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West Ham United v Birmingham City: Match Preview

Filed: Monday, 8th February 2010
By: Preview Percy

He claims not to have slept with Wayne Bridge's girlfriend. Ever. He is Preview Percy and this is his look at this Wednesday's match against Birmingham.......

Next up we entertain Birmingham City in a 7.45 kick-off on Wednesday evening. There will, of course, be many cameras on the directors’ box for this one, the match marking as it does the first time SuGo will have come up against the club that they sold to Carson Yeung’s Grandtop International Holdings last August. Whilst the new owners may have brought three strikers to the club they have a little bit to learn in setting fashion trends – sales of Russian hats and claret smoking jackets haven’t exactly gone through the roof in these parts since the takeover though, if it gets much colder we may see a few more of the hats on show.

The visitors are enjoying a fine first season following their promotion last season. They currently lie in 8th place some 16 points clear of ourselves. In their last six league matches they’ve won 2, drawn 3 and lost just the once. The 3-0 defeat came at Chelsea and put an end to a 15 match unbeaten run. The run was inspired by their ability to field virtually an unchanged line up in most of those games. In fact the weekend victory against Wolves was the twelfth match in a row that they had been able to field the same starting eleven. If only…..

Given McLeish’s understandable reluctance to fix what ain’t broke, it should be fairly easy to predict how they’ll line-up. Joe Hart, who is spending the season on loan from Man City, will start in goal. The back four has been made up of Carr, Ridgewell, Johnson and Dann. Ridgewell is the first of two ex-Hammers likely to feature; the other being Lee Bowyer who is enjoying the regular runout in midfield that he would have been unable to count on at the Boleyn. The midfield quartet has been completed by Larsson, Ferguson (who may deign to represent his country now they’ve sacked that nasty manager) and McFadden, the latter playing behind a front two of Benitez (alias Chucho) and Jerome.

At the weekend Benitez picked up a knock which led to his replacement on the hour by the veteran Kevin Phillips (bonnnnggg! – an in-joke for older readers there). A good thing too as it was Phillips’ sharp instincts in the box that brought the blues back from 1-0 down to give them a 2-1 victory – a win that was quite useful from our own point of view as well. There are no reports at present suggesting Benitez’s injury will prevent him from starting on Wednesday and, given McLeish’s recent statement to the effect that Phillips is at his best when coming off the bench, expect Benitez to start despite Phillips’s brace at the weekend.

They had a quiet transfer window. Attempts to sign a new striker were thwarted by something of an own-goal from owner Yeung, whose proud announcement that McLeish would have £40m to spend during the window is thought to have been the main cause of their being held to ransom by selling clubs. Spurs in particular came in for some criticism, as a reported verbal agreement to sell the out-of-favour Roman Pavlyuchenko for £10m was reneged on and a fee of £15m sought instead once someone had found the press cutting containing Yeung’s comments. Another plan to sign Argentine international Mauro Boselli on loan fell through when the two clubs that jointly own him insisted on a permanent deal rather than the “loan with an option” deal that Birmingham would have preferred. The collapse of the deal is rumoured to have upset the money-grabbing hypocrites at Brammall Lane whose legal ambulance chasers were positively rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of somehow earning further unearned and undeserved bucks out of a player transfer which might have contained fourth party influence.

Birmingham also had a look at Pompey’s Dindane but, again things got complicated with Lens - the player’s parent club – and the pulled out of the deal. Other potential strikers’ wage demands soon went through the roof with the net effect that no strikers were signed. A rueful vice-chairman Peter Pannu commented “let’s move on to the summer – and this time we’ll say nothing”.

So what of us. Well it has to be said that the recent run of “winnables” has been disappointing, though some of the knee-jerking that went on after the Burnley defeat was a bit over the top. At Pompey we were denied 3 points by dreadful refereeing whilst at Turf Moor with just a tad more luck in front of goal, we could have won. However, if you make daft errors that mean you go 2-0 down before you really get going it’s always going to be an uphill struggle.

On the bright side, like Benitez, there have been no reports that the injury that curtailed McCarthy’s involvement on Saturday will keep him out of the picture on Wednesday night, which should mean that Zola will be able to start him alongside Cole, which appears to be his preferred pairing when going with two up front. Mido was unlucky not to score and the other new boy Ilan scored the sort of messy affair that we haven’t seen for a while. On the injury front Franco is listed as being close to a return, but then again the same source quotes the same for Gabbidon and Dyer so make of that what you will.

This will be a tough one. The visitors’ record speaks for itself and the settled side they’ve been able to pick week in week out makes you wonder if it’d be worth SuGo’s while to have a quiet word with a couple of their former employees on the medical side with a view to a move southwards. I’ve allowed mindless optimism based on gut feeling to govern predictions recently. Although I have that same gut feeling about a possible win for this one, putting a more realistic hat on I think that a draw is the more likely result, especially given the identity of the referee allocated this match. I’ll therefore go for 2-2 in this one as we attempt to crawl our way out of trouble.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: did not play

Danger man: Lee Bowyer – has picked up a few goals this season and that strange law that says players score against former clubs is also a worry. However the real danger man to any proper result in this one is……

Referee: Mike Dean - added to a long list of appalling decisions that have cost us dear with the penalty decision that cost us two points v Chelsea. Decided to take the word of an unsighted lino rather than trust his own eyes when much better placed. A referee you wouldn’t trust to sit the right way up on a toilet seat. A referee so awful that……

(editor’s note: at this point Preview Percy was led away by some gentlemen in white coats who told us that they’d release him as long as we promised to look after him. We said we’d get back to them).

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 Paul, Bedford Iron
09:22AM 11th Feb 2010
''Wise words. I have Cole in my dream team so getting back to goal scoring, at such an important time, was pleasing. However, my choice for MOM would have gone to Diamanti. He was fairly awesome from what I saw; a potent attacking force and covering back well to assist Spector after his replacing of Ilunga (hopefully nothing too serious).

I understand you being vaguely optimistic about the result, plumping for the draw, but we do seem to produce better football against the better footballing teams. Keep on scribing and COYI.''

by merts
09:39AM 9th Feb 2010
''Kevin Phillips (bonnnnggg!) very good. :-)''

by willvbcfc
12:23AM 9th Feb 2010
''Very good read Percy.

With regard to our fitness team - McLeish only recently installed an extra half a dozen fitness experts using the new owners' money. Had nothing to do with DS & DG, even though they'll try and claim it was!

I wish you all the best after Wednesday, but I just hope the Blues can carry on our staggeringly good form!

Enjoy the game.''

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