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WBA v West Ham Utd

Filed: Thursday, 11th September 2008
By: Preview Percy

Fixtures against West Brom always engender a certain amount of nostalgia in the Preview Percy household. Back in the 1960s, when the author was a kid, the beginning of the season was heralded by the arrival of the new season’s football sticker album. In those days the albums were produced by a mob called FKS (Panini? Pah! Nothing but trendy arrivistes) and there we always were, second to last just before Wolves and the very serious looking warranty that equal numbers of stickers had been printed. And just before us were West Brom.

The nickname was always given as “Throstles” in those days even though the use of the word “Baggies” was more popular amongst the fans. I remember some strange things about West Brom from back then. At one point there was some sort of official announcement that the “West Bromwich” part of the name was to be dropped and that the club was henceforth to be known simply as “Albion”. The club badge was even changed to a swirly single letter “a” for a bit.

It was a waste of time – everybody still called them West Brom and the “Albion” experiment quietly died a death. Later in the 70s the club featured in a documentary chronicling a close season trip to China when one player allegedly did his best to perpetuate the “thick footballer” stereotype by turning down a trip to the Great Wall of China on the grounds that “once you’ve seen one wall you’ve seen them all”.

Their 70s heyday, when top four finishes were commonplace is but a distant memory for the current fans who have seen their side flit between the top flight and whatever the Second Division is called this week. Although their return to the top flight was accomplished without recourse to the playoffs getting up and staying up are two different things and it was no surprise when that ever imaginative bunch, the nation’s bookies, installed them amongst the favourites to make a swift return downstairs.

Of the three promoted sides their start has been the least impressive. An opening day 1-0 defeat at the New Library was followed by a 2-1 reverse at home to Everton a result that was, by all accounts, more than a little harsh on the Baggies, who apparently dominated large spells of play. Boss Mowbray made six changes for the Carling Cup visit to Hartlepool but came away on the wrong end of a 3-1 giant killing at the hands of the monkey hangers. Their last outing before the international break was a goalless draw at Bolton when again they missed a shedload of chances.

Mowbray brought in ten players during the close season. The best known to English (and England) fans was arguably ‘keeper Scott Carson who has, until recently, been laughably rated by the England management team as a better ‘keeper than our own custodian. He is likely to be between the sticks against us having left out of the squad for the World Cup qualifiers and therefore kept away from the injuries that our players always seem to pick up when called up by their countries.

At the back we are likely to be confronted with the splendidly-named Ryan Donk who arrived at the close of the window on a season-long loan from AZ (whatever happened to the “67”?) Alkmaar. He may step in for Abou Maite who arrived from Bolton during the close season but picked up a calf strain in the 0-0 against his old club and is rated as “touch and go” for our match.

Another Dutchman with a brilliant name is Gianni Zuiverloon, a regular in the Dutch U21 side and was part of the team knocked out of the Olympic tournament by eventual winners Argentina. Not Dutch, but playing there was Swedish defender Jonas Olsson as Mowbray seemingly entered into a one-man quest to empty the Eerdivisie of its defenders. Olsson has yet to feature in the first team to date however. The squad also includes the optimistically-monikered Pele who came in from Southampton rather than Santos.

The big signing in midfield has been the capture of Borja Valero from Real Mallorca. The 23 year-old, who started his career at Real Madrid, came in for a club record £4.75m after impressing Mowbray in a pre-season friendly despite his lack of Dutch league experience in a defensive role. Valero made his first premiership start at the Reebok and is likely to make his home debut against us. Alongside him in the midfield pool are skipper Jonathan Greening, the so-called “Asian Scholes” Kim Do Heon (aka “Kim”), Slovenian Robert Koren, and James Morrisson who, despite having represented England at every level bar full, discovered a Scottish grandparent just as soon as it became apparent that full international honours would require the amputation of two lions from his chest. Morrisson missed the Sweaties’ (pause to suppress laughter) 1-0 defeat by Macedonia and was sent back to West Brom having failed to recover from a knee injury, though reports suggest that they are “hopeful” that he will play some part at the weekend.

It is up front that the Baggies possibly appear at their weakest. With Mowbray favouring a 4-4-1-1 line up, the lone striker duties have been entrusted thus far to Ishmael Miller, though their one league goal this term came from Czech international striker Roman Bednar who came off the racing car seats to notch an 89th minute consolation against the Toffeemen. It is probably the striking department that is causing Baggies’ fans most concern and my (admittedly brief) trawl of fan discussion sites suggests that there is already an early element of concern at the failure to play two up front, the quality of strikers at the club and the perceived failure to improve the situation during the transfer window.

So what of us? Well it’s been a quiet international break if you don’t count disputes about written/non-written transfer requests, announcements of players arriving half a day after the window shut, the manager resigning over alleged interference from above, claim and counter-claims from the board when they weren’t touring Europe in search of a new boss, not to mention the arrival of a free agent called Walter and, of course the new boss.

A few fans have suggested that they would not be happy with the arrival of Zola based purely on his status as “Chelsea’s official greatest ever”. It’s not an argument that will be entertained hereabouts. If you want to talk about his record or lack of it as a coach and discuss whether or not he’s the right man for the job based on that record then, yes, there is an intelligent discussion to be had. However, you can hardly put the guy down simply because he had the bad fortune to have to slum it in front of a mob so ignorant they couldn’t remember the names of any players from longer than ten years ago when voting for their “greatest ever”. And, as somebody said, “what’s up with someone trying to better themselves?” As far as I’m concerned if he brings the sort of football that he used to play to the Boleyn then that’ll do for me.

Since Zola won’t have quite got his feet under the table yet the side will be picked by Kevin Keen (age 12 ¼) so don’t expect too many changes this weekend. The big conundrums will be at the back where maybe one of our new left-backs will start – Lopez perhaps? – and up front, where I expect that Bellamy will join the fray from the bench again as he continues his rehabilitation. With the new boss watching expectantly from the stands there ought to be some incentive for the players to perform so I’ll back us to add to the home side’s bottom of the table woes with a 2-0 win and take three points back to the Boleyn

Enjoy the game!

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

by Charles
07:05AM 23rd Jul 2012
''Jeremy Peace and Tony Mowbray are doing things the right way, we are not a cash cow for primadonnas or potential has-beens. Blues have proved (more than once!) that breaking wage structures does not guarantee Premier League status. The three out of contract players have all contributed to our title winning promotion, but ..Gera, he had a great start and a good last season with us, but almost 2 years of mediocrity in-between. He has shown great ambition in going to a club which WILL finish below The Baggies. As for Albrechtsen, reading his parting shots, it seemed that he was too scared to fight for his place. No loss there! KP only had to play 19 games (including appearances as sub) to activate the second year with Albion, so what does he know that we don't? Does he think his knee won't last 19 games? I think it goes a lot deeper than ambition, maybe he just wants to be assured of a two year pay packet even if his knee does go pop. I hope it doesn't, he's been a great pro, and I wish him the best of luck. But, don't be surprised if he doesn't figure regularly.Thanks Super Kev, we couldn't have done it without you, but I just wish you (or your advisers) had the self-belief to give the Prem one last try with us.No hard feelings though, best of luck!''

by Mark Nunnery
02:51PM 12th Sep 2008
''Couldn't agree more...will Zola (or 'Emil' as I will be calling him) be allowed to manage where Curbs wasn't? All in all, an interesting season ahead.''

by Thommo, Bedford Iron (one of many)
11:34AM 12th Sep 2008
''Wise words Percy, especially those concerning Zola's and, potentially, Clarke's arrivals. The fact that Chelsea have refused to accept Clarke's tended resignation and West Ham's request to approach him show they are worried.

The times they are changing at Upton Park after seemingly decades of stability manager-wise and if Chelsea's 'greatest ever player' and an understandably admired coach (check Newcastle's apparent interest) want to bring an exciting, offensive style of football to West Ham, then let it come.
The new fitness coach may repair some of the ridiculous injuries our squad seem to be suffering and Nani's input appears to be bearing fruit (Columbians at West Ham! I know some of its 'marching powder' is favoured amongst some of our followers, but on the grass is a new approach!), so plus ca change.

Give the little, ugly, gifted Italian maestro a chance and see where we are in ten games. I optimistically predict top four by end of October, before out more difficult fixtures begin. Where we are at end of May is anybody's guess.''

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