West Ham United v Aldershot Town

Preview Percy is the sort of person who writes letters to the BBC about the programme "Grumpy Old Men" on the grounds that the participants are too cheerful. So you can imagine his reaction when we turned up at his rest home and told him that relegation would mean taking part in the first round of the League Cup and would he mind awfully writing another preview even though he'd only just finished the last one. Here's his look at this week's match against Aldershot Town.....

I dunno, you wait a whole close season for a football match then two come along in a matter of days. We now entertain Aldershot Town in the first round of the League Cup in a 7.45pm kick-off at the Boleyn. Due to an administrative error, the District Line will be running for the second match running. This is a new London record for which a plaque will, no doubt, be erected, the unveiling ceremony to be attended by Boris Johnson and the Mayor of Newham.

The Shots currently play in Division 4 (or whatever they call it) of the league and are the successor club to the former Aldershot FC which went into liquidation in 1992. On foundation in 1992 the new club entered the pyramid structure at Isthmian League level and it has been a steady (rather than meteoric) rise through the various levels over the years. They gained promotion to the Conference in 2002/03 and the following season came close to gaining league membership, losing out to Shrewsbury on penalties in the play-off final. This brush with success prompted the adopting of full-time professional status shortly after, though it took them until the end of the 2006/07 season to finally make it into the Football League. However, when they did finally take the place relinquished by their predecessor club 15 years earlier, they did it in some style, picking up 101 points en route.

Last season, after a dodgy start that prompted a number of changes on the coaching staff, most notably at managerial level where Kevin Dillon was replaced by Dean Holdsworth, they ended up in 14th place. Holdsworth has an interesting past to say the least, including an extra-marital affair with a pneumatically-endowed 17 year old page 3 girl, the details of which were played out all over the tabloids all those years ago. I have to admit it's not a story I followed at the time but no doubt a certain now defunct Sunday paper will release the voicemail tapes on one of these new-fangled compact disc things in due course. More amusingly, it was said that, during Holdsworth's playing days, Wimbledon FC owner Sam Hamman had promised to buy the player either a camel or a Ferrari if he managed to score 20 or more in a season. Thankfully for Holdsworth, he was spared the tricky selection dilemma this would have posed him by his inability to score more than 16 goals in a season in either of his two spells with the club.

Amongst Aldershot's playing staff is the familiar name of Anthony Pulis. Pulis is the son of anti-football guru Tony and has a few Welsh U21 caps. He was on his Dad's playing staff at Stoke for a while but the bulk of his football at the time was played elsewhere on loan at places such as Torquay, Grimsby, Plymouth and Bristol Rovers. Having made only two first team appearances for the Potters in the four years he was there, he left on a free for Southampton where, again, he spent his time being farmed out elsewhere, Lincoln, Stockport and Barnet all enjoying the use of the player's services. Southampton released the player at the end of last season without him ever having bothered the bloke who prints the names on the back of the first team kit and he made the trip up the M3 to Aldershot during the close season.

Last season's supporters' Player Of The Year was 29 year-old Luke Gutteridge. Gutteridge has been about a bit and his CV includes spells with Leyton Orient, Colchester and Southend. The midfielder's 6 goals in 37 league matches last term made him the club's top scorer though, at the time of writing he may be a doubt for this one having picked up a knee injury in the pre-season 1-0 win over Stoke.

Also worthy of note in midfield is the splendidly-monikered Manny Panther. Panther started his pro career in Scotland with St Johnstone and is seemingly on a mission to play for clubs in all parts of the realm, having made it down as far as Exeter from whom he joined Aldershot last year. Older readers with a penchant for the noble art may remember the player's father - the even-better-named Cyril Panther - for his boxing exploits in the 1960's and early 70's.

Between the sticks their first choice 'keeper is Aussie-born but (England qualified) 'keeper Jaimie Young. Young had a spell on Reading's books though first-team appearances were limited and he's been on a tour of the Home Counties ever since, spending four years at Wycombe before alighting at Aldershot in 2010. The 'keeper, who has been capped at England U20 level, signed a one year contract extension this summer.

A new boy on the scene this season is striker Bradley Bubb who has come in from local rivals Farnborough. Bubb is actually a full international, having picked up caps for Grenada, the tv station better known for producing Coronation Street.

Also in the arrivals lounge is Reading youngster Jake Taylor who has come in for an initial month on loan from the Biscuitmen, Holdsworth hinting that the player might be seen as cover for Guttridge.

In on a full time deal is Graham Montgomery, who will be familiar to those of you who keep an eye on Dagenham & Redbridge who released the player during the summer.

Bubb has been joined in the striking department by Michael Rankine who has come in from York City. Rankine is hardly what you'd call the most prolific of strikers - 63 goals in 360 plus first team appearances isn't going to have drained the stattos calculator batteries too much over the years.

The other striking option is Danny Hylton who has been with the club since he was a kid. He nearly upped sticks for AFC Wimbledon in the January window before being persuaded to sign a one year extension to his contract.

It's up front that has caused something of a problem area for the Shots over the past season or two. The 2009/10 top scorer Marvin Morgan left under something of a cloud at the end of the season. Having been booed off after a match in January, he used the medium of Twitter to give the following delightful message to Aldershot fans: "I hope you all die". Morgan was shipped off to Dagenham and Redbridge on loan for the rest of the season and went to Shrewsbury in close season. All of which does beg the question: has any professional footballer, ever, posted something intelligent on twitter? Meanwhile, Gutteridge's top position in the goalscoring charts, the fact that only two clubs in the division scored fewer goals last season and the relative inexperience of Bubb and Rankine at League level all point to a possible lack of firepower for the visitors.

Another player we won't be seeing is Anthony Charles. Charles did his cruciate knee ligaments towards the end of last season and, with his contract having expired during the break he is currently without a club, a situation that is due at least in part to Aldershot not being in the financial position to afford to pay a player with a long term injury. This is something that should act as a salutory reminder that the professional game is not all multi-millionaires, Ferraris and camels. There may be a happy outcome for the player in sight, however, as he is being linked with former Shots boss Gary Waddock at Wycombe Wanderers.

The departure of Charles left the team without a captain. Full back Ben Herd (wasn't that a film that had Charlton Heston in that chariot race?) had the armband during pre-season but Holdsworth proved that clich?d football-twaddle-speak is not merely the preserve of the higher levels of the game by delaying his announcement, commenting that he "wanted eleven captains out there on the pitch" . In the end they settled on just the two skippers, Herd getting the title of first team captain and central defender Darren Jones getting the "Club Captain" role. In a way it's a bit like us last year I suppose, with Upson getting the armband and Parker doing the actual work.

The highlight of their pre-season was the previously-mentioned win over Stoke, though draws with Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Charlton are both also noteworthy. Their league season kicked off on Saturday at Bradford City where Hylton and a Threlfall o.g. gave them a 2-1 win, Bradford's consolation coming deep into stoppage time.

And so to us. Well all that pre-season optimism was well-placed wasn't it? It's a clich? even older than I am that if you don't take your chances you don't win games and we certainly had chances that went begging on Sunday. However, despite there being some good points to take out of the disappointment, there were a couple of things that I found personally rather disturbing - and I'm not talking about the contents of the pre-match burger I suffered. Firstly, considering that we now have a manager that sets great store on the scientific side of things, including fitness, it was rather worrying that one or two seemed a bit tired so soon. The last time I saw anyone breathing as heavily as Ilunga was in the second half my nurse nicked my oxygen bottle to go and help the poor chap.

Secondly, despite our chances, I thought we lacked variety in attack - Piquionne and Cole are too similar to make a proper partnership and if you simply replace one with the other you're not really giving the opposition a lot to think about.

Still that was the league and this is the League Cup. If nothing else we're likely to see a much-changed team on show. Certainly even if the boss were of a mind to pick the likes of Collison, Parker or Green, those three will be unavailable due to international commitments and Mr Allardyce's confirmed post-match on Sunday that a number of players on the edge of his chosen first XI will get starts in this one. Look out, therefore, for the likes of Boffin, Stanislas, Nouble etc to feature. The tone of the Boss's comments suggested that he would be regarding this match almost as a trial for those players who reckon that they're up to first team standard, even going so far as to implying that those who failed to impress might be heading for the exit door.

Even allowing for the selection of a team that might have been considered a second XI back in the days when we actually used to have such a thing, we ought to have enough to win this one though we've said that before haven't we? They have absolutely nothing to lose so are in the position of being able to give it a go whilst we, as usual, are on a hiding to nothing. Win - we ought to, lose and it's an upset. Prediction? Well I'll play it straight and go for a 3-1 win, but I'm keeping my fingers firmly crossed against the spectre of one of our traditional giant killing failures.

Enjoy the game!

Last Season: N/A

(Since technically Aldershot Town is a completely different club from the similarly-named Aldershot that previously competed in the league, this will be our first match ever against these opponents).

Player To Watch: Luke Gutteridge - last season's top scorer he has a habit of coming through from midfield to chip in with much-needed goals. Gutteridge might miss this one through injury in which case keep an eye out for Saturday's goalscorer Danny Hylton

Referee: Graham Scott - a new one to us. He took charge of the 1-1 draw between Huddersfield Town and Bury at the weekend where he dished out three yellows.

Daft Fact Of The Week: Late comedian Arthur English (that's Mr Harman in "Are You Being Served" to you) was a big Aldershot fan and actually designed the club's "Phoenix From The Ashes" club crest. English used regularly to take the other members of the "Grace Brothers" sitcom to matches at the Recreation Ground - with the exception of John Inman, who on Saturdays was usually occupied in his other role as prop forward for Hull Kingston Rovers.

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