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West Ham United v Hull City: Match Preview

Filed: Friday, 19th February 2010
By: Preview Percy

We threatened him with a 25% pay cut if he didn't go away. Unfortunately, since we don't pay him anything in the first place, he turned up anyway. Preview Percy casts his eye over this weekend's match....

Next we welcome Hull City (pron. ‘ull citeh) to the Boleyn for Saturday’s 3pm kick-off.

The visitors currently lie in 17th place, two places below us. They are level on 24 points with us having played a game more and possessing an inferior goal difference (-26 compared with our -8). Their overall current form over the last six games is pretty similar to ours, both of us having won 1, drawn 3 and lost 2. However, our home form of 3 wins 2 draws and 1 defeat makes more pleasant reading, especially when compared to their away form of 4 defeats and 2 draws from their last six. Since the turn of the year they’ve drawn 0-0 at Spurs, lost 4-0 at Man Utd, drawn at home to Wolves and Chelsea (2-2 and 1-1 respectively) beaten Man City 2-1 at home and lost 1-0 away at Blackburn.

Like ourselves, the Tigers have been in the news of late for reasons more connected with events off the pitch than on it. The club’s auditors recently came up with the worrying statistic that the Club will need to cut annual costs by £16m – and that’s on the assumption that they stay up. Meanwhile, up in the corridors of power, their former chairman Paul Duffen resigned last October. Since Duffen’s departure there have been accusations and counter accusation between Duffen and the current regime, which is headed by returning chairman Adam Pearson. Duffen, it was alleged, misused club funds for personal use. It was also suggested that a company controlled by Duffen received payments from agents in return for Hull using those agents in player deals. Things came to a head in January when Hull instigated legal proceedings against their former chairman in the High Court, freezing his assets in the process. Those of us who shivered through the Birmingham match last week will know just how that feels. Undeterred, Duffen claimed that it had been he who had started legal proceedings against the club over monies owed, though Hull denied that this was the case. Whatever the truth, the case was eventually settled out of court on “terms satisfactory to the club”. Make of that what you will.

We last met up at the KC Stadium back in November, a match that finished in a bizarre but entertaining 3-3 draw. You’ll recall that we were 2-0 up through Franco & Collison after 11 minutes before Mark Clattenburg decided to get involved, awarding some dubious free-kicks and a frankly disgraceful penalty to send us in 3-2 down at the interval. Clattenburg then evened things up by dismissing Mendy for upending Parker when clean through, before DaCosta buried a loose ball from a corner to level the scores.

Man of the match that day was, arguably, ex-Hammer Jimmy Bullard. Hull were keen at the time to stress that what was then a four match unbeaten run was the result of team efforts rather than the sole influence of Bullard. However, it was noticeable that the team’s form dipped considerably when the unfortunate Bullard limped off after only 19 minutes of the 3-0 defeat at Villa Park. Bullard’s knee ligament injury saw him leave the field almost in tears, coming so soon as it did after his recovery from a similar (if more severe) injury to the other knee. For all Hull’s protestations about the “team effort” it took another eight matches before they put three points on the board in the 2-1 win over Man City earlier this month. Bullard is close to a return to action and, though it might be another week or so before he hits anything like full fitness, such is the player’s influence about the Hull side that the talk is of him playing at least a part in Saturday’s proceedings.

Last week they went down 1-0 at Blackburn, the winning goal being credited as an own goal to Hull ‘keeper Boaz Myhill. The influential George Boateng was dismissed after an aerial challenge that left both Boateng and Pedersen out cold. Once Boateng had woken up, the red card brandished by ref Probert seemed to add insult to injury. This was an opinion with which the FA’s disciplinary bods clearly agreed earlier this week when they overturned the three-match ban that resulted. Boateng will therefore be available for Saturday.

They had a quietish window last month. The only incoming player was Amr Zaki. The Egyptian striker arrived on loan from Zamalek where he was, for a while, a team-mate of Mido. Zaki made a storming start to his Premier League career scoring some decent goals – including a fine strike at the Boleyn on his debut for Wigan. However, Zaki blotted his copybook by returning late from international duty on a number of occasions, upsetting Steve Bruce and the illegal price-fixing, child slave labour employing, dodgy share dealing and Rugby League wage-cap rule-breaking Dave Whelan in the process. Which, of course, is no bad thing. Whelan, who had likened Zaki to Alan Shearer at the start of his Wigan career, later downgraded his opinion to “a disgrace”. Well he ought to know.

Also in the forward section of the squad is US international Jozy Altidore who arrived on loan from Villareal at the start of the season. The season-long deal contains an option for Hull to buy the player for a reported fee of £6.5m, though it remains to be seen whether Hull will bother to exercise the option. Altidore has not been what you’d call prolific and he has scored but once in 19 games in the league, getting the first against Man City. He’s not exactly been a hit in Spain either where he made only 6 appearances for Villareal. A loan spell at second division Xerez was also unsuccessful, his spell there being marred by an injury to a toenail which prevented him from making a single appearance. At international level, however, he was part of the US squad that surprisingly lifted last year’s Confederations Cup in South Africa, scoring the first in the 2-0 semi-final win over Spain in Bloemfontein.

The Blackburn match saw Altidore partnered up front by the brilliantly-named Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, with Zaki starting on the bench alongside the visitors’ other ex-Hammer Richard Garcia. Mr V of H (as we will call him to save my sanity) has barely outshone Altidore up front, having notched only three times in twenty league matches this season. All of which probably means that the pair will have a field day this weekend knowing our luck.

One absentee is likely to be Geovanni. Manager Phil Brown had hoped that the Brazilian might be available for selection in January. However, his knee injury has taken longer to heal than expected, despite a trip to Portugal to see a specialist a couple of weeks ago.

So what of us? Well it was a welcome return to winning ways in the sub-zero temperature of the Boleyn the other week. A few first half scares apart – and lets face it we’ll always have one or two of those – we looked fairly comfortable against a Birmingham side whose performance admittedly tailed off alarmingly, especially after the second had gone in. There are, of course, injury doubts. When are there not? McCarthy, having succumbed to “Hammer Debut Injury Syndrome” is listed as “doubtful” and is likely to miss both this game and Tuesday’s trip to Salford. Diamanti is also listed as a “doubt” as is, no, don’t laugh, Kieron Dyer.

Ilunga tore a tendon in his back against Birmingham a decent second half in that match for Spector should mean that the septic will start at left back, especially as Daprela, who showed great promise against Arsenal in the Cup, is also on the injured list. The midfield line-up will depend on Diamanti’s fitness, with Noble being a possible to start should the Italian not recover in time. Up front, despite the absence of McCarthy, it’s still a case of perm any two from four with Franco said to be making a return to the squad. Mido is presumably likely to get the nod once more over Ilan and the Generalissimo for the right to partner Cole.

David Sullivan was quick to claim credit for last week’s victory with his “pay cuts for all” speech. He’ll have to go some to top that. Look out then for an “inspirational” speech from the SuGo offices suggesting that the players’ first born will be slaughtered unless they pick up three points on Saturday.

It’s tight at the bottom at the moment. This will be a nervy one but Cole is beginning to return to his pre-injury sharpness and Mido will have a point to prove. The doubt about Diamanti is a bit of a worry but I still reckon that, with a decent start, we ought to have too much for the visitors. So, with fingers duly crossed, I’ll go for a 2-0 to us which, if results elsewhere go for us, could see us go as high as 13th spot.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: won 2-0. - arguably our best performance of the season with Di Michele and Cole finding the net. Hull ‘keeper Duke saved a Noble penalty and kept the score down. A repeat of both result and performance would be most welcome.

Danger Man: Jimmy Bullard. (if fit) – always a worry from set pieces, his overall influence on the Hull side should not be underestimated.

Referee: Martin Atkinson – took charge of the 2-1 defeat at Stoke where he gave a penalty against Faubert for being the nearest player to an Etherington dive, then missed Huth’s right hook on Upson at a corner.

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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