Sheffield Wednesday v West Ham United

When we said "Happy New Year" to Preview Percy he tried to have us arrested for "threatening behaviour". Here's his take on this weekend's trip to Hillsborough for the FA Cup 3rd round tie against Sheffield Wednesday. The much nicer John Northcutt will be popping by later with the historical background to the match...

Next it's cup time as we journey up the M1 to Hillsborough for Sunday's 3pm kick-off at Sheffield Wednesday in the third round of the FA Cup which is sponsored by something or other.

A quick word about the journey: The M1 is closed in both directions around junction 19 with the M6 while they remove an old viaduct. Shame they didn't build it out of the same stuff they built the Hammersmith flyover out of - it would have come down all on its own. The northbound diversion will add a reported 25 miles to the journey not to mention the time added by having all the stuff that would normally go straight up the M1 going up the M6/M69 instead. Might be worth getting the road atlas out for alternative routes. Incidentally, although the works are due to finish by midday on Sunday, I'd suggest that you check before you leave Sheffield just in case they overrun. It's been known to happen.

Our opponents come into this game going well in the league where they sit in second place in the third division with 49 points from 24 games. That's five points behind Charlton and two ahead of Huddersfield over whom they have a game in hand. Their last six matches - including their 2nd Round FA Cup tie - have seen them won four, drawn two and lost just the once. The most notable match may have been the draw in which they shared the points with Huddersfield Town at Hillsborough in a 4-4 thriller that saw alleged Hammers target Jordan Rhodes score all four for the visitors, including a 97th minute equaliser. They have reached the third round of the Cup by virtue of an away win at Morecambe (2-1) and a 1-0 defeat of Aldershot at Hillsborough.

The club are owned by Milan Mandaric, which is probably just about all I'm allowed to say at the moment. The manager is Gary Megson who was appointed boss by Mandaric back in February following the departure of Alan Irvine. It's not the first time the two have worked together - Megson was a Mandaric appointee at Leicester City. Wednesday's current good form means that the manager's stock is high with Owls fans at present, something which much make a pleasant change for the manager whose relationship with fans at former club Bolton made the spat between Paul McCartney and the bird with the false leg look like a love-in of Woodstock proportions. Counting his playing career it's Megson's third spell at the club for whom his dad Don made over 400 appearances. Amongst many other clubs Megson (G) also had a spell at Forest under Clough who once described the player as being unable to "trap a bag of cement" - an unusual skill the use of which in modern football has never been satisfactorily explained to me.

First choice in goal would appear to be former Charlton 'keeper Nicky Weaver. He's recently back from injury having had knee problems - past operations include having a dead man's cartilage inserted into the offending joint, something that sounds like the plot for a very bad 1970's horror movie. Weaver has been with the Owls since the summer of 2010 although he had visited on loan about five years previously.

Also available for selection will be ex-Hammer Stephen Bywater. Bywater came in on loan from Derby to cover Weaver's injury absences earlier this season. That loan spell ended a couple of weeks ago but, with Derby so uninterested in retaining the player they couldn't be bothered with the inconvenience of even issuing him with a squad number, he was allowed to leave and joined the Owls on a permanent deal when the window opened on New Year's Day. Official psychiatric reports describe the player as "bonkers in the nut - even by goalkeeper standards" and he has frequently claimed to be considering a career in cage fighting when he retires from football. "How hard can it be to beat up a budgie" is something that he probably hasn't said - though nobody would be surprised if he had. This being a cup match he may get the nod over Weaver if Megson decides to give the no.1 choice's knees a bit of a rest after a busy holiday period.

The skipper is Rob "not the one that played once for the Irons in an Intertoto Cup match" Jones. Jones came up through non-league ranks to Stockport then Grimsby. At the end of 2006/06 he made a strange move to Hibs where he spent three years before returning to (relative) civilisation with Scunthorpe. He joined the Owls on loan last March, the deal becoming permanent in the close season whereupon Megson made him skipper. At 6'7" tall, the defender is useful at set pieces and he is much missed in the non-league scene. Since he left Gateshead in 2003 they have to do piggy backs to get the nets up.

Top scorer at the moment is striker Gary Madine. Madine picked up a broken toe (yup the word "metatarsal" is definitely out of fashion) towards the end of November and was set to be out for six weeks, a period that ends just about now. He has 11 goals so far this season and has been linked with a move to Norwich in amongst the usual transfer speculation. The home support will therefore be reading all sorts of conspiracy theories into things if he doesn't return for this one, though they could be forgiven for giving him one more week as they face league leaders Charlton in their next match. He had a rather interesting return to former club Carlisle with Wednesday back in October. He was sent off and did one of those "moving the head but not quite a headbutt" things on the ref, something that got him a fine for improper conduct. Like a pub drunk who won't leave the argument lie he then got into a war of words with Carlisle fans on twitter before closing his account. The pub drunk analogy may be a good one - in 2010 he beat up a fan in a Carlisle pub getting 250 hours community service for his trouble.

They'll be missing winger Ben Marshall. Marshall has been refused permission by parent club Stoke to play lest he become cup-tied. If I were Megson I'd pick him as sub and bring him on for the last ten anyway without telling anyone. I mean it's not as if anyone would be stupid enough to pick a cup-tied player in an important match, is it?

Team news for us is that we are likely to show a number of changes from the XI that walloped Coventry 1-0. In last weekend's post-match press conference the manager hinted that John Carew might get a run out if fit. Since his return from loan at Gillingham Frank Nouble has looked lively and it wouldn't surprise me to see him given a start. The opportunity may be taken to give Gary O'Neil some pitch time as he bids to improve his match fitness. There are a number of other options available to Mr Allardyce, some of which will be afforded to him by the luxury of being able to name a sensible seven players on the bench instead of the ludicrous five he is limited to in the league. I'd like to see an appearance at some stage from young Hall whose few minutes up at Derby were a tantalising glimpse of potential talent. I think the BBC's suggestion that Callum McNaughton might leave AFC Wimbledon a bit fed up though, given that he signed for them on a permanent deal yesterday.

A few months ago we laboured to a 0-0 draw against Bristol City, a match which the manager was convinced we dominated and were unlucky not to win by five or six. If Mr Allardyce has some strange talent for seeing into the future and really meant to say "Coventry" instead of "Bristol" then maybe he had a point - the Sky Blues' keeper Murphy had a fine game and the fact that it was only 1-0 was largely down to his form. In a way it was good to actually really see us dominating the opposition in this way (as opposed to the "statistical" domination of the Bristol City match). However, it was a bit worrying that we hadn't put the match well beyond reach before the last few minutes when we got the usual jitters. The failure to convert chances into goals is something of a worry - something we are apparently working to rectify in the transfer window.

Prediction? Well it's all set up for a fall isn't it?! High-flying team from a division below comes up against a team likely to be populated with not exactly first choice players. However, unlike the Aldershot match earlier this season in the League Cup where the second string included a number of players less than interested in being there, we will be looking at some fringe players with more of a point to prove. I am legally obliged to include some sort of FA Cup giant-killing clich? in this preview and I should therefore say that the Cup is a great leveller. I'll therefore go for a 2-2 draw and a replay, which, because they usually take place ten days after the first match, will at least mean that M1 will be open. Possibly.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met: We turned them over 4-2 at Hillsborough in the second round of the League Cup back in the 2005-06 season. Two from Zamora and one from Dailly put us 3-0 up. They scored two in a minute to peg it back to 3-2 before the on loan David Bellion sealed the match with an 84th minute effort.

Referee: Keith Stroud Last seen doing our 2-1 win at Coventry. So short that Sam Baldock towers over him. It'll be funny if he has to have a chat with the aforementioned Jones.

Danger Man: Gary Madine - if fit he could be a handful - particularly if there are scouts from higher level clubs about to watch. Skipper Jones will also need watching at corners.

Daft fact of the week: Sheffield Wednesday used to play at Bramall Lane and were called "The Blades". They ditched the ground for their own place when they got fed up with sharing the gate money with the ground's owners, eventually ending up at Hillsborough. The nickname was ditched when it became clear that supporters of the other club in Sheffield were too stupid to come up with anything original, a tradition that they still adhere to to this very day.

Stat man John: Northcutt's corner

Red card recipients

1986-87: Frank McAvennie (FA Cup, h)
1994-95: Tim Breacker (h)
1994-95: Alvin Martin (h) - NB. This was later rescinded

They Played For Both

Peter Eustace; Steve Bywater; Joe Cockroft; Lee Chapman; Bobby Ferguson; Johnny Sissons; Paolo Di Canio; John Harkes; Percy Thorpe; Joey O'Brien.

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