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West Ham United v Sunderland

Filed: Friday, 13th December 2013
By: Preview Percy

It's Friday the thirteenth so it's with a due sense of foreboding that we hand over another chunk of bandwidth to Preview Percy. Actually we have that same sense of foreboding every Friday at this time. Here's his look at this weekend's visit of Sunderland. Alternatively we're sure there's something good on telly you could watch...

Next up we play host to Sunderland at the Boleyn for our last match before the festive period kicks in. Kick-off is the holy hour of 3pm and the District Line is open. Miracles happen at Christmas you see. (The DLR has engineering works on the Beckton branch so it’s not all sweetness & light).

Our visitors arrive in a spot of bother, sitting at the bottom of the league with 8 points from 15 games. They've won but twice this season, both at home against Newcastle (2-1) and, strangely against Man City (1-0). They've picked up two points from drawn games at Villa (0-0) and at Southampton (1-1) otherwise it's been defeats all the way. 

Much fun and games were to be had regarding the managerial hot seat this season. Last season they traded in Martin O’Neill for a certain Paolo Di Canio. Cue much hand wringing from the then board member David Milliband. Milliband, you will recall, resigned his position on the board citing a few comments on the subject of fascism attributed to PDC. This was interesting because, try as I might I can’t find anywhere where Di Canio explicitly espoused genocide as a justifiable method of political control. Unlike the late historian Eric Hobsbawn who was a big fan of Stalin’s great purge. Odd then that Milliband should go into long and effusive tribute on the death of someone who thought a few million deaths were “worth it” and yet couldn’t bring himself to share a stadium with a relatively harmless nutter. Of course the cynics amongst us will have noted that, having failed as a politician, Milliband had already made arrangements to up sticks and go and work for a charity in New York. Thus he might have been expected to resign from his board role anyway. Being a politician he obviously had to make a pointless attention-seeking gesture hence is outburst about the manager. It might have been easier to issue a shorter statement that read “I am a hypocritical twat, goodbye” but I guess that wouldn’t have been news to anyone.

The PDC experiment all ended in tears of course. The mad one’s methods naused off the majority of the first XI squad to some degree or another. Particularly when barring ketchup and mayonnaise from the training ground canteens. I remember the time they tried that here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered. The inmates revolted and Matron still has the scar, which, for a small fee and a glass of sherry she will show you. Denting the profits of H J Heinz & Co was all well and good while PDC was keeping them in the top flight as he did last year, but when results deteriorated at the start of this term even a win over the Geordies wasn’t enough to delay the inevitable end. It was all rather predictable and those who want him in at the Boleyn should really have a word with themselves.

The new boss is Gus Poyet who came in from Brighton. His departure from Falmer was not without its moments. Having lost, somehow, to Palace last season he was suspended pending a sacking for “Gross Misconduct.” Although precisely what he is supposed to have done has never been revealed, he went through a full disciplinary process before being given the heave-ho, allegedly only discovering his fate when he was told on the box where he was doing a spot of punditry for the Confederations Cup. A juicy Employment Tribunal loomed, but the spoilsports agreed an out of court settlement, leaving us at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered having to find somewhere else to go for our Christmas outing.
Poyet's not minced his words about the club's current plight: “We're not good enough” he claimed after his team's 2-1 reverse to Spurs last weekend. In particular he took issue with the number of own goals they've conceded since Poyet took over – no fewer than five in nine games. John O'Shea became the latest to enter the debit side of the goals ledger, scoring the “winner” in the Spurs match. He joins Phil Bardsley (2), Steven Fletcher and Carlos Cuellar on the Sunderland naughty step, suggesting that, given our current striking woes, it might be worth simply giving the ball to them and letting them do the rest. It is a tactic that we seem to have been trying all season anyway – just for once it might actually be worth a shot.

The man ‘twixt the sticks charged with keeping out our attack (and their defence) for this one will be Mafia don Vito Mannone. Ok in the interest of not having the pants sued off me I should point out that Mannone is not actually a Mafia don, he merely has a name that sounds as if he ought to be. As far as I am aware, unlike last week’s opponents, nobody in the Sunderland squad has any links with organised crime. Mannone (or, if you prefer “Man On” only in Italian) came in for the injured Kieren “Vivienne” Westwood, who was caught by a late one by Hull’s Paul “Hi-de-hi” McShane.
That Hull match saw two of the Rokerites number dismissed from the field of play. Not entirely unpredictably one of them was serial offender Lee Cattermole. What was surprising that Cattermole’s red was his first and so far only card of the season, though it was the player’s 6th red in the four years since he arrived from Wigan. The dismissal against Hull saw his erstwhile boss Steve Bruce commenting “he’s not my problem anymore”. No doubt whilst managing the player at Wigan and Sunderland, Bruce’s comments were slightly different – I would have dug some out but when I asked the spotty work experience kid to research the words “Cattermole” and “not that type of player” his laptop computer blew up.

The other player dismissed at the Sunshine Band Arena was Andrea Dossena, whose challenge on David Meyler was described by Bruce as being “worthy of three red cards” which only goes to show that Bruce’s knowledge of the laws of the game hasn’t improved any over the years. Both Dossena and Cattermole will be available for selection with their three match bans now over.

Like us they’ve been a bit short of goals up front where the two main protagonists would appear to be Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore. Fletcher seems to score in clusters – at one stage early last season he was actually Sunderland’s ONLY – never mind top – goalscorer. Meanwhile the appeal to Premier League clubs of US international Altidore is a bit of a mystery to me I’m afraid. An uninspiring loan spell at Hull was followed by a much better tenure at AZ “where’s the ’67 gone?” Alkmaar, where he took the record for most goals by an American in an overseas league from Clint Dempsey. This prompted Sunderland to splash out an undisclosed fee. His goal in the defeat against Chelsea was his first in the league. It is in fact his only goal in the league this term which, given our sequence-busting record, is a bit worrying.
Us? Well defeat at Liverpool is not exactly unprecedented I suppose but yet again we were left with a large dollop of “what might have been” had we had a ref with something even vaguely resembling a spine. For a start we’d have been playing against 10 men for the better part of 80 minutes after the snidey assault on Downing. Apparently, putting someone into hospital doesn’t merit even a yellow these days.

In amongst all the doom and gloom it should be noted that we did actually play some decent stuff, particularly in the first half where we had a lot of decent possession. It took a series of comedy goals to set us back. We did appear to lose it for a while at 2-0 and it took a comedy goal of our own to get us back in the game. However, then we had a decent spell until Suarez’s header(his teeth were offside) made it 3-1.

After that, Nolan’s sending off was rather predictable. Having had opposition defenders leaving feet in on him on several occasions his frustration finally got the better of him and his petty kick out at Henderson was stupid, even if it did inflict next to no damage, despite Henderson’s theatrics.

I’ve got no qualms with the decision by Oliver to show the skipper the red card but yet again the double standards that apply to referees at Anfield were brought into focus. When even Match Of The Day – who have traditionally spouted the party line that all things Scouse are wonderful – points out that you were hard done by you KNOW something stinks.

Nolan's rush of blood means he'll miss this as he starts his suspension. The break, if not the manner of its arrival, is no bad thing given that the skipper has struggled to make any sort of impression of late. The injury list isn't getting any better though. Collins and Demel have both been under the weather this week with an unspecified “illness”. Tomkins faces a late fitness test on the hamstring that curtailed his afternoon last weekend. The usual suspects are all still out, though, intriguingly, there is a date of 11 January 2014 listed against the name of a certain A Caroll.

Prediction? Well this is the equivalent of the Fulham game a few weeks back and I can see this going a similar way. They'll come to keep us quiet and it may be a bit nervy to start off with but I reckon we can pick up all three to clear away some of the doom and gloom. With that in mind I'll be popping down the road to place the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's MP's hardship fund (£2.50) on us to win – 2-1 will do the trick.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn – Drew 1-1 (September 2012) A Collins cock-up let them take the lead after 9 minutes. That was pretty much their last attack. We left it until the 93rd minute to get a much-deserved equaliser through Nolan just when it looked like being one of those days.

Referee: Andre Marriner In charge for one of the funnier moments at the Boleyn last season when he sent off West Brom's Mulumbu for having a hissy fit and kicking the ball at Gary O'Neil. He was also the ref who sent off Dossena and Cattermole in the aforementioned Hull match.

Danger Man:Jozy Altidore – journeyman septic striker whose two spells in the Premier League have provided a less than whelming two league goals. Like bloody Chamakh he's just the sort to score against us then.

Daft fact of the week: There's a bizarre episode of the otherwise excellent Auf Wiedersehen Pet that features the lads, avowed Newcastle supporters, deciding to pop over to Liege to watch Standard play, er, Sunderland. It turns out that the reason for this is quite dull. In the original working script the Geordie trio from the Magnificent Seven were actually from Sunderland. Though the change was made quite early on, the normally reliable Clement/LaFrenais forgot about it until it came to shooting time, at which point it was too late to change the script.

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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