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Liverpool v West Ham Utd

Filed: Monday, 1st December 2008
By: Preview Percy

Next we have Liverpool at Anfield where we haven’t won since September 1963. Youngsters will find this hard to believe but Liverpool were the Man Utd of the 70s. Much as they will hate to admit it, Liverpool have a lot in common with the mob from Salford. They were – indeed still are to a certain extent - a club ”supported” by a lot of people with about as much connection with Liverpool as I have with Papua New Guinea. Like their rivals from up the M62, the red half of Liverpool have been no strangers to dodgy dealings which, like the red half of Manchester seem to have some strange cloak of invisibility when the authorities come sniffing around, and the next time some holier than thou scally without the guts to support Everton starts acting up over the Tevez affair, you might want to point out that their club was once found guilty of match–fixing and it was only some exceedingly dodgy dealing involving Arsenal and Man Utd that saved them from the expulsion from the league their antics deserved.

Of course that was just after the First World War, all a long while ago, and the club has of course been squeaky-clean in all its dealings ever since, if you don’t count the illegal approaches to players still under contract to other clubs which has been going on for the past 40 years at least. Tottenham’s silence over the Robbie Keane deal was eventually bought by a bribe, sorry, that should read “charitable donation,” but Aston Villa remained slightly more principled and Gareth Barry stayed put, much to the delight of football fans everywhere. Still, in case anyone was in any doubt about how classy an act this club is, the fact that an official LFC publication felt the need to suggest that the forthcoming match might be Gianfranco Zola’s last in charge of our club will give you an insight into how things work up in the (no, don’t laugh) “City of Culture” – you can only imagine the uproar that would have hit Merseyside had the positions been reversed.

It’s been a long while since Liverpool won the top prize in English football – 18 years in fact. Every year since then it’s been of case of “maybe this year” whilst the likes of Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea have shared the trophy between them. They’ve started better than in recent years this season and lie in second place on goal difference behind Chelsea. They’ve ground out results more than usual this season – though their league and cup matches against Spurs were an exception, suggesting as they did that the “charitable donations” didn’t just end with the cheque they sent to White Hart Lane.

Their latest match was a 1-0 home victory over Olympique Marseille in the Champions League, a result that flattered them somewhat, or as boss Benitez put it “it was a scary win.” There will be some enforced changes from the starting line-up of the other night. In goal will be our old friend Pepe Reina, a keeper who has gifted us a goal or two in the past. In the right-back berth one would expect to see Arbeola but at left-back the Italian Dossena is likely to deputise for the injured Aurelio, whose calf is likely to see him sidelined for a couple of weeks. In the middle is Jamie Carragher, whose retirement from international football took place at about the same time as my own – and had about as much effect. He will line up alongside Daniel Agger, who travelling supporters may remember hitting a thunderbolt against us in our first match up there after promotion.

In midfield we will meet the familiar face of Steven Gerrard, a player whose underworld connections mean that I will refrain from pointing out that the Percy household was telling the world what a diver he was well before everyone else picked up on the fact. Alongside him may be Javier Mascherano, a player given sanction to play for the club a couple of seasons ago in contravention of the generally accepted principle that no player can play for more than two clubs in a year. FIFA’s logical gymnastics on the case revolved around the fact that the seasons in South America and Europe don’t coincide. Strangely, a number of other European clubs have tried that argument before and since without success. Perhaps if they’d changed their names to “Real Madrid” they’d have had more luck.

The big blonde Dutchman Dirk Kuyt, whose name is never pronounced twice the same way by commentators and fans alike, is another likely starter, though former Hammer Yossi Benayoun has spent large chunks of this season starting on the bench. His move from the Boleyn was controversial in that he had verbally agreed to sign a new contract but changed his mind following a few illegally placed words in the right ear from his current employers. If only we’d thought to ask for a “charitable donation”. On the left we are likely to see Spanish winger Riera who arrived from Espanyol on deadline day. The 26 year-old is already on his sixth professional club (if you count two spells at Espanyol), a journey that took in an unsuccessful (and not much-mentioned) season up the road at Man City. Also in the squad is former Arsenal youth player Jermaine Pennant who will forever be remembered for wrapping his Merc round an Aylesbury lamppost whilst uninsured, disqualified and dunk. The latter point might have had something to do with his giving name “Ashley Cole” to the attending officer once the little light had turned red on the breathalyser. The result was a 90-day sentence, though two-thirds of it was spent playing for Birmingham City wearing an electronic tag. Rumours that Pennant begged to be let back into prison to complete his sentence in nicer surroundings are of course just scurrilous.

A change will be required to the usual strike-force on Monday night. Fernando Torres’ hamstring has gone once more and he’ll be out for a good while. Keane will start and he may be accompanied by Dutchman Ryan Babel who can operate in an advanced role if required. As cover Liverpool have added the young Frenchman David N’Gog to the squad, though, with only one Premiership start to his name he is probably regarded more as one for the future.

As for our line-up, well the injuries are slowly beginning to subside – but not quite as much as the BBC seem to think. Auntie includes the likes of Ashton, Gabbidon, Spector and Noble in the squad. Of those only Noble has any realistic chance of being available – and even he’s rated as “doubtful”. Tristan might be available for the bench, assuming that he actually exisits (well have YOU seen him since his signing?) but Reid, Tomkins and Walker – all of whom are shown as available by the Beeb - will be sitting this one out having gone out on loan to Blackpool, Derby and Colchester respectively. I would write to ask for that particular bit of my licence fee back but I’m still waiting for a response to my letters about Jonathan Ross and Strictly Come Bloody Dancing so I’m not holding out much hope.

On the assumption that the players available are pretty much those who were about last week I’d expect us to start with a 4-4-2 for this one with Bellamy looking to put one over on his old club up front alongside Cole. Whatever side we put out it’ll be difficult to get anything out of this match. History is against us and, like Old Trafford, there seems to be an unwritten law of the game that prevents referees giving decisions against the home club, and anyone who thinks dodgy penalties are something peculiar to Man Utd clearly wasn’t about in the 1970’s – and that’s before we consider Gerrard’s legendary unsteadiness that manifests itself anywhere about 30 yards out. Although the distinctly average Fulham managed to get a point up there the other week I really can’t see lightning striking twice on this one. Sunderland played to James Collins’ strengths up on Wearside last week and I just can’t see the home side doing the same this week. I’ll therefore take us to lose 2-0 with Robert Green having a blinder to keep the score down and make it 46 years without a win up there.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: lost 4-0 In the middle of the horrible “12 goal week” a clueless second half performance and a Torres hat-trick are enough to wipe out what had, up to that point, been a positive goal difference.

Danger Man: Gerrard – either from distance or with his free-kick winning “abilities”.

Look out for: A number of gentlemen in stripey pullovers and masks carrying bags marked “swag” heading away from the ground towards players’ houses once the home team has been announced. Hint to Merseyside police – if you want to catch the burglars, staking out the players’ houses on match nights might be a good idea.

Listen out for: Their match-day announcer whose depressed tones make Leonard Cohen sound like a Butlins Redcoat.

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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