West Ham United v Bolton Wanderers - Match Preview

We thought we'd got shot of him but unfortunately he was only on holiday. If we'd known he was coming back we'd have moved. He is Preview Percy and the clue is in the name........

And so to a 3pm Saturday kick-off at home to Bolton Wanderers. "The Trotters" (as us old folk like to call them) have become something of a bogey team for us in recent years with Robert Green in particular having cause to remember them with the same sort of affection as he does for USA.

The visitors finished in 14th place last term, some three places and four points ahead of ourselves, partly as a result of our 2-1 defeat in the corresponding match last season. Their boss is Owen Coyle who took over from the highly unpopular Gary Megson in January. Megson - like his predecessors the fat (and offside in 1981) Sammy Lee and the fat (and just plain obnoxious) Sam Allardyce - was not noted for the aesthetic qualities of the sides he put out. Having avoided relegation, Coyle has been given a mandate to bring entertaining football back to the Reebok, though it's early days for a complete change of style. I certainly wouldn't expect skipper Kevin Davies to abandon the tactic of playing whichever is closest of player or ball (if in doubt, player) that has brought him so many "player with most fouls" awards over the years (five of the last seven seasons fact fans). I'm not sure the fans will be too bothered with the style of football as long as the results are positive - this was, after all, the principal difference between the reigns of Megson and Lee and that of Allardyce.

Ins and outs have been interesting this season. The useful Martin Petrov wasn't expensive enough for Manchester City to display in public ("he would have looked cheap and shoddy next to all the new stuff") and was a decent acquisition by any standards. Coyle popped back to Burnley to pick up Robbie Blake who, like Petrov, came in on a Bosman. A longer journey was required to pick up US "soccer" international Stuart Holden who was part of the septic squad in South Africa in the summer. Holden is Scottish-born and was apparently brought up in the brilliantly named city of Sugar Land in Texas. Bolton is in fact his second Premier League club, having had a spell five years ago on Sunderland's books. His first team ambitions were curtailed by an incident outside a Newcastle bar that left him with a fractured eye socket only a few days after he had signed. I can't believe that nobody told him not to mention who he played for when in Newcastle. We are led to believe that 19 year old Spanish defender Marco Alonso turned down Benfica for the lure of Horwich. That's got to be some salary difference - or perhaps the lure of black pudding was too much to resist. The left-sided full-back/midfielder came in from Real Madrid for an undisclosed fee following one appearance as a 90th minute substitute towards the end of last season. Croatian Ivan Klasnic has also returned, this time on a permanent deal having been released by Nantes from whom Bolton borrowed him last season. The main departure as far as Bolton will be concerned is the return of Jack Wilshere to Arsenal following his successful loan spell last season. There's got to be a joke in there somewhere about returning stuff to the library but I haven't got the energy to go find it I'm afraid.

They opened their season with a 0-0 draw against Fulham having had slightly the better of a match described in most reports as "scrappy". Holden might have nicked the three points late on with a shot that hit the post. Whilst Zamora went close for the visitors with a nice little chip that had Jaaskelainen scrambling back as it went just over, but by and large it was the defences that ruled the roost. Of the new boys, both Petrov and Holden started, Petrov's debut being described as "encouraging". Blake had a day on the bench whilst Alonso is presumably being looked at as one for the future, though with a name like that he'll be comfortable with a place on the racing car seats that serve as subs benches these days.

So what of us I hear you cry. Well I can't make much comment about last weekend having been away with limited access to football resources. I saw the goals of course and couldn't help but notice that the first was a mile offside and that the referee was our old friend Mike Dean - which makes that the 2,000th bad decision that he's given against us over the last ten years. However most reports suggest that we were, as the saying goes, lucky to get nil. From what I saw of pre-season I have a suspicion that Mr Grant is not totally sure of his best starting XI. However whatever the line up, that eleven is likely to include Thomas Hitzlsperger, which makes his absence due to the "Injury Curse Of The New Signing" all the more galling. His absence last week also cost us the goal that players traditionally get against their former clubs. Apart from "Der Hammer" the only other injury absentees will be sub 'keeper Kurucz who joins Jack Collison and Zavon Hines on the long-term list - though Behrami is another possible absentee due to a lack of match fitness. I was puzzled to see that DaCosta wasn't even on the bench last weekend - he appears to have fallen behind Danny Gabbidon in the pecking order. I'd certainly plump for more experience in the centre of defence against Davies this weekend with Gabbidon or DaCosta taking the place of Tomkins in my starting line-up. Having been away I'm not sure how Winston Reid shaped up but many reports contained the word "torrid". Ben Haim was another who didn't make the squad last week but if available I'd perhaps expect him to play some part in proceedings.

Meanwhile we seem to be linked with every striker in the country at the moment. Rumours of Santa Cruz from Man City were swiftly dismissed though it appears that Felipe Caicedo was a more likely arrival. If Caicedo were to come - and a loan with a view to a permanent move was being spoken of in some quarters - that will leave us with Cole, Piquionne, Hines, McCarthy, Barrera, Nouble and Sears as well as Caicedo in the frame for the forward places. It's a shame that we missed out on Bellamy though - in my opinion (for what little that may be worth) he is precisely the sort of player that we have been missing since, well, when Bellamy left. A short, pacy, tricky type of player would make the ideal foil to Carlton Cole's more robust approach and I have doubts that the other candidates are ideal for that role. However, the suspicion is that Man City were never going to allow Bellamy to appear for another Premier League club and, given Bellamy's Cardiff background and the fact that he wasn't going to be included in the Man City squad, the deal suits all parties. Unfortunately. At the time of writing it appears that cold feet have taken over on the Caicedo deal - we have one loan space left and it is thought that right-back is more of a priority for that spot.

We have no indication of what sort of side that Grant will put out but one hopes it'll be more of an attacking line-up than seems to have been the case at Villa. I'm far from convinced that we see the best of Carlton Cole as a lone striker (see above comments re Bellamy) and, apart from anything else, leaving him alone up front sends a message to the opponents that we are there with the intention of avoiding defeat rather than going for all three points. Whilst that might be a pragmatic view away from home against difficult opponents, it's not something I enjoy watching at the Boleyn and I'd rather not see us start off on the back foot this time around, particularly against Bolton, who are hard to break down at the best of times.

Predictions? Well having not seen much of last week's match I have yet to have my traditional na?ve pre-season optimism knocked kicking and screaming out of me. So at this point I'll go for a win - let's say 2-1 to get us on the board in advance of a tough few weeks to come.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: Lost 2-1 One of the many matches in which we failed to make the most of a spell playing against ten men as Cohen finally saw his marching orders after a seemingly endless string of yellow card offences.

Danger Man: Kevin Davies - owner of a file containing photographs of every single Premier League referee in compromising situations. Well how else to you account for their continued leniency with him? Jaaskalainen can also be relied to have a stormer against us whilst Elmander has a poor scoring record - which probably means he'll fill his boots against us.

Referee: Andre Marriner - last seen taking charge of the 3-2 defeat at Fulham. I can't remember much about his performance which is either a) a good thing or b) the result of the fact that I was one of those who made the journey to Craven Cottage by floating bar and, as a result, have few memories at all of the day's events.

Travel tip: Make an early start for the match. Upton Park tube is closed with rail replacement buses adding to the normal match-day traffic chaos.

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