – though it should be noted that those came in the third round tie against (plucky non-leaguers) Gateshead.
Despite the collapse of the Cole deal, they did manage to do a bit of business during the window. They picked up Calum McManaman from Wigan. McManaman achieved some notoriety a couple of years ago for a brutal tackle on Newcastle’s Haidara, something that the FA, in typical fashion, spent two days analysing before deciding to do sod all about it. Later he injured Crystal Palace’s Jonathan Parr with a challenge that sparked a war of words between the managers of Wigan and Palace. Wigan’s then boss Uwe Rosler defended his player suggesting that he was still suffering an image problem as a result of the Haidara tackle. Palace’s manager was less impressed. Still Tony Pulis (for it was he) seems to have gotten over his dislike for the player, presumably on the grounds that anyone who gave gainful employment to Ryan Shawcross for so many years probably wasn’t in a position to criticise. Meanwhile, given his history and the hopefully inevitable descent of Wigan into what I still refer to as Division Three, McManaman, who is an injury doubt this weekend, could be said to be the living embodiment of the football equivalent of a rat leaving a sinking ship.
The other player who came in before the window closed (much to the relief of Sky whose OTT hyping of the “event” was looking more desperate and embarrassing by the minute) was midfielder Darren Fletcher. Fletcher came in on a freebie from the Salford Whingers, having come close to joining us only a few days previously. Whilst the noises out of Old Trafford suggested that we’d been playing silly beggars over the deal causing its collapse, my spies tell me that our change of heart over the proposed deal was prompted by concerns from the medics. It’s not recorded whether these concerns resulted from the serious condition (ulcerative colitis) that had blighted his career in the past or whether there were other issues involved but either way the deal was off. West Brom stepped in and Pulis immediately installed the player as his captain.
Fletcher won’t be on display this weekend having played for the Salford lot in the third round against Yeovil. Man Utd took their usual flouting of the transfer rules to a new level by selecting Fletcher for the bench for their replay against Cambridge 24 hours after he’d signed for the Baggies. Something of a mirror image of their usual ploy of issuing instructions to players before they’ve had permission to speak with them. I guess the transfer slipped Van Gaal’s mind – a bit like all those long balls his player played last weekend. Meanwhile, in the absence of Fletcher the armband will go to defender Chris Brunt.
And what of us I hear you say. Wednesday night was a bit unusual wasn’t it? Although the home side had more possession up to the sending off every so often we’d show a little on the break and I quite fancied us to pinch a goal, especially as their possession seemed, as usual, to consist of them knocking it square amongst themselves until somebody died of boredom.
The sending off changed things of course and forced us to abandon thoughts of being incisive on the break. The substitution of Sakho by Carroll seemed a bit odd I must say. Especially as it seemed to involve Carroll going out onto the wing. Thankfully it only seemed to occur to the home side that they might have to actually penetrate the penalty area to give themselves a chance of scoring at a very late stage, by which time JJ had got his eye in and was equal to the few shots they had on goal.
Kouyate was, yet again, outstanding in the centre of defence alongside Tomkins, which might give Reid food for thought about that contract.
On the injury front the latest prognosis on Carroll is not great – a ligament tear means we’ve probably seen the back of him for this season. I guess that the silver lining to that one is the fact that it means we’ll have a Sakho/Valencia strike force for the rest of the season, a combination that usually sees us playing a less direct game, which will please many.
Reid and Collins are probably another week away from consideration though Demel (“knock”), Nolan (ankle) and Noble (feeling a tad under the weather) should all be available. There was also some talk that the Canadian lad Doneil Henry we picked up from the Cypriot League a couple of weeks ago might be close to making a squad or two.
Disciplinary-wise Adrian’s red card has been rightly rescinded though, as usual, every correct FA disciplinary decision has to be matched with an imbecilic one and we seem to have been charged for querying the decision.
Prediction time. It’s been a tough couple of weeks and I was a bit concerned that the Man Utd match might have taken too much out of the team. As it happened they defended admirably despite the numerical inferiority and if the result on Sunday might have put them on a downer, the point on Wednesday will have had the opposite effect.
The Cup nature of the match means we ought to be going for a win in this one rather than seeking the away point that might be the aim in a league match and, with Sakho/Valencia now likely to be first choice, I think we can get it. So I’ll be popping over to Winstones Turf Accountants with the savings I had planned to stick on an Australian Eurovision Song Contest win (£2.50) on us to win a tight one – shall we call it 2-1 to us and a home draw next time please.
Enjoy the game!
When last we met at The Hawthorns Won 2-1 (December 2014) Tomkins started off having a ‘mare, conceding the Dorrans free-kick nodded in by Dawson on 10 minutes. Nolan headed in the rebound after Foster had saved Carroll’s overhead kick. Tomkins completed his rehabilitation by heading home from a Downing corner just before the break.
Danger Man: Sadio Berahino – by far and away their top scorer.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (again)Picture the scene at PGMOL headquarters: Mike Riley relaxes eating grapes on a chaise-longue surrounded by piles of banknotes. An unpaid spotty work experience kid, possibly the one that used to work here until we got the kid with the inappropriate number of rings through her lips, announces “I’ve done all the fixtures except one Mr Riley” problem is that it’s West Brom v West Ham and we’ve only got Atkinson left over”.
Riley doesn’t look up from his copy of Clive Thomas’s seminal work “1,001 Ways To Ruin People’s Weekends “ So what”? yawns Riley. The spotty work experience kid sighs having had the same conversation already this season: “Well this will be the fifth time this season West Ham will have had him – it’s less than a month since the last time and, well, we’re supposed to mix it up a bit aren’t we?”
“Sod ‘em” yawns Riley. “If I wanted the job done properly I’d get proper computer people in”. “Shame you apply the same principle to the refs” mutters the work experience kid as he clicks “send” on the 13 year old laptop. Riley says nothing but smiles lovingly at the bank notes whispering something that sounds suspiciously like “money for old rope…”
Daft Fact Of The Week: Earlier this week there was a flurry of UFO panic on the streets of West Bromwich as reports of an alien craft filtered through to the local police station. On investigating the craft, one of the officers who had once been to London identified it as a Lamborghini and promptly impounded it for not having car tax. Disappointed, the locals went back to pointing at passing aircraft instead.
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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