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West Ham United v Wigan Athletic: Match Preview

Filed: Thursday, 22nd April 2010
By: Preview Percy

Don't worry, after this there's only two more of Preview Percy's outpourings to endure.......

Next we move on to the visit of Wigan Athletic for a 3.00pm kick-off at the Boleyn. The visitors currently lie in 15th spot, two places and four points ahead of ourselves. This is at least three points further ahead than one might have expected three quarters of the way through last Sunday's match against Arsenal. Unfortunately for us Wenger's whingers collapsed faster than Steve Gerrard in free-kick territory and the 3-2 victory at the Whelan Vanity Stadium gave them an unexpected breathing space ahead of this week's game.

Current form has seen them won two drawn one and lost three whilst on the road it's been a case of five defeats and a draw, that draw coming at hapless Pompey, where the travelling hoards from Wigan probably contributed nearly fifty quid to the administrator's coffers. They may well have a few extra supporters making the trip to the Boleyn this year. Whelan has offered to shell out for coach travel for all away supporters this weekend, an offer on a par with those oh-so-witty signs you see in pubs offering free beer to all over-70's accompanied by both parents.

Of course when you're talking about “form” in connection with Wigan the word takes on a whole new meaning. Chairman Whelan, who, as we well know, is never slow to pontificate to the world, was quick to cancel the contract of Marlon King when the player was convicted on serious criminal charges. “We do not want convicts at Wigan” spouted the chairman. Maybe I'd have been a little more impressed with this sudden attack of moral indignation had it come BEFORE Wigan had signed the 14 times previously-convicted player, rather than at a point when it was simply convenient to get the player off the wage bill. Still King must be kicking himself. He'd still be in a job had he done something slightly less serious like profiting from child slave labour like his boss.

The notoriously flexible morals of the club's chairman have been tested again this week. Charles N'Zogbia is currently out on bail having been arrested this week for “fraud by false representation” - allegedly for having had someone else sit his driving theory test on his behalf. N'Zogbia can take some heart from the encouraging noises coming from the club at the moment. They're referring to him being “badly advised” and having made a “naive mistake” - yeah right! In the event of some sort of conviction at the end of the process, expect Whelan's morals to take another rapid U-turn as he deals with a player who is actually deemed to be useful to his club, rather than one who he has been trying to get rid of for a few years.

First to spring to N'Zogbia's defence was his manager Roberto Martinez. Martinez's move to the North West in September 2009 was not without controversy. Whelan made his move despite initially being denied permission to speak with Martinez. The deal was protracted as Double-standard Dave haggled over a compensation figure, despite having picked up a pretty penny for getting rid of Steve Bruce to Sunderland. The deal was eventually done and, a mere three months after Dave had announced to the world that he would never employ a foreign manager, in walked the decidedly Spanish Martinez. Martinez's nationality can't have come to Whelan as much of a surprise – he played for the club for six years between 1995-2001. Still with dodgy Dave there's always some sort of excuse and the price-fixer will, no doubt, justify his decision on the grounds that Mrs Martinez is Scottish so that's all right then.

Martinez arrived with a reputation for turning out his Swansea side to play football – something of a rarity in the Wigan sides that preceded his arrival. The change in style hasn't always been plain sailing as their league position would indicate. A 9-1 defeat to Spurs was probably the low point of their season so far. In goal that day was Chris Kirkland who, as if letting in nine were somehow not enough of an indignity, was also credited with an own-goal in that match. Kirkland's Dad, along with a few mates, famously stuck £100 on at the bookies that his then 11 year-old son would win an England cap before his 30th birthday. The bet paid out £10,000 each when, in 2006 Kirkland came on as a second half substitute in a friendly against Greece. That Kirkland hasn't gained more senior international recognition is largely a function of the player's rather injury-prone history. Interestingly, Kirkland has been involved in a charity aimed at stopping criminals re-offending. Plenty of chats with his team-mates then. And his chairman.

In front of Kirkland there should be a return for defender Gary Caldwell who has missed the last three matches through suspension. The incident that led to Caldwell's absence also landed his boss with a bit of a problem as well. The FA took exception to Martinez's accusation that referee Stuart Atwell was “lying” and acted immediately to charge the Wigan Boss with “improper conduct.”

Former Chelsea defender Mario Melchiot will also be in the squad for Saturday. If I have one plea for the officials this weekend it would be for them to keep an eye on his feet as he sends in a long throw. Spotting a foul throw is basic stuff but it's something that, for some reason, seems to be beyond our men in the middle these days.

Against Arsenal there was a start for former Palace midfielder Ben Watson. He's been out on loan for much of the season and was supposed to be with West Brom until the end of the season. However he was recalled at the start of this month and was on the scoresheet last weekend against Arsenal. Another former Palace midfielder in the squad will be Victor Moses, whose £2.5m transfer on deadline day paid a few bills at his former club that had just gone into administration. Moses was born in Nigeria and, like many players from that part of the world, there has, in the past been something of a question mark over his age, which, officially at least, is listed as being 19. His agent, Tony Finnegan, has helpfully clarified the position by stating “His age is his age and if it’s questioned, then you have to question the age of many other foreign footballers playing here.” Quite.

The strike force has latterly had a South American feel to it, with the Bolivian Moreno (7 in the league this term) partnering the Colombian Rodallega (12). Rodallega has, along with N'Zogbia, been linked with a move away from Wigan in the not too distant future, with Arsenal supposedly interested in a £20m “double swoop”. Presumably Rodallega will have to do the driving if they go together.

And so to us. Well Monday was a big disappointment. The worst Liverpool team in aeons and we failed to turn up. We just seemed happy to watch them runabout and dive. The one bright side was, as ever, our support whose efforts should at least put paid to the myth of the mighty “Kop”. As somebody else pointed out to a gobby Spurs fan of my acquaintance – “at least we knew the final score was 3-0 'cos we were there at the end. You lot probably were probably home in time to see Pompey's second on the box”.

It remains to be seen whether Monday's non-performance will have undone the good work of Everton and Sunderland. Some heart can be taken from Hull's similarly woeful runout against Villa and it may will be that our survival will ultimately rest on our being the least worst side involved at the bottom. As the old saying goes, if you and a mate are being chased by a lion, you only have to outrun your mate.

On the plus side we seem to have virtually a full squad to pick from, with the exception of Tomkins (ankle/foot), Hines (knee), Boa Morte (knee) and, of course Dyer (Shatner's Bassoon). Amongst all the possible returns, probably the most welcome will be that of the talismanic Scott Parker who will be back from his suspension due, in part, to some frankly dishonest refereeing over the course of the season. Would that the FA were as quick to deal with refereeing incompetence as they seem to be with those who point it out. I believe it's called shooting the messenger.

If, as is suggested, Ilunga is ready to start he, or possibly, Daprela might replace Spector on the left in defence whilst up front there choice is two out of McCarthy, Cole, Franco, Ilan or Mido. Usually it's a question of Cole plus one. However the striker hasn't been the same since his absence through injury and the sight of him on the bench in the closing stages of Monday's debacle with ice-packs on his knees suggests that all is still not 100% with him physically.

Predictions? Well this one is, as usual, a must win. We need to get at this lot and do it early – if only to settle the nerves. A win with defeats for Wolves, Hull & Burnley this weekend would put us in a very strong position – we'd be six clear of Hull with two to play and a goal difference of 20 goals in our favour would make things look a bit better in the safety stakes. So, with that as an incentive, I'll take us to take a nervy 1-0 win to ease the worries slightly.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: Won 2-1 A couple of opening-day goals from Dean Ashton were enough to seal the points. Doesn't August 2008 seem a long time ago?

Referee: Alan Wiley Considers his finest game to have been our 3-3 Cup Final draw with the Scousers. Those who saw the unpunished assault on Harewood or Wiley's failure to police the penalty shoot-out properly might disagree. Last seen trying hard not to upset Fergie in our defeat at Old Trafford.

Danger Man: Rodallega – by virtue of the fact that he's top scorer. Also Melchiot's throws can cause problems (even when legal). Has anyone seen those spare advertising hoardings?

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 g portugal
09:26AM 23rd Apr 2010
''Agree on Whelan - one of the most deluded, hypocritical pieces of filth in professional sport. And well stated on the gob-wasters of north London. Fartenham Snottspur - the club that screams the loudest while accomplishing the least. ''

by Anon
07:35AM 23rd Apr 2010
''What's happend to Diamantri, Previev Percy? If you cannot get into this side, God help him! Reina could have bought his deck chair, slippers and cigars to cheer himself up Monday night. He must have been close to dying of boredom.

You claim that you go down to the training ground, what the bloody hell goes on down there? Do you reckon they even talk about defending techniques? Or is the club so hard up now they play using pretend balls? 'They lost heart when the first goal went in' on Monday, says Zola. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

If you're ever to believe The Sun, now we're told Pardew is coming back. The football was excruciating under Pardew. Total calamity capers at the Boleyn. They'll be playing Looney tunes to greet the players as they come out of the tunnel next season.

Bring back Trevor!''

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