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West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion

Filed: Friday, 27th December 2013
By: Preview Percy

There aren't too many match previews that quote J B Priestley. Here, Preview Percy shows why....

And so the year draws to a close with the visit of West Bromwich Albion. Kick-off is an alarm-clock bothering 12.45pm. Although TfL have not continued their engineering works truce, most any tube closures are centred on West London. The Overground route twixt Barking and Gospel Oak is shut though so if that's your usual route have a gander before you leave.

The visitors sit in 15th place with 17 points from their 18 games thus far. They've picked up just the two point from their last six games, both coming from draws in their last two matches at home to Hull (1-1) and away to Spurs (also 1-1). The other four matches all ended in defeat, 2-1 at Newcastle, 3-2 at home to Man City, 2-0 at home to Norwich and 1-0 at Cardiff. They've not won in the league since beating Palace at the Hawthorns at the start of November.

Four league defeats in a row were enough for them to dispense with the services of ex-Hammers assistant boss Steve Clarke, the dismissal coming hours after he'd been interviewed on the box stating that he had no fears for his job. Clarke's contract was up at the end of the season s the payoff won't have been a consideration for the board.

They're currently in the charge of caretaker boss Keith Downing. It's refreshing to hear him described thusly – there's far too much of this “interim coach” nonsense going on. It's caretaker manager and players break toes not metatarsals. End of.

Talks are being held as I write with a number of candidates, including former Real Betis boss Pepe Mel. Mel's odds lengthened slightly amidst rumours that the Baggies weren't keen on him bringing his own guys in to accompany him (Grandmaster Flash?). Mel was also recently spoken of in connection with the hot seat at the Boleyn should it become available.

A newcomer to the betting has also been the rather unfortunate Malky Mackay whose sacking from Cardiff earlier today was as predictable as the plot of substandard so-called sci-fi movie The Empire Strikes Back (seriously? You didn't see that coming?). The other strong candidate is Paul Clement who is currently assistant boss at some outfit called Real Madrid. Clement's brother Neil is a former Baggie which may count for something in the decision-making process. Or not. Whoever gets the job might want to rent a property rather than actually buy somewhere – no West Brom manager since Ron “Luis Suarez Was Innocent” Atkinson in the 1970's has actually survived for two full seasons.

They've welcomed back 'keeper Ben Foster in recent weeks. He's missed much of this season with a broken foot (yup foot not metatarsal), returning for the 1-1 draw with Hull. According to the spotty work experience kid, Foster started his career with the marvellously-named Racing Club Warwick. Foster declared himself unavailable for international selection a couple of years back but relented earlier this year, thus putting himself up for a World Cup place whilst not having to bore himself with all that tiresome qualifying stuff. Doing a “Carragher” it's called.

Another recent returnee to fitness is midfielder Zoltan Gera. Gera is in his second spell at the Hawthorns, having been given a free from Fulham at the end of 2010/11. He wasn't a favourite of the then Cottagers' boss Mark Hughes, and he did himself no favours by being sent off in his last match for the club. Under normal circumstances the dismissal would have gone unnoticed. However, with Fulham having gone the whole season without a red card, Gera's dismissal – a straight red for a two footed lunge – could have cost them a Europa League place through the fair play league. In the end Fulham prevailed by 0.01 of a point over Blackpool and Gera was told to sling his hook. He's been out since January with knee problems but returned for the Boxing Day draw at Spurs.

They may be struggling for striking options for this one. The irritating Shane Long faces a fitness test on a calf injury. Long is one of those players that spends half of his time winding up opponents until he gets a well-deserved kicking, the perpetrator usually getting a red for his troubles.

Another doubt in the striking department is the scouse-Nigerian Victor Anichebe. Anichebe will remember an encounter with Kevin Nolan in 2009 when the skipper, then at Newcastle, put him out of the game for 11 months with a tackle that earned him a straight red. Anichebe started legal proceedings for loss of earnings but Nolan eventually settled out of court. Maybe Stewart Downing could send a similar bill to Liverpool's Flanagan then.

They'd have hoped to have gotten more value for money out of Nicolas Anelka. Anelka, famously noted for his ability to be a bit sulky, hasn't featured since October. A spell of compassionate leave in August following the passing of his agent was followed by claims that the player would be retiring. This was denied by the club but he failed to score in any of the subsequent 6 matches he played before succumbing to a groin injury, or illness depending on which report you read. All a bit mysterious and it wouldn't be a major surprise were he to not be on the club's books in January, despite noises to the contrary.

The striker situation may mean another start for Udinese's Matej Vydra. I say Udinese, the player probably forgets what Udine actually looks like having been out on loan for nearly all of the three years he's been on their books. He spent last season at Watford with whom he won the Championship's Player Of The Season award, netting a goal every other game in their ultimately doomed promotion bid.

And so to us. For about 15 minutes on Boxing Day we could have put that game out of sight with Cole, Jarvis and O'Brien all having good chances to increase the lead. Sadly, if you don't take your chances you get what you deserve. What was slightly more worrying was the ability of some of the really crap teams around us to pick up three points all at the same time. We've been through the records in the loft at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home for the Bewildered (well they were in the loft, the recent removal of the roof by the weather has redistributed all the files over the grounds of the home). The last time Fulham, Palace and Sunderland all won on the same day Bruce Forsyth was a child star known as the Mighty Atom.

As unlikely as that combination of results was the aftermath leaving us in the relegation zone certainly put a downer on the Boxing Day festivities hereabouts. That and the dodgy turkey that they serve us here of course.

Injury-wise it looks like we'll be missing Ginge who hobbled off part way through the Arsenal match with a calf/shin injury. If he's out expect to see Linda continue alongside Tomkins. Ravel Morrison is also a doubt with the groin problem that kept him out of the Arsenal match. Then it's yer usuals: Petric, Downing, Vaz Te, Reid and Carroll will all be watching this from wherever it is they usually watch these matches.

Ok nobody expected anything out of the Arsenal match, which makes it all the more annoying that we could have won it. However, this makes it imperative that we actually get something out of the matches out of which we ought to be getting something. Like this one. Confidence is a big thing and a good start to this will be the making of us.

Maybe it's the hallucinatory effects of whatever bugs infected that bird of dubious origin we had at Christmas (the "turkey" not matron) but I actually feel confident about this one. So I'm going to put the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home for The Bewildered's fund to replace the roof that replaced the roof that disappeared in the last storm (£2.50) on us to win. Let's call it 2-1 and end the year with a loud noise that doesn't come from the after effects of what we were told was “turkey”.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn – Won 3-1 (March 2013) Someone called Carroll opened the scoring and Gary O'Neil made it two before the interval. Carroll's second after the break was a goal of the season contender. Dorrans added a late penalty before Muamba took the award for silliest sending off of the season for his petulant chuck of the ball at O'Neil after a minor foul.

Referee: Mike DeanArrogant, untrustworthy, egotistical jobsworth who has cost us more matches over the years than any other ref. In charge of an important match that's live on tv. What could possibly go wrong?

Danger Man (apart from Mike Dean): Matj Vyda He's been injured and has only picked up the one goal this season. Is that the sound of another sequence I hear being broken against us?

Daft Fact Of The Week The author J B Priestley once claimed: “I would rather spend a holiday in Tuscany than in the Black Country, but if I were compelled to chose [sic?] between living in West Bromwich or Florence, I would make straight for West Bromwich” Twit.

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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