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West Ham Utd v Portsmouth

Filed: Friday, 14th November 2008
By: Preview Percy

Greetings next to Portsmouth. The visitors were the main beneficiaries last season of the so called big four’s simultaneous self-destruction on the road to Wembley and arrive as FA Cup holders.

There were mixed feelings last May amongst Hammers. Whilst for some there may have been the usual tendency to root for the underdogs, for others this was tempered by a desire to see one of our own proud records maintained and Pompey’s victory maintained our place in the record books as the last team from outside the top flight to win the cup.

It’s been an interesting few weeks for the Fratton Park faithful. It seems that some bloke called Redknapp (Italian restaurant owner, son used to play for Liverpool) dumped them for Spurs. Still at least it wasn’t Southampton this time. Tony Adams has been given the job of replacing Redknapp and has brought in former Forest favourite Johnny Metgod, who Hammers may remember hitting a free-kick of such ferocity that Phil Parkes is forever grateful that he didn’t get his head in the way.

Results have been mixed this season. Portsmouth have looked unfortunate to lose to the likes of Man Utd and Liverpool then gone up to Man City and been slaughtered 6-0. Their last two matches saw them lose to a stoppage time winner at home to Wigan and win with a stoppage time winner up at Sunderland. Reports suggest that they played better in the defeat than they did in the victory – something that those who were present at the Boleyn last week can probably relate to.

Between the sticks will be David James, a keeper who will need no introduction to the home crowd. James has been restored to the England no.1 berth following disastrous experiments with the likes of Robinson and Carson. James is still prone to occasional brainstorms at both domestic and international level which, in a constantly changing world, is rather comforting. Fact: James is a successor in goal to none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he of Sherlock Holmes renown, who was the club’s very first ‘keeper.

At right back is another ex-Hammer Glen Johnson. An impressive start to his career at the Boleyn came to a shuddering halt with his transfer to Chelsea, a deal that had the one redeeming feature of keeping us out of administration. Stories of attitude problems and bad behaviour - he got nabbed nicking a toilet seat from a branch of B&Q a while back – meant that his eventual departure from Stamford Bridge was looked upon as something of a career saving move.

The central defensive partnership consists of ex Newcastle and Man City stopper Sylvain Distin and Sol Campbell who, in a former life, may be remembered for legging it at half-time in a memorable match at Highbury having been given the runaround by Bobby Zamora of all people. Last week the left-back slot was occupied by former Spud Pamarot.

Last week’s midfield quartet was comprised of messrs Kranjcar, Davis, Belhadj and Diarra. Croatian Kranjcar is noted for his ability from dead-ball situations and has been known to push on in a more advanced role depending on circumstances and formation. French international Diarra takes up more of a defensive role having arrived from Chelsea via a five-month stay at Arsenal where he apparently became highly frustrated at the lack of first-team opportunity which he believed would hamper his chances of appearing in Euro 08.

The first-choice striking partnership is made up of the Little and Large combo Crouch and Defoe. Crouch, presumably because he never really had to learn to jump, is a much better player on the deck than he is often given credit for – though his occasional presence in an England shirt is still more a reflection of a paucity of resources at international level than any true measure of international class on the lanky one’s part. Defoe did little to endear himself to the Boleyn faithful in the relegation season by seeking a transfer as the referee’s whistle was still echoing on the last day of the season and a warm welcome is ensured for the ungrateful so-and-so who will probably end up playing against us three times this season once he’s been tapped up by his former boss in the January window.

As for us there are some pieces of good news to look forward to on the player front. Carlton Cole’s ludicrous three-match ban is spent – compare his suspension with the yellow card given to Hypocrite FC ‘s Chris Morgan for his assault on Barnsley’s Ian Frain. Cole’s return might see us return to the 4-3-3 line-up that we were operating before his enforced absence. Valon Behrami is also close to a return and if the Swiss midfielder is fit to start we may see Faubert drop to the bench following a daft three minutes at full back that saw his errors lead to two goals. Upson’s dead leg seems to have recovered too though it is to be hoped that a seven-man bench will have place for a back-up centre-half this week – the lack of one last week saw Neill have to move across from right-back, a switch that dropped Faubert into the right-back position he seems so uncomfortable in.

This one is difficult to predict. We’ve been playing some good stuff and got little in the way of results in recent weeks so it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see us struggle for 90 minutes and come away with all three points! On reflection I can see the return of Cole being pivotal and if we go with a three man attack the pace of Bellamy and the improving Sears against the likes of Campbell might just be the area where the match is decided. A clean sheet is still likely to be beyond us but the run of outplaying teams and not winning has to end sooner or later so, in a fit of (probably unjustified) optimism, I’ll go for a 2-1 to us with fingers well and truly crossed.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: Lost 0-1 Kranjcar’s 20-yard effort is the only “highlight” of a turgid 90 minutes that had “end of season” written all over it. With a month left to play.

Danger Man: Defoe always seems to score against us. Unfortunately.

Look out for: The bloke with the bell. I’m all for tradition in football but surely 90 minutes of tinnitus would do your head in every week if you had to stand next to him?

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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