West Ham United v Cheltenham Town

It's League Cup time. Normally we'd bring in one of our fringe previewers to do the match preview. Only we haven't got any. So here's Preview Percy with his usual nonsense...

Next we play host to Cheltenham Town in the 2nd Round of whatever it is they want us to call the League Cup this season. Kick-off is 7:45pm on Tuesday and, as is the norm for this competition, the match will be played to a conclusion with extra-time and penalties available in the event of a draw after 90 minutes.

This is new territory for both teams as we haven't previously met in a competitive match. Although a relatively new club in Football League terms, The Robins actually go back all the way to 1887, roughly the same age as some of the inmates here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered (though they're still much younger than some of the pies in the larder).

The clubs early history saw them playing local league football before stepping up to the old Southern League in the 1930s. The introduction of the pyramid system in the 1980s' opened up the eventual pathway to Football League membership, though they had a spot of luck in 1997 when they were promoted to the Conference over the head of Gresley Rovers, whose ground didn't meet the required standard for the higher league. Cheltenham finished 2nd in the conference in 1997/98 (no playoffs back then) but finally achieved League status the following season when they topped the Conference.

Since arriving in the League they've flitted between the lower two divisions. The 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons saw them blessed with the "interesting times" much beloved of those who like to deliver Chinese curses. Struggling in the third tier they appointed Jeremy Nicholas's favourite interviewee Martin "Mad Dog" Allen as manager part way through 2008/09. Struggling financially, the club avoided administration by the skin of its teeth, though missing out on a ten point penalty wasn't enough to keep them from relegation back to whatever Division 4 was called that week. Then things got a bit daft.

A few months into the 2009/10 Allen found himself in a spot of bother. Always one to do things a bit differently, it was Allen, rather than one of his players, that found himself getting into a nightclub altercation. Accusations were levelled that Allen had racially abused some nightclub bouncers at Cheltenham's glittering nightspot "Thirteen Degrees". It wasn't the first time Allen had had a run in with local innkeepers - he is probably still barred from one particular Cheltenham hostelry for dancing about with his shirt off. And you thought it was only football that issued yellow cards for that. Mind you the point at which he dropped his trousers was probably worth a straight red.

The club (football not night) placed Allen on "gardening leave" for a while whilst the club (night not football) incident was investigated but ultimately no further action was taken either by Cheltenham or by Gloucester plod, to whom a complaint had been made. It was agreed, however, that Allen would leave The Robins "by mutual consent".

Allen's not the only West Ham connection to have surfaced at Whaddon Road over the years. Jamie Victory spent a season with our academy before heading west. He made over 250 appearances for the Robins, earning himself a testimonial before retirement from football. He has served time as the club's assistant Academy manager and has also worked in the X-ray dept of a local hospital.

The current manager, Mark Yates, steadied the ship somewhat after Alllen's departure and, having avoided relegation back to the Conference in 2010 and finishing in 17th spot in 2011, progress started to be made. They made the Playoff final in 2012, losing to Crewe at Wembley. They also qualified for the playoffs last term, getting beaten 1-0 home and away by Northampton.

This season so far they drew their opener at home to Burton, the match ending 2-2 after they had led 2-0 in the first half. This was followed by a 4-3 defeat of Crawley AET in the first round of the League Cup. Cheltenham came back from being 3-1 down with 20 minutes left in that one. Back in the league they went down 2-0 at Chesterfield before losing 3-1 at home to Plymouth Argyle. Following that match boss Yates was not impressed "We owe the fans an apology" and "We've got to get a damn sight better" were two quotes that leapt out at me. They picked up their first win of the season on the road up at Accrington, the goal coming from a free-kick described as "controversial" on the tv highlights show, though since they didn't show the incident itself none of us actually know why.

Their best known player is probably Jamie Cureton. To say he is much-travelled is something of an understatement - he's been about so much he makes Michael Palin look agoraphobic. Including Cheltenham and various loans, I make it 18 spells at 13 different clubs, including a season at Busan IPark in the South Korean league. As you do. Cureton is likely to miss out on this one due to his picking up a dislocated shoulder on his goalscoring debut.

In Cureton's absence the goalscoring burden has fallen on Byron Harrison. Harrison bumped around a few non-league clubs before pitching up at Stevenage Borough a while back. Since then he's had a year at AFC Wimbledon before arriving at Cheltenham in January 2013, Yates claiming that he'd been trying to sign the striker for some years. It was Harrison's brace against Crawley, comprising the equaliser and extra-time winner, that saw Cheltenham through to this stage of the competition.

The 'keeper is Scott Brown. Brown joined the club in 2005 having started out at Wolves. The Molineux mob released him without a first XI appearance to his name and he drifted out of the league ending up at Welshpool in the Taffy League. Bristol City gave him a route back into proper football, though again he failed to make a first XI appearance. It was third time lucky with Cheltenham where he is firmly ensconced in the No.1 spot having made in excess of 200 appearances for the club.

Cheltenham are one of those clubs that has two skippers. Team Captain is Russell Penn. The midfielder arrived on a free from Burton Albion a couple of years ago, his earlier career having included a spell on loan from Scunthorpe at Hornchurch of all places. Penn is an international footballer, being one of those players one encounters from time to time who has been capped at England "C" (non-league) level. There isn't a "Z" level so the mystery of how Jamie Carragher has so many England caps remains unsolved.

Club Captain is Steve Elliott. Elliott came through the Derby Academy system and has a couple of England U21 caps to his name gained whilst on the Rams' books. A short spell at Blackpool was followed by a much longer period at Bristol Rovers, for whom he made a double century of appearances, joining Cheltenham on his release in 2012.

And so to us. By all accounts we were probably the better of the two sides in a match in which neither deserved victory. My own view was limited to the highlights and it certainly seemed that we had the better of the few chances that were created, with the exception of their late howler.

Having said that, Saturday's result will be of little relevance for this one, which is likely to see us put out a side formed of most of those who were on the bench at the weekend plus some of the youngsters. So for many this will be a first chance to see new boys Adrian and Rat, and we can probably expect a start for Ravel Morisson too - hopefully sans gloves. I mean I know that even a Geordie summer is not for the faint hearted but gloves??

Obviously predictions for this one are a bit of a hiding to nothing. Even fielding a second string XI one would expect us to win against a team from the bottom division of the Football League, and at that, one whose season has got off to a stuttering start. However, we've been here before haven't we? One can never underestimate that undefinable thing that inspires lower division players in cup ties against higher ranked clubs so we must expect them to give it a go. I'll still go for a win though so the AGORHFTB collection to have a memorial urinal installed in the middle at the Oval - floodlit 24 hours a day of course - (?2.50) will be going on a 3-1 home win to put us one step closer to Wembley.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met: N/A - virgin territory for us both. Whatever that is.

Referee: Graham Scott. Not a cove with whom I am familiar, though he was in the news the other week for red carding Wigan's Calum McManaman for a shocking challenge in their match against Bournemouth. That's the McManaman that Dave Whelan swore blind doesn't do that sort of challenge. How's life down below Dave?

Danger Man: Byron Harrison - you often get players who do well in the League Cup during a cup run. Harrison's double in the last round suggests that this might be one of those cases.

Daft Fact Of The Week: Cheltenham is the home to both the famous Ladies' College and to the so secret it probably doesn't officially exist eavesdropping centre known as GCHQ. Although they are very different from each other as institutions go, if you hang around outside either of them carrying a camera with a long lens you'll find that the response from the authorities is pretty much identical.

Or so I am told.

John NorthcuttStat man John: Northcutt's corner

Head to Head
Tonight will be the first ever meeting between the two clubs.

They Played For Both
Grant McCann, who began his career at West Ham went on to play 193 times for Cheltenham.

Bossing It
The former Hammers who have been managers at Cheltenham are Bobby Gould and Martin Allen.

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