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West Ham United v Southampton

Filed: Friday, 21st February 2014
By: Preview Percy

Having had a weekend off, we had to drag Preview Percy out of the Swan And Superinjunction to get him to write this one. Was it worth it? Probably not......

Next up we play host to Southampton at the Boleyn. Saturday 3pm kick-off? Gosh. Let the bells ring out in celebration and let joy be unconfined. (Steady on – ed) There’s no engineering work on the tubes and trains, save for a short stretch of the DLR around Pudding Mill, but let’s face it if you’re on that stretch of line you’re probably lost anyway.

Our visitors have had a decent season thus far, avoiding the so-called second season syndrome and sitting in 8th spot with 39 points from their 26 played so far. Whilst they’re unlikely to threaten next season’s Thursday Night League fixture compilers – they’re 11 points behind 5th place Spurs and even further behind the bigger clubs – they’re not going to get caught up in the fun at the lower end of the table either.

Current form is a nice WDDWDW and you have to go back to a New Year’s Day 3-0 home beating at the hands of Chelsea for their last defeat. So everything in the garden is nice and rosy, right?
Well sort of.

There’s been a lot of what you might call shenanigans going on both in the corridors of power and also at the training ground. They are owned by Katharine Liebherr who inherited the club following the untimely and sadly sudden death of her father Marcus. It is believed that Ms Liebherr is a somewhat reluctant football club owner and thus has, over the past few years, entrusted the chairmanship of the club to Nicola Cortese who, no doubt, has heard all the “you look a bit butch for a bird” jokes he’s ever likely to want to hear. That was all well and dandy for a while but, if you inherit a club you have no real desire in owning your first thoughts are likely to be something like “where can I unload this, pronto”.

Whilst Cortese had no problem with Liebherr’s desire to flog the club, there did seem to be something of a disagreement over the timing of the sale with Cortese reportedly suggesting that his boss might want to consider hanging on for a few years before any sale rather than selling it pretty much immediately, which is apparently Liebherr’s preferred option. Given that Cortese and Liebherr weren't exactly best of pals in the first place the parting of the ways was, in retrospect, probably inevitable, the main surprise being that it took so long to happen.

Cortese’s departure led to speculation over the future of manager Pochettino who, at some stage, had been quoted as saying something along the lines of “if Cortese goes so do I”. However the boss has since indicated that he’s happy to stay. In the meantime, whilst Liebherr may be less than keen on owning the club, one of her first actions suggested that whilst she’s in charge things at least things will be done her way. Which was good news for former Saints defender Francis Benali.

Benali and Cortese had been at loggerheads over a house that the ex-player had rented to the club. Maybe the tenants had not disclosed the fact that they had pets or perhaps they had spilt ketchup all over the shag pile or something Who knows. It’s not important. Whatever the cause of dispute it ended up with Benali taking the club to court, something that annoyed Cortese to the extent that he banned Benali from the ground, presumably issuing stewards with photographs of a player that had made the better part of 400 appearances for the club over the years. Benali and the club eventually settled out of court with Benali with the ex-player reportedly trousering £50,000 for his troubles. However, the ban still remained in place until Cortese’s departure. Whether someone thought the change in chairman a good opportunity to have a quiet word with Ms Liebherr, or whether she was savvy enough to have acted in her own right isn’t over clear but one of her early decisions after the split was to lift Benali’s ban, a shrewd move whichever way you look at it.

Shenanigans were also present amongst the playing staff earlier this year which resulted in the recent departure of Argentinian-born striker (and, as we will see, that description is doubly apt) Pablo Daniel “Dani” Osvaldo. Ossie, as I expect people called him was not enjoying the happiest of times in England having found himself £40k lighter of wallet following a touchline contretemps with Newcastle goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman. The FA’s panel woke up from the port and stilton course for long enough to also hand the player a three-match ban. So he was probably already in a bad mood when team-mate Jose Fonte somehow managed to rub him up the wrong way in training a few weeks later. I haven’t seen full details of the scuffle – the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's spotty work experience kid who helps with research for this column didn’t seem to have an awful lot to say. However, reports suggest that “blood was drawn” during the incident, prompting the club to suspend the player for two weeks.

The two week ban proved to be somewhat academic when, within a week, it was announced that the player would be joining Juventus on loan for the rest of the season, The “Old Lady” having an option to purchase the player at the end of that period for something like £15.6m, a fee that depending on where you get your information from, that would see Southampton making a small profit on the player.

The media have been making much of the fact that they have recently got three players into the England squad, something that seems to have got some of their supporters all excited. We used to send three players away to play for England of course. There again when they came back it was with a trophy and some medals, a fate unlikely to be shared by the current England squad one would have thought.

Adam Lalana will be the centre of attention this weekend as he resumes his “friendship” with referee Mark Clattenburg. Clattenburg you will recall chided the player with a comment to the effect that he “never used to be like this before you played for England”. Southampton's complaints were every bit as pathetic as the comment itself. PGMOL cleared Clattenburg of all wrong doing of course, but there again, as we all know, they'd have done that had he run amok with a machete slaying all the first born in the crowd. Pochettino has promised that there will be no hard feelings, suggesting that the two might share a pre-match hug. So look out for the Southampton claims of sexual harassment first thing on Sunday morning then.

Jay Rodriguez presumably owes his England caps due to the presumption that, in football, anything that is Spanish is goo. Whilst that may be the case, such a statement rather ignores the fact that Rodriguez is from Burnley. Ricky Lambert is at least making the most of his Indian summer in the squad by putting the odd goal away when wearing the three lions.

On the injury front they're pretty clear, though defender Jos Hooiveld, always a danger at corners, will be missing, thanks to an eye problem, though that never stopped Howard Webb from taking part in a match.

Us? Well the players off bit of warm weather training since our last outing. In the past this might have meant popping down to the West Country for a while. However, since Devon & Cornwall now appear to be an island, what with Somerset renaming itself Atlantis they’ve been off to Dubai. Our recent form has been excellent, with clean sheets a-plenty in evidence. Only the Norwich game saw Adrian brought into play in any serious manner.

Team news, and we’ll still be without Andy Carroll for this match, the player serving the last of the three match ban caused by Howard Webb’s disgraceful refusal to admit that he had made an error. I see that “our top ref” (and anyone who genuinely thinks that has more cause to be in a “Home for the Bewildered” than I do) continued with his usual low standards in the Arsenal Liverpool game last week. Still PGMO say he’s great so that’s alright then. If Webb showed the same dishonesty in his day job he’d face an investigation by an independent authority. As a referee he simply ends up with his mates patting him on the back.
We’ll also be without young Ravel Morrison who has gone off to play for that twitchy chap who used to hang around the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered offering us inmates tax advice (“first buy a dog, then open an offshore bank account....). Now I’ll be honest, I have no idea as to what’s been going on with the lad. On the one hand there’s been stuff in the press suggesting that his appetite for the scrap we’ve been in has been less than ravenous, with claims of a mystery groin injury popping up from time to time. On the other hand there’s been other stuff in the press, no doubt leaked by “sources close to the player” suggesting that his demeanour may have resulted from discontent over pressure to change his agent to the chap who represents the manager and several players. Either way nobody comes out of the situation with an awful lot of credit. The bright spot in the whole affair (apart from the manager winning his bet with the club’s media chap) was Mr Allardyce’s comment to the effect that Morrison had not played his last game for the club. I hope it gets sorted out sooner rather than later though as the lad clearly has talent. 

Injury wise we have a couple of concerns. Boriello has a hamstring problem which will probably mean that he won’t be about. Carlton Cole faces a late fitness test on a back problem. Ricardo Vaz Te’s misery continues, with a hamstring problem (obviously contagious) now sidelining him after the collar bone and knee problems that have messed his season up for him. Joey O’B is the other long term absentee, his shoulder dislocation is progressing nicely though and all being well we should see him back in the squad towards the middle of April.

Prediction time. This will be a decent test of our recent return to form. There are two schools of thought about the break. One says that, having spent the previous few weeks building up some momentum, the week off will have come at the wrong time. The other school of thought, as subscribed to by our manager, says that a week in the sun recharges the batteries. He’s got all sorts of research (conducted by proper research people rather than spotty work-experience kids) that says players are X percent more effective after such a break. What I do know is that in past years results have suggested that such a break does us good. Nevertheless their players will also have had a bit of a rest what with them resting a large number of players in the one competition they had any hope of doing well in.

I have an inkling that this one might finish all square so the money raised from the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's sale of water damaged sandbags is going to go on a 2-2 draw this weekend.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn Won 4-1 Ample revenge for the diving and cheating that had earned the visitor a draw the previous season. Noble (2 – 1 pen) Nolan and Maiga were on target.

Referee: Mike Clattenburg When all the hype and fuss is done one act remains: he's not a good ref.

Danger Man: Adam Lallana -When he's on form so are they.

Daft fact of the week: Southampton is the headquarters of the Ordnance Survey, an organisation formed when the locals realised that the place was one of the dullest locations on Earth. An attempt to liven things up by naming a suburb 'Redbridge' fooled nobody. Even the Titanic sunk itself rather than go back there hence the need for somebody to produce maps so the more discerning citizen could find somewhere more life-affirming to go to. The 1:50,000 map of Chernobyl is a best seller in that part of the world.

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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