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Stoke City v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 14th March 2014
By: Preview Percy

Many people who have a week off come back refreshed and with renewed enthusiasm for their lot. Preview Percy isn't one of them, though he did perk up a bit on hearing that the site's editor has 'flu. Here's his look at this weekend's trip to Staffordshire. Or alternatively you could go and have root canal surgery, which would probably be less painful....

Next up we’re off to the Potteries where Stoke City will be our hosts. Kick-off is 3pm Saturday and, whilst the trains on that particular line seem to be clear for the moment, the tube has engineering works in the Whitechapel area so you might want to factor that into your travel equations. Check afore ye leave.

Our hosts currently sit in 12th spot which, for those of you who, like me, haven’t looked at the table for a while, is two places below us. We both have 31 points and we are above them by virtue of our goal difference which is superior by 10 (us -4 them -14). We also have a game in hand, by virtue of our having had last weekend off Current form isn’t bad, reading WDDLWD.

The wins came at home to Man Utd (2-1 - they used to be good apparently), and against Arsenal (1-0). The draws were away at Southampton (2-2), and at Norwich (1-1) and at home to Swansea (also 1-1).

The big talking point about their recent games came during the 1-0 win over Arsenal when serial offender Charlie Adam was punished for a bit of a stamp on Olivier Giroud, a retrospective three-match ban rendering him ineligible for this weekend’s events. Nice to see that the FA can act retrospectively when they want to.

Also missing will be football's answer to Frank Spencer (ask your grandparents) Jonathan Walters. Walters gave everyone a laugh a year or so ago by scoring to own goals and missing a penalty in a match against Chelsea. He's continued to miss the odd penalty here and there so he would have been over the moon to have stuck one away from the spot last week in the 1-1 draw against Norwich. As ever he couldn't just be content with just enjoying the afternoon and his part in the proceedings finished prematurely when he picked up a straight red for a high challenge on Alexander Tettey. Amazingly, Stoke appealed the decision on the grounds that they saw worse challenges elsewhere last weekend. I'd guess that the FA rejected the appeal on the not unreasonable grounds that any team containing Ryan Shawcross was likely to have been responsible for the bulk of those challenges in the first place.

Ex-Hammer Matty Etherington picked up back and neck injuries recently. Since his return to fitness he's largely been used as a sub. Here at the Avram Grant Rest Home For The Bewildered we used to have a bit of respect for Etherington until the infamous FA Cup Quarter Final a few years back at their place. This was a match which, had it occurred in Italy would have resulted in full blown investigations such was the one-sided nature of the refereeing. Etherington won a penalty for a dive that was so embarrassing only a bent or stupid ref would ever have given it. It was sad to see a previously honest player succumbing to the poor standards set by then manager Tony Pulis.

The spotty work experience kid brought me some computer printout that gave Etherington a rating of 85/100 for “tenacity” which will come as a bit of a surprise to those of us who got used to him disappearing without a trace whenever an opposing full back gave him a gentle reminder of his presence.

The dubious tactics that Pulis openly admitted were a part of his training regime seem to have survived his departure, if the reverse fixture is anything to go by. The free-kick that led to their winner was iffy to start with. Shwcross's demolition of the wall was blatant in the extreme. The goalscorer that day was football stereotype (drink driving, thick soap star girlfriends – the lot)Jermaine Pennant. For Pennant that was about as good as it got for the season and, having failed to make much of an impression subsequently, tag boy's contract was terminated in January. The spotty work experience kid can't find any record of him having found another club as yet though at least he hasn't sunk to the level of, say, Spurs. Yet.

Striking duties are likely to be in the hands of Peter Crouch. An awkward customer to deal with he is one of the more honest players you'll see in the opposition ranks this weekend – any elbows you see are more likely to be accidental if he's involved. Let's face it with limbs that long they're likely to act in a manner independent of his central nervous system anyway. On his own admission he's never been the most gifted of players but there's something likeable about the lad who puts one in mind of Victor the Giraffe (ask your grandparents again). And we do like a spot of self-deprecation in a footballer – I've mentioned before Crouch's response to the standard player profile question “What would you be if you weren't a footballer” (answer “a virgin”) and it's still a comment that raises a smile hereabouts.

There'll be a late fitness test for winger Oussama Assaidi, who has been suffering from a knee problem. Assaidi is on a season-long loan from Liverpool who he joined from Heerenveen in August 2012. “He's a player that will excite the crowd” claimed David Brent, sorry Brendan Rodgers, though he obviously omitted the “at the Britannia Stadium” from that particular sentence. Assaidi picked up his knock on a training camp in Dubai a month or so ago. I see the days of jogging around Epping Forest or whatever the Staffordshire equivalent is have gone then.

Us? Well our last match was so long ago I'll be damned if I can remember it. I do know that, not for the first time this season the player I picked as Danger Man scored for the opposition – I would work out how many times it's happened but Matron is doing the Rest Home's Cayman Island Tax Return and won't lend me the calculator.

The defeat at Goodison brought an end to a good run. I'm not a conspiracy theorist (I'm with Buzz Aldrin and will happily deck anyone who is stupid enough to claim the moon landings were faked). However, it does seem that the football powers that be seem to have an agenda against us. Having had their attempts to stitch us up via Webbgate fail dismally by our rather unsportingly winning four on the trot, they've now resorted to giving Mr Allardyce the “Manager Of The Month” award in a hope to halt our progress. They must be running out of ideas. Congratulations to the boss anyway, though the days when the prize used to be a massive bottle of Scotch are long gone.

There's mixed news on the injury front. The word around the Swan & Superinjunction is that Marco Boriello may have joined an ever-increasing list of players that are, or soon become, crocked when joining us and could end up back in Italy without kicking another ball in anger for us. There again the bloke across the landing swears he'll be fit for next weekend. Ricardo Vaz Te's hamstring would appear to have healed up, though whether he'll get into the squad given recent form is questionable. Even Joey O'B is progressing well it would seem.

Prediction? Well we owe them one after last time. It'll be a war of attrition in which cool heads will be required – since the law change that allows officials to send off Andy Carroll irrespective of whether or not he's actually done anything, he'll have to be particularly careful not to react to the inevitable treatment he'll receive from Shawcross. Hopefully Nolan's learned his lesson now as well – his recent form would suggest so anyway.

Although we have a decent record in the league at their place over the past few years, they are tough to beat on their own patch. Only two teams have come away with all three though, bizarrely, they were Norwich and Man Utd. Though a win is not out of the question, Matron's middle name is apparently “Prudence” so this week I'll be putting the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home's subscription to the Benfica Supporters' Club (OAP Section) (£2.50) on a 1-1 draw as we move towards the magic 40 point mark.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Britannia: Won 1-0. Won 1-0 A Collison goal was enough to give us all three points. Hypocrite Tony Pulis moaned that the goal shouldn’t have stood, bemoaning the fact that Andy Carroll had the temerity to stay on his feet when being manhandled during the build-up.

Referee: Craig Pawson. Relative rookie at this level – it’s the first of our matches I can remember him handling since our promotion. Which, given our opponents’ traditional disregard for the laws of the game, might be a worry.

Danger Man: Peter Crouch – It would have been Jonathan Walters on the grounds that someone that accident-prone was bound to cause us problems, probably more by luck than judgement. However, he managed to get himself suspended. So I’ve plumped for the lanky one instead.

Daft fact of the week: According to recent reports, for over 50% of the adult population of Stoke On Trent, the principal source of income is the sending of video footage into ITV’s “You’ve Been Framed”.

NB: For “Daft Fact” I usually get the spotty work-experience kid to research something about the host town and if, as with Stoke, the place is as dull as ditchwater, I give up and simply make something up. This time the splendid website “Eye On Stoke” has sort of beaten me to it with a whole series of, er, facts from which this one was shamelessly lifted. For more of the same check out www.eyeonstoke.blogspot.co.uk

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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