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Portsmouth v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 13th January 2012
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy is unwell. He's got a temperature higher than Alastair Cook's batting average, he aches all over and he just wants to stay in bed. Did we leave him alone? Did we heck. We poked him with a stick and this is what he came up with. John Northcutt will be along to round things off later.....

Next we traipse down the A3 through the brand new shiny tunnel at Hindhead to visit Portsmouth for a 3pm Saturday kick off. Going by train? Give yourself a decent amount of time as engineering diversions will send you all round the houses between Clapham Junction & Woking adding anything up to an hour to the normal journey time,

Our hosts for the weekend currently occupy 17th spot. Although this is nearer in position to the bottom than the top, in terms of points they are virtually equidistant from both the relegation places (7 points clear) and the play-off slots (8 points adrift).

Current form isn't too shabby – they've won three (2-0 at home to Watford, 1-0 away at Burnley and 2-1 at home to Coventry) drawn two (both 1-1 at home, to Leicester and Southampton) and just lost the once (1-0 at Millwall).

Since we met earlier in the season there's been a change at the helm (an apposite metaphor given the city's maritime heritage). Steve Cotterill legged it to Forest in October. His replacement is Michael Appleton whose name I can guarantee met with the response “who?” from just about everyone not connected with West Brom. He's a young boss – 36 I believe – which is a consequence of his having to retire from playing at a ludicrously young age following a knee injury.

Serious though the injury was – cruciate knee ligaments are not exactly what I'd call “fun” - all concerned were optimistic that an operation would sort things out. Unfortunately the surgeon involved bodged the job putting an end to the player's career. The butcher responsible ended up having to shell out compensation both to West Brom and to Appleton (or at least his insurance company did) but I'm sure that won't have made that moment of realisation any less painful for him.

If that part of Appleton's life was a bit soap opera-ish what happened shortly after his arrival at Fratton Park served as a constant reminder that life at Pompey is a constant episode of the late and unlamented Sky football soap “Dream Team”. The current owner (sort of) is Vladimir Antonov, who resigned as chairman at the end of November when the club's parent company went into administration. This change took place after Antonov was arrested at his London offices on the back of a warrant issued by the Lithuanian authorities following investigations into asset stripping at a Lithuanian bank. He's currently out on bail – though if I were a betting man I'd suggest that it'll be a while before he sees his passport again.

The club are apparently close to naming new owners – an Italian by the name of Joseph Cala has been talking himself up of late, though no-one at the club will be drawn on specifics at the moment. After all that's occurred in recent years you can hardly blame them. This won't see the end of their problems – the parent company's administration means that a points deduction could still be on the cards once the authorities have worked out what the hell is going on.

Of course when considering legal matters one should remember that the court case involving (Editor's note we removed the next ten pages of text on legal grounds!).

In goal the first choice is Jamie Ashdown. He's seen higher profile 'keepers come and go over the years – so much so that it took him until this year to make his 100th league start for the club, though it's fair to say that he is now firmly in possession of the no.1 shirt.

With five to his name,joint top scorer at the moment is the unfortunately-named David Norris. I suppose that with the headlines that the club have attracted in recent years it would not have been a surprise to discover that the headline “Norris jailed for Lawrence murder” referred to Portsmouth. Happily, Pompey skipper Liam Lawrence is still in the rudest of health and, as far as I'm aware, has not been targeted by dyslexic racist thugs - though I expect hewas bombarded with sympathy tweets from Spurs fans.

We are likely to see something of Hayden Mullins, who spent six or so years at the Boleyn before leaving for Pompey in 2009. Mullins was their player of the year last term. He's one of those “unsung” players – nobody ever looked at the team sheet and said “oh good Mullins is playing” but he rarely lets anyone down.

Another ex-Hammer in the squad is defender Tal Ben-Haim. His position was a bit complicated last year – we had him on loan then he went back to Pompey who couldn't afford to have him back. It all got sorted out during last summer's takeover (I think it was last summer's – I sort of lose track with Pompey I'm afraid) and he's now a regular.

One we won't be seeing is defender Joe Mattock. He arrived in November on loan as a going away present from boss Appleton's former employers West Brom and was widely tipped to return to the South coast for the rest of the season. However the Baggies have injury problems of their own and decided to keep the player at home as cover.

Striking options include Dave Kitson – 3 goals in the league this season and Luke Varney who is joint top scorer with Norris on 5. Varney's struggling with a knee problem at present which may see a start for Benjiani, who arrived from Man City in the close season. He's spent most of the season on the bench – one goal this season tells its own story. Pompey were fined £15,000 a few years back over “irregularities” relating to the player's first spell at the club and subsequent departure to the Citizens. That this transfer involved the likes of (name removed on legal grounds) and (name removed on legal grounds) should come as no surprise.

What about us? Well for all the tears over our early departure from the Cup is anyone really that gutted? Promotion has to be the priority and we'll see a much changed starting XI as the likes of Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Papa, Nolan, Cole all come into contention.

The only guaranteed absences are Matt Taylor – another few weeks maybe – and Guy Demel (ditto) as Faye is apparently fit and available after his recent injury travails.

After the cup this has a “back to school” feel about it and it'll go a long way to establishing how the next few weeks go. Having said that I don't see us going all out all guns blazing – the manager's tactics seemingly depending on the match venue rather than the opponents. 4-5-1 then (or 4-3-3 if you got an Allardyce Abacus for Christmas.

At time of writing there have been no arrivals on the transfer front, though smothered as I am with a cold I haven't been into the television lounge at the rest home to have a look. In recent weeks we have actually had the problem of failing to convert chances that the manager insisted we had earlier in the season. If you fail to take chances you stand the chance of letting a late one in which can cost you dearly. Coventry nearly pinched a late point from a match that they could easily have finished 5-0 to us and (albeit with us fielding a second string XI) Sheffield Wednesday went one further in the cup. New goalscoring striker please (like there's millions out there available!)

Prediction? I'll go for a 1-0 to us – and Forest to surprise Southampton!

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met: 4-3 at the Boleyn – a result that flattered our opponents slightly containing as it did a third goal from the spot following a dive equally as good as anything contained in the Anfield coaching manual.

Referee: Kevin Friend Third time in charge of the Irons, the last time out being the 1-0 away win at Brighton.

Danger Man: Dave Kitson Awkward forward who might be a pain at set pieces and we've looked dodgy at those of late.

Daft fact of the week: The respected author Jonathan Meades once wrote a book called “Pompey” in which the city was populated by “vile, corrupt, flawed freaks”. He later admitted that he had never visited the city, which made the accuracy of the book all the more remarkable.

Stat man John: Northcutt's corner


Feb 1953: West Ham Utd 1 (Gazzard) Portsmouth 2 (match played in Belgium)
Jan 1955: West Ham Utd 4 (Dick 3, Sexton) Portsmouth 2
Oct 1965: Portsmouth 1 West Ham Utd 4 (Britt 3, Brabrook)
Aug 1970: Portsmouth 0 West Ham Utd 2 (Hurst, Brooking)
May 1973: Portsmouth 4 West Ham Utd 2 (Robson, MacDougall)
July 1979: Portsmouth 1 West Ham Utd 2 (Cross 2)
Aug 1981: Portsmouth 0 West Ham Utd 2 (Neighbour, Stewart)
Aug 1983: Portsmouth 3 West Ham Utd 1 (Whitton)
Aug 1994: Portsmouth 1 West Ham Utd 1 (Jones)

They Played For Both

Hayden Mullins; Freddie Piquionne; Matt Taylor; Martin Allen; Lee Chapman; Hayden Foxe; Bill James; Roy Smith; Steve Smith; Peter Shearing; Svetoslav Todorov; Adrian Whitbread; Tal Ben Haim; Christian Dailly; Papa Bouba Diop; Shaka Hislop; Nicky Morgan; Gary O’Neil; Seb Schemmel; Teddy Sheringham; Pavel Snricek; Alan Stephenson; Ron Tindall.

Additionally, former managers Avram Grant and Harry Redkbapp both had spells as the Portsmouth manager - and Ron Tindall was also Pompey manager between 1970 and 1973.

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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