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Sunderland v West Ham United

Filed: Saturday, 12th January 2013
By: Preview Percy

Next up it’s the long trek up the various bits of road that constitute the A1 & A1 (M) to the daftly-named Stadium of Light where we will be hosted by Sunderland for a 3pm kick-off on Saturday. Hint: if it feels warm, sunny and just about everyone is wearing shorts and talking Portuguese, you may have programmed the wrong Stadium of Light into the satnav. Easily done.

Our hosts currently sit in 14th place with 22 points from 21 games. That’s three places and four points behind us with us having played a game fewer. In the league current form is a nice easy won three lost three split. The wins came at home against Man City (1-0) and Reading (3-0) and away at Southampton (1-0). The defeats came away at Liverpool (3-0) and Man Utd (3-1) and at home to Spurs (1-2).

Last weekend they drew 2-2 in the cup at Bolton, having been 2-0 down well into the second half. Like us a few weeks back they were a bit short handed due to injuries and were only able to name six on the subs’ bench. Something that boss Martin O’Neill denied was an exercise in making a point over squad depth to chairman Ellis Short. Of course not Martin.

Whether or not O’Neill was making a point, they’ve made their first signing of the January window. Midfielder/defender Alfred N’Diaye has arrived from Turkish side Bursaspor. This is a signing of which I wholeheartedly approve. Here at the Avram Grant Rest Home For The Bewildered we reckon that there are not nearly enough players with good old fashioned names like Alfred in the league. Ok his surname isn’t Blenkinsop or something else suitably northern but every little helps.

N’Diyae (or Alf as I hope they’ll call him) spent two years in Turkey having signed from French outfit Nancy (yes, yes you can say he was a Nancy boy if you must). The fee has been reported as €4.7m. I have no idea how much that is in real money. Just think yourself fortunate that Matron remembered how to get the “€” symbol, even if it was as a result of her sitting on the keyboard. Alf’s appearance on Saturday (or otherwise) is dependent on the arrival of international clearance.

Common wisdom has it that they could do with further reinforcement in defence. Wes Brown is injured – knee ligaments are his problem. John O’Shea, who apparently hasn’t had the best of seasons, has a hamstring problem as has Carlos Cuellar, who picked his up during the Bolton cup-tie. This leaves a potential centre-back pairing of Titus “Crimewatch” Bramble and ex-Hammer (albeit on loan) Matthew Kilgallon. Kilgallon made three appearances during a loan spell in 2003. Apparently. Can’t say any of them stuck in the mind. With the biting wit and intelligence beloved of professional footballers, he is apparently known as “Killa”.

Elsewhere in defence there were worries that the on-loan (from Spurs) Danny Rose might be recalled to White Hart Lane. A bit academic really since he too has caught “hamstring” and is another absentee.

Top scorer thus far is Steven Fletcher with eight. He got their goal in the 1-1 draw at the Boleyn in September. They started off the season rather dependant on Fletcher. In fact, from the start of the season they had to wait until the meeting with Newcastle on 21st October for anyone else to score for them – and even that was an o.g. prompting Tyneside wags to note that Dember Ba was the Mackems’ second top scorer. They then had to wait until 10 November for anyone else to get a league goal for them when Adam Johnson scored in the 2-1 defeat at Everton.

Fletcher has tended to operate as a lone striker up front with Stephane Sessegnon operating in a sort of free role in and around Fletcher. Benin international Sessegnon is another doubt for this match having missed the Bolton cup match with an ankle injury, a problem with which he was struggling at the start of the season.

In Sessignon’s absence they went with Craig Gardner in the free role against Bolton. Gardner has been a bit confused over the years. A graduate of the Villa academy he apparently claimed to have been a lifelong Villa fan until his transfer to Birmingham City, whereupon he suddenly remembered that it was Birmingham who he’d supported all along. This lifelong love for the Blues didn’t stop him leaving for Sunderland in 2011 as soon as Birmingham had been relegated.

Gardner’s early days on Wearside weren’t the happiest period of his life amid rumours of a falling out with Steve Bruce which, given that Bruce is an ignorant twit of the lowest order, is hardly the hardest thing to do. Bruce’s sacking (STILL funny after all this time) and the subsequent arrival of O’Neill saw an improvement in his mood, though there have still been rumours of homesickness for the West Midlands, as if such a thing were possible.

As an alternative to playing a lone striker plus a nomad it’s possible that they might go for a more orthodox two up front. 19-year-old Conor Wickham came on in that role against Bolton and scored, prompting O’Neill to comment on how good the partnership with Fletcher had looked. There was a lot of hype coming out of Ipswich in Wickham’s early days there, with some even suggesting that the then just turned 17 years old striker might be worth taking to the 2010 World Cup. If the intention was for all the hyperbole to push up the player’s sale price for a transfer it certainly had the desired effect, with Ipswich managing to persuade Sunderland to part with £8m for the player’s services – the fee possibly rising to £12m with add-ons. He’s been in and out of the side and the goal against Bolton was only the second goal of his career on Wearside and the majority of the player’s appearances have come from the bench.

So what of us? Good performance last week in the Cup wasn’t it and I thought we were a tad unlucky not to be through to the next round to be honest. Although the lateness of the equaliser made the result feel like a defeat at the time, the passing of a week has added a dose of perspective to proceedings and there was a lot of that 90 minutes to feel good about.

On the injury front it’s about a week early for both Diame and Carroll. Linda’s ligaments will be a while yet. The problem left back slot may still be an issue and Joey O’Brien is a doubt with his hamstring problem. Some sources suggest that he may be available for selection but it’s not something I’d like to invest any money on. Also on the injured list will be co-Chairman David Gold who is suffering from pneumonia. I guess a trip to somewhere as cold as Sunderland is the last thing you’d need as a pneumonia-sufferer.

At the time of writing we’re still trying to agree a fee with Blackburn for Martin Olsson so, unless anything has changed between me writing this and the editors picking it up, we may see young Potts fill that position again. The lad had a decent game – admirably helped by the senior pros – against the Salford whingers and I wouldn’t be too worried to see him start this one.

Elsewhere at the back I’d expect Mr Allardyce to revert to his preferred pairing of Collins and Reid in the middle of defence, with Tomkins reverting to the bench. Tomkins has been linked with a move away to Newcastle – something that I reckon would be a mistake, though if push came to shove one couldn’t blame the player for wanting more regular starts. I guess it’s all a matter of patience.

There are interesting selection issues in midfield. Assuming that the skipper is treated as the one behind in a 4-4-1-1, that leaves Noble, Collison, Cole (J), Diarra, Vaz Te, Taylor, O’Neil, Jarvis all looking for space, with Diame to throw into the mix in a week or two. Whether or not Joe Cole would have started last weekend had the match been a league match rather than a cup-tie is debatable. However, I’d say that he did enough in the time he was on the pitch to warrant another start, though traditionally Mr Allardyce tends to take a more cautious approach to life on the road, which may see the player start on the bench. Collison’s return from his knee injury has been good enough to warrant a continued starting place (assuming that his knee is up to it) and with Noble on auto-select the selection in the other positions will say a lot about our attitude to this match.

Up front we can now add the on-loan Marouane Chamakh to proceedings. With Cole (C) in decent shape, Chamakh’ll be occupying the spot on the bench vacated by Mo Maiga, who will be away on African Cup of Nations duty with Mali. Until earlier today, there’d been no news on the arrival of Wellington Paulista, who was on his way from Cruzeiro. The last I heard he was still in the Shaun Wright-Phillips Memorial Medical Centre with a plethora of people in white coats tapping his knee with those little rubber hammers. Before he signed, of course.

Prediction? I fancy a rare top flight away win for this one. Even with a full squad they’ve not been the most prolific of scorers, averaging a goal a game in the league. Ok, so we’ve not been over goal-happy on the road ourselves – the five we’ve got away from the Boleyn is the lowest figure in the league. However, with a severely depleted defence to play against we really ought to be targeting three points from this one. For that reason the Avram Grant Rest Home Fund to repair the keyboard that matron broke by sitting on (€2.50) will be placed on a 2-0 win to us.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met On Wearside: Lost 1-0 (December 2010). A Jordan Henderson strike on 34 minutes was enough to send us to the bottom of the league. This happened only three days after we’d stuck four past Moan Utd without response in the League Cup. Did I hear “typical West Ham”?

Referee: Neil Swarbrick. Last seen in the middle handling our 4-1 demolition of Southampton in October, though he also had the 4th official role at West Brom and Newcastle. NB did anyone else note how the idiot who did the Everton match was “punished” with a League Cup Semi Final? Way to go PGMO. Not.

Danger Man: Steven Fletcher. Top scorer and the player on whom they depend for their goals.

Daft Fact Of The Week: The first rectangular police box was installed in Sunderland in 1923. The unit contained a telephone with which the constabulary could contact the base police station. This phone was accessible from the outside enabling the general public to contact the police in case of emergency. The interior effectively acted as a mini-police station, containing an incident book, a first aid kit and a miniature black hole enabling the device to travel through both time and space. Sadly the advanced technology proved too much for the people of Sunderland, and the telephone remained unused for 40 years until the box suddenly disappeared with a horrible grinding noise.

John NorthcuttStat man John: Northcutt's corner

Head to Head
Pld 83; West Ham Utd 32, Sunderland 30, Draws 21.

First Meeting
25th August 1923: Sunderland 0-0 West Ham Utd (Roker Park, Division One)

Last Meeting
22nd September 2012 West Ham Utd 1-1 Sunderland (Boleyn Ground, Premier League)

Biggest Win(s)
19th October 1968: West Ham Utd 8-0 Sunderland (Boleyn Ground, Division One)

Heaviest Defeat(s)
5th March 1977: Sunderland 6-0 West Ham Utd (Roker Park, Division One)

Biggest Win(s)
19th October 1968: West Ham Utd 8-0 Sunderland (Boleyn Ground, Division One)
On 19th October 1968, West Ham United's smallest crowd of the season gathered at the Boleyn Ground to witness what became a record-breaking First Division match for a number of reasons. Firstly, West Ham's 8-0 win equalled the club's record win; secondly, goalscorer Geoff Hurst achieved a feat that hasn't been matched in the ensuing 44 years by scoring six of them and thirdly, he also achieved the rare feat of scoring a hat-trick in each half (which is also unlikely to have been repeated). Hurst admitted post-match that the first of his record haul (on 18 minutes) was deliberate handball. However there was nothing dubious about any of the remaining five, which arrived in the 34th, 44th, 48th, 61st and 71st minute.

October 1953: West Ham Utd 2-0 Sunderland (Sexton, Dixon)

Early baths
2011/12: Joey O’Brien (a); 2011/12: Jack Collison (a).

They Played For Both
Richard Bell; Gary Breen; Clive Clarke; Keith Coleman; Ernie England; John Foreman; Harry Forster; Jack Foster; Harry Hooper; Don Hutchison; Mattie Kilgallon; George McCartney; Billy Moore; Bryan 'Pop' Robson; Dave Swindlehurst; Tal Ben Haim; Wayne Bridge; Danny Collins; Anton Ferdinand; Andy Melville.

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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