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West Ham United v Doncaster Rovers

Filed: Friday, 9th March 2012
By: Preview Percy

In 1997 Britpoppers Pulp released the single “Help the Aged”. If they'd ever met Preview Percy they probably wouldn't have bothered. Pulp are from Sheffield which is quite near Doncaster who are this weekend's opponents. Which is handy. John Northcutt is the man with the stats...

Barely have we got home from one match then another arrives, this time in the form of a visit from Doncaster Rovers. Kick-off’s at 3pm. Tube lines in the general vicinity of the Boleyn will be running a normal Saturday service though bits of the DLR will be shut. The weather forecasts suggests dry with sunny spells, so bring a brolly.

Our visitors arrive right in the mix with regard to relegation. They have 29 points from 33 games, a tally that, but for Pompey’s points deduction, would have seen them bottom on goal difference from Coventry and five points from safety. As it is Pompey’s problems means that they are only second from bottom and Forest, who are in the last of the safety places, are a tantalising three points away. Last week’s victory over Forest, 2-1 at the City Ground, has been their only win in their last six, a run that includes three draws (1-1 at home to both Brighton and Peterborough and 0-0 at Hull) and two defeats (1-3 at home to Blackpool and 3-2 away at Leeds).

Since we last met early on in the season there have been all sorts of changes at the Keepmoat. Only a few days after chairman John Ryan claimed that he wasn’t the sort to respond to “hotheads who want to sack somebody”, he sacked somebody, namely manager Sean O’Driscoll. The message was ultimately conveyed to the manager by text message. O’Driscoll’s replacement was Dean Saunders who came in from Wrexham.

If sacking somebody by text message might be considered to be unconventional behaviour, that was nothing on the stuff that was to follow. Over the following weeks it transpired that notorious agent Willy McKay had signed a deal with the club giving him exclusive control over transfers for the next couple of years. The plan was to bring in unsettled players on loan from other clubs using Doncaster as a “shop window”. McKay’s take from the deal is reported to be £100 a week. However his cut of any subsequent transfers would presumably be significantly more rewarding to him.

It’s fair to say that McKay’s history in the game is rather chequered. A number of deals in which he has been involved have been the subject of investigations in the past and he received a suspended ban from the game a few years back over irregularities surrounding his acting in consecutive transfers for Benjani. Still the football authorities have ok’d the Doncaster deal and, as Portsmouth & Rangers have shown, they have a pretty good idea of what constitutes “fit & proper” when it comes to football.

There have been a few notable arrivals since the advent of what I shall refer to as the McTransfer era. You will recall that El Haj Diouf spent some time training with us earlier on this season. I believe that Mr Allardyce may have been taken aback by the strength of feeling amongst the Boleyn faithful against the prospect of the player appearing in the claret & blue. Indeed, if matron hadn’t hidden my walking stick I’d have driven over to Chadwell Heath (at 10mph of course) in my electric buggy to wave it angrily at the manager in protest.

Thankfully, and possibly conveniently, Mr Allardyce decided that Diouf was not up to the required fitness to turn out for us, whereupon he pitched up at the Keepmoat. He originally signed on a three month deal but this was subsequently extended until the end of the season, with an option to extend for a further 12 months. “The football club believes in me and has ambition” Diouf says which, deciphered, probably means “I grabbed the only barge pole I could see and Doncaster were on the other end of it”. It’s fair to say that he’ll probably get some sort of reception this weekend.

Another McTransfer involved Pascal Chimbonda who has suffered the unfortunate affliction of having been on Spurs’ books twice. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, once was unfortunate enough but twice was simply careless. Like Diouf, Chimbonda’s original deal was a short-termer after he left QPR as a free agent. The deal has now been extended until the end of the season. Yet another "short becoming long term" move (I discern something of a pattern here) was the arrival of Habib Beye, who was out of favour at Villa. So much so that his contract was cancelled in January allowing Rovers to make his deal permanent with an 18 month contract.

The Beye deal has yet another parallel in the form of ex-Hammer Herita “Cheri” Ilunga. Ilunga had a dire opening to the season at the Boleyn and soon found himself out of the side. His McTransfer was typical of the sort of deal favoured by McKay in that Doncaster were responsible only for a small fraction of Ilunga’s salary, with us picking up the tab for the rest. At the conclusion of the loan, Ilunga returned to the Boleyn but with first team football about as likely a prospect as the discovery of a seaworthy Italian cruise liner, his contract was terminated.

He’s been training with Leyton Orient of late but injuries within the Rovers squad have lead Saunders to call Ilunga back. At time of writing there’s been no confirmation of any deal (or, more accurately, there wasn’t any confirmation a while back and I can’t be bothered to check again) but the fact that he has severed all ties with us means that he will be eligible to play if the paperwork is completed on time.

Unlike Frederic Piquionne. Piquionne signed on loan earlier this week and made his debut against Forest, scoring the first in the 2-1 victory. It was quite a goal as well by all accounts – though the chap reporting on the match for Sky Sports was less than overawed, pointing out that, until the 30 yard wonder-strike that came out of the blue, Freddie had spent most of the match running down blind alleys.

Piquionne is yet another player to whom Rovers are paying a nominal salary – we’re still shelling out the lion’s share. So it’s probably just as well he won’t be available for selection. You can imagine him bearing down on goal only to hear the words “remember who is paying your wages” coming from the dug-out just at the critical moment. Which does rather beg the question “what was his excuse for being so poor this season when we were paying ALL of his wages?”.

And so to us. Wasn’t Wednesday frustrating?! It just goes to show that, if your strikers are misfiring you need your midfield to contribute on the goalscoring front. Like at Cardiff. (Yes I know Linda isn’t a midfielder but you get the general idea). The annoying thing was that, had we taken one of the earlier chances I’m pretty sure we’d have gone home with a hatful. It’s doubly annoying that this represented a chance to take over at the top without dipping into the game in hand.

Team news, and in the sick room this week we still have Demel (inflamed Nanker Phelge), Diop (Hamstring) and Carew (knee) out. Reid is listed as doubtful suggesting that that must have been some blow to the head he got in last week’s international. New loan signing Danny Collins will go straight into the squad - welcome to football Danny. As mentioned Piquionne is out on loan, as is Frank Nouble for whom Barnsley will be the 5th different club he’s played for since he signed for us in 2009. Or 6th if you actually count us as well.

Although Watford didn’t come with all out defence in mind in midweek (well not until the end anyway), they did get eight players behind the ball well throughout. This made it difficult to pass our way through. It was noticeable that once Vaz Te came on we at last had a player both willing and able to actually take on opponents, and this resulted in our becoming more likely to score. Doncaster are making all the right noises about not coming for a draw, and they will be buoyed by their first win in eight last week. However, once the match starts the reality may be different.

The recording I heard of Mr Allardyce’s post-match press conference sounded like the manager had the right hump, which suggests that training for messrs Maynard, Cole & Baldock may have been pretty tough going over the last few days. We’ll be looking for a backlash then and, if at least one of our forwards actually has his shooting boots on, we really should be taking three points from this one. I’ll go for 2-1 – albeit with reduced confidence after the hard work we made of everything in midweek.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met: Won 1-0 An early Kevin Nolan effort was enough to seal our first away win since heaven knows when back at the start of the season, despite a late rally from the home side.

Referee: Andy D’Urso – oh gawd.

Danger Man: El Hadji Diouf – quite apart from the fact that the disgraceful one probably wants to prove he was fit enough (if not fit and proper) to play for us, patrons in the first few rows at the Boleyn are advised to wear waterproof and washable clothing lest he get up to his old tricks.

WITHIN SPITTING DISTANCE: The return of the human camel (with thanks to Sutts07)

Daft Fact Of The Week: The Keepmoat is home to one of the most successful clubs of all time. Doncaster Rovers Belles ruled the roost for many a year in the female version of the game. They reached ten out of eleven finals in the FA Women’s Cup in the mid '80s and early '90s, taking the trophy six times in that period. Although other clubs have been more successful in recent years they are still members of the Women’s Super League.

Unfortunately whenever a fine example to the game in women’s football emerges, such as the Belles, there’s always someone about to ruin the tone. Step forward Russian side WFC Rossiyanka who last year announced a plan to play in bikinis in order to boost attendances. Despite what I presume must have been the approval of FIFA’s resident dirty old man Sepp Blatter, this was an idea that had obviously not been thought through – after all where would the sponsor’s name go? (Please stop making up your own punchlines out there).

John NorthcuttStat man John: Northcutt's corner

Head to Head
Pld 23; West Ham Utd 8, Doncaster 10, Draws 5.

Biggest Win
22nd October 1955: West Ham Utd 6-1 Doncaster Rovers (Boleyn Ground, Division Two)

Heaviest Defeat
17th November 1951: Doncaster Rovers 4-1 West Ham Utd (Belle Vue, Division Two)

First Meeting
21st September 1935: West Ham Utd 1-2 Doncaster Rovers (Boleyn Ground, Division Two)

Last Five Meetings
13th August 2011: 1-0 (Keepmoat Stadium, Championship)
1st March 1958: 2-1 (Belle Vue, Division Two)
19th October 1957: 1-1 (Boleyn Ground, Division Two)
16th March 1957: 1-1 (Boleyn Ground, Division Two)
3rd November 1956: 0-3 (Belle Vue, Division Two)

They Played For Both
Herita Ilunga; Freddie Piquionne; Arthur Banner; Fred Dell; Jack Kirkcaldie; Paul Marquis; Hal Tate; Albert Walker.

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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