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West Ham Utd v Tottenham: match preview

Filed: Monday, 8th December 2008
By: Preview Percy

Another Monday and another 8pm kick-off under the lights for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur.

They’re a strange bunch, Spurs fans, capable sometimes of amazing feats of self-delusion. I suppose in an infinite, maybe even multi-dimensional universe there is a planet upon which shell suits and dandruff, which appear to be some sort of uniform on matchdays at White Hart Lane, are deemed to be socially acceptable, if not actually fashionable. However even Dr Who wouldn’t go as far as to say that there is a parallel universe in which Tottenham really are on a par with the likes of Man Utd & Chelsea. This is a shame really because most Spurs fans I get to meet seem obsessed with two things: the size of their club and getting rid of their last copy of the “Big Issue”.

It’s been a far from dull season in N17. The hilarious start that saw them bumping along the bottom of the table was, of course, fun for everyone while it lasted. However, the sacking of Ramos and subsequent installation of Bournemouth restaurant proprietor H. Redknapp into the managerial hot seat have turned the results around in recent weeks and they currently lie three places and three points beneath us in 16th place and the other night Darren Bent’s flukey miss-hit effort being just enough to get them past Watford into the League Cup Semi-Finals. Their last few results in the league have been a bit mixed however. Last weekend they were on the end of a 1-0 home defeat to Everton, whilst a couple of weeks previously they had been beaten by the epitome of averageness that is Fulham.

In between they did beat Blackburn, though the match was less notable for the result than for the ironic cheers that accompanied every successful gather by the error-prone Gomes. These were accompanied by unheard-of praise for the opposition ‘keeper, the equally unreliable Paul Robinson who, in the aforementioned parallel universe inhabited by Spurs fans is worthy of the title “England’s no.1”. Redknapp expressed disappointment at the fans’ treatment of Gomes, though his own comments a few weeks earlier that “there’s no use me moaning at him – I haven’t got anyone else” were hardly likely to act as much of a confidence booster.

True or not, Gomes is likely to start on Monday night and I’m sure he’ll get a sympathetic reception from all sides. Against Blackburn, Gomes’s back four was comprised of Corluka, Woodgate, King and Assou-Ekoto. This is a reversal from the previous regime’s original policy of resting Ledley King for League matches and playing him in the League & UEFA Cups. King is reportedly struggling with a knee problem and Dawson may deputise. Woodgate of course has had an eventful career both on and off the pitch. If both are fit and selected Woodgate will be reunited with Lee Bowyer with whom he faced a trial for assault a few years back. Bowyer was cleared of all charges whilst Woodgate received 100 hours of community service for the lesser offence of affray. On a more light-hearted note, Woodgate recently commented publicly that Spurs’ start to the season was worse than that he had experienced with Leeds when they were relegated – which was a strange comment really, given that he’d left for Newcastle a good 16 months beforehand. The defence also includes Gareth Bale who is useful from dead ball situations.

Spurs’ midfield against Everton missed the influence of Croatian midfielder Modric and he is still rated “very doubtful” for this one following a thigh muscle strain. The form player over the past couple of weeks has been Aaron Lennon, though it should be pointed out that this form mainly consisted of giving a ten-man Blackburn the runaround. Nevertheless on his day he can be a tricky one. Former Derby youngster Tom Huddlestone and David “Too Tired For England” Bentley are also likely starters as is Didier Zokora, who arrived in 2006 when Spurs spent the money paid by Man Utd in rescuing Michael Carrick from the downturn in his career that took him to White Hart Lane.

It is up front where Spurs struggled at the start of the season. Pavlyuchenko is now showing signs of settling in to English football after a quiet start but it will take a collapse in the value of sterling of Zimbabwean proportions – possibly in one of those parallel universes - to convince me that Darren Bent is worth £16,000,000. Spurs’ problems really boiled down to the fact that they let go Defoe, Keane and Berbatov in a few months without really replacing them.

Berbatov’s transfer was another that blatantly broke all the rules and those watching transfer deadline day unravel on the box would have been bemused by the pictures of Berbatov talking to Man Utd officials at the same time as statements from Spurs were issued denying that any club had been given permission to speak with the player. Indeed Spurs publicly announced that a bid for the player had been accepted by Man City – at the precise time that the player was having an unauthorised medical on the other side of town. As we saw with the Keane transfer, Spurs’ principles can be bought. Whilst Liverpool’s hush money came in the form of a “charitable donation”, Man Utd’s came in the form of a season-long loan of striker Frazier Campbell, which is also a charitable donation. Bent and Pavlyuchenko are likely starters but don’t be surprised to see Campbell come on at some stage.

As for us, well the BBC have finally sorted themselves out and stopped listing the injured and the “actually at another club at the moment” as being available for selection. Apart from Ashton (injured) and Gabbidon (disappeared into one of those parallel universes), it would appear that we have a full-ish squad to select from. I’m not expecting much in the way of changes though and the likes of Mark Noble may have to wait another week before returning to the starting line-up (which is a shame in a way given that he’d probably be more “up for” this one than any other player in the squad).

The defence has shown hitherto unknown levels of backbone in recent weeks and the Upson-Collins partnership has looked a decent one. However, part of me is urging caution in forecasting a home win for this one. West Ham history is littered with a good results against decent opposition being followed by rubbish results against someone not as good and a sneaky little voice is worrying me that this might be the case again. On the other hand, confidence will be at a decent level following last Monday’s point up at Anfield – a point that might have been three but for the usual re-writing of the offside law that affects away teams in that part of the world. So, with the words of caution, ringing in my ears, I’ll go for a 2-1 win with fingers crossed.

Enjoy the game!

Last Season: drew 1-1 – the right result despite ref Riley’s attempts to give the game to Spurs with a late penalty. Green saved it to ensure justice was done.

Danger Man: Lennon can turn games if he’s allowed to run at defences.

Look out for: A strange aroma of medicated shampoo, body odour and spot cream around the lower tier of the Centenary stand.

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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