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West Ham United v Blackpool

Filed: Friday, 14th October 2011
By: Preview Percy

The only good thing about an international break is the fact that it gives us a week off from Preview Percy. Trouble is when club football returns, so does he. The shenanigans of the England football, rugby and cricket teams means that he’s even grumpier than usual – and trust us that takes some doing. Here’s his take on this weekend’s visit of Blackpool...

And so after the international break we return to League action for a 3pm kick off at the Boleyn against Blackpool. I say 3pm, there are still a couple of days left before kick-off and, until you hear the whistle go to signify the start I’d keep all options open in case Sky decide to broadcast things at the last minute. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if they wandered on at half time and asked everyone to come back on Monday so they can show the second 45.

Talking of tv, did anyone notice that Friday’s Montenegro v England match clashed with “An Idiot Abroad 2”? One programme featured a balding northerner behaving like a complete tool on foreign shores. I haven’t watched the other yet but it has Karl Pilkington is in it apparently.

All of which has little to do with Blackpool of course. Our opponents this week currently lie in 7th place with 16 points, which is three places and two points below ourselves. They’ve won four, drawn four and lost two (which in Sam-speak is a 4-3-3 record). Their last outing before the break – which seems like a lifetime ago – was a 5-0 win over Bristol City. Comfortable though that sounds, reports suggest that ‘keeper Gilks was required to be on top form in the early part of the match to keep the Tangerines in contention and that the final score was a little harsh on the visitors, a point underlined by the fact that the last 3 goals came in the 83rd, 92nd and 94th minutes. We, of course, are no strangers to the unconvincing 5 goal win – see just about every match we’ve played against Burnley in recent years.

They are managed, of course, by Ian Holloway. Holloway is much beloved of tabloid journalists for his ability to conjour up amusing metaphors and similes for football, often involving leaving nightclubs with the least attractive women available. I expect Mrs Holloway had a few words to say on that one. Holloway is never short of a word or ten to say on any subject and a spot of preliminary research for this piece (don’t sound so surprised – I don’t make ALL of it up) brought forward the information that the Holloway exchequer has already been raided this season to the tune of £2,000 as a result of comments made on refereeing. It was notable that Holloway was also penalised £9,500 last term for criticising that denizen of refereeing and in no way a self-important buffoon Mike Dean. The authorities seem to make a hell of a lot of money from capitalising on the dreadful standards of refereeing in this country (£20k alone from Avram Grant following a performance from Mike Jones that ought to have been investigated by the fraud squad last season) and it has suddenly dawned on me that it is actually more profitable for the authorities to employ rubbish referees than it is to improve standards. As conspiracy theories go it beats anything you’ve read by David Icke – though I suppose it is entirely possible that Dean is some sort of alien lizard. I would write to Mr Holloway for his comments but I wouldn’t want him to get into any more trouble.

Holloway won friends with his approach to life in their premiership season last year, though I expect that they’d have exchanged a few of those friends for points in their ultimately unsuccessful bit to remain in the top flight. That bid ended with a last day visit to Old Trafford where they went down 4-2. The club finished in 19th place having spent £25,000 of this season’s parachute money on a fine for fielding an understrength team in a match v West Brom. Apparently that’s illegal unless you are in the top four, at which point it becomes “squad rotation”.

In goal they’ve been employing the services of the aforementioned Gilks. Gilks missed much of last season having damaged his knee in the corresponding fixture last November, an injury that saw him lose his place to Ghanaian international Richard Kingson. Gilks regained his position as first-choice custodian when Kingson was released at the end of last season. He has featured in a few Scottish international squads by virtue of his having a Scottish gran, though he has yet to make his full debut for the sweaties.

A defender who can play virtually anywhere across the back is Alex Baptiste who, despite the exotic- sounding surname, is a Nottinghamshire lad. Holloway refers to the player in interviews as “Baps” which is a damned good wheeze and one which I wish I’d thought of a few years ago when the former Mrs Percy overheard a phone call I was making.

Another full back is the squad is Bob Harris, who arrived from Queen Of The South in the summer having done a stint as presenter of classic tv rock show “The Old Grey Whistle Test”. He has yet to make a league appearance for the Tangerines since his arrival, presumably because his famous whispering voice isn’t loud enough for his fellow defenders to hear.

In midfield another recent arrival is one Tom Ince. Ince is the son of he whose name shall not be mentioned in polite circles. For Blackpool’s sake it is to be hoped that if he ever lines himself up a transfer elsewhere he has the decency to wait until he actually signs for a new club before taking instructions from his new manager. One thing is sure, we’re unlikely to see him standing in the middle of the pitch, hands on hips watching the match go by like his old man once did.

On loan in the middle is Jonjo Shelvey. Shelvey joined Liverpool from Charlton towards the end of 2009/10 but, although he has featured on the bench on numerous occasions, a regular place in the starting line-up has proved elusive, leading to his arrival at Bloomfield Road on loan.

The skipper is Barry Ferguson (or, if you will, Barry Ferguson MBE). The bulk of his career has been spent at Rangers where he made 400 odd appearances spread over two separate spells. South of the border he’s had spells at Blackburn, and Birmingham from whom he joined the Tangerines during the close season. His career has not been without controversy. He seems to have had the captaincy of both club and country stripped from him on an almost regular basis, usually for unspecified “breaches of country/club discipline” – amongst his misdemeanours are late night drinking sessions and the making of “inappropriate gestures” to the Icelandic national team’s subs bench. Given that country’s record in world economics and their role in our own problems, I think we can forgive him that one.

There are some interesting faces in the forward line. Maltese international Dan Bogdanovic is, in fact, a Libyan-born Serb, which probably qualifies him to play for the Republic Of Ireland as well. He spent a number of years playing in the Maltese leagues, including a season at Naxxar Lions, the local side of forum member Maltese Hammer, to whom I’m indebted for the following piece of deep background detail, the likes of which you don’t find on other sites: he’s a nice guy. After about 7 years in the George Cross island he hopped across the Med to Cisco Roma where he played alongside a certain Mr Di Canio who was seeing out the end of his career in the lower echelons of the Italian League. A spell in Bulgaria with Lokomotiv primed him for life in Yorkshire where he met with mixed success with Barnsley and Sheffield United before finally arriving in Blackpool this summer. When the player finally retires he intends to travel the world using only the air miles he clocked up over his career. Bogdanovic is now a doubt for this one having missed Malta’s midweek defeat to Israel with a hamstring problem.

Another much-travelled striker is Kevin Phillips. Another summer arrival, having cadged a lift with Ferguson from St Andrews, he is always quoted as having “looked after himself” and the fact that he is still playing at a decent level at the age of 38 is testament to this. Of course tradition dictates that I should point out that he polled no votes at all, not a sausage, bugger all, when contesting the Luton by-election for the Slightly Silly party in the Monty Python Election Special sketch of the 1970’s, before going on to lead the cast in a spirited rendition of “Climb Every Mountain”. Comedy was much funnier back then.

A late addition to the squad is Lomano Tresor Lua Lua. Lua Lua is best remembered for a spell with Newcastle and his gymnastic goal celebrations involving seven back flips and a back somersault. These reminded me of my own goal celebrations back in my playing days though mine consisted of a few fewer backflips. About seven fewer to be precise. And one fewer somersault as well. Lua Lua signed only the other day having been released by Cypriot outfit Omnia, and arrives fresh from a spell training with Hartlepool, opting to step up a division in the process.

And what of us? Well I suppose we shouldn’t turn our noses up at an away point such as the one we picked up at Palace, though one hopes that it didn’t go unnoticed that both goals came as a result of working the ball out wide and getting crosses in, rather than simply lumping it long to an isolated forward, something we saw a wee bit too much of for my liking at Selhurst Park.

Team news will see Almunia continue between the sticks as Rob Green recovers from his knee op. We may already have seen the last of David Bentley in claret & blue as another knee injury will keep him out for six months, though there is a conspiracy theory that his operation was just a cover to facilitate the removal of the listening device that his parent club has been using during the Olympic Stadium debacle. Admittedly it’s a theory I’ve just made up but there’s no conspiracy theory so daft that some idiot won’t fall for it – look out for it presented as fact somewhere on the web any day now.

Mark Noble and Matt Taylor are likely to be available for selection – though with three matches in a little more than a week coming up it remains to be seen whether or not either or both will be given starts. Joey O'Brien is more of a doubt and Demel is rated as “still a bit iffy” by those who know their hamstrings so we may have to wait a wee bit longer for his debut.

Up front Cole was very out of sorts at Palace, though his cause wasn’t helped by having to plough a lone furrow for much of the match. Having said that, Carew and Baldock looked a much better bet when they came on and that would be my preferred frontline, if not necessarily that of the manager.

Prediction? They’ll attack. We ought to. Let’s go for a five goal thriller with us getting the better of a 3-2 scoreline (which means a dull 0-0 if my record is anything to go by!)

Enjoy the game!

Last season: Drew 0-0 An eventful match that could have ended up 5-5. We won the return up there 3-1.

Danger Man: Kevin Phillips (bongggg) – Still capable of scoring at this level.

Referee: Andy D’Urso – has done us few favours in the past in the past, something that may or may not have had something to do with his rejection by the club as a young player. We haven’t seen much of him in recent years as he managed the incredibly difficult feat of being removed from the select group back in 2006. Although he was reinstated on appeal, he’s barely featured at the top level since. On past form, the authorities’ coffers might well be enriched once more after the final whistle.

Daft fact of the week: Blackpool escaped major bomb damage during WWII and, apparently, there is documentary evidence to suggest that Adolf Hitler had ordered that the resort be spared for use as a pleasure resort after his proposed invasion. Strangely, when this story arose a few years ago, the local tourist authority missed a chance for a new slogan – to my knowledge “Hitler’s Favourite Resort” never appeared on any official literature and they’ve continued to try to attract people on the strength of the fact that they have some lights or something.

Stat man John: Northcutt's corner

First Meeting

We shall have to go back to 1907 for this first encounter as the Hammers, then in the Southern League, were drawn away in the FA Cup to Second Division side Blackpool.

The Lancashire club agreed to play the game at Upton Park upon West Ham paying them a sum of money. The game went ahead before an attendance of 13,000 which was more than twice the average Blackpool home attendance.

The Hammers won 2-1 with goals from Arthur Winterhalder and Harry Stapley. It could have been more as Vic Watson had his penalty saved by goalkeeper Wilcox.

They Player For Both

Kyel Reid, Marlon Harewood, Trevor Sinclair, George Dick, Bob Wyllie, Adam Nowland, Percy Thorpe, Ted MacDougall, Les Sealey, Mike Newell, Tom McAlister and Don Travis.

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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