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Sunderland v West Ham United

Filed: Sunday, 30th March 2014
By: Preview Percy

When Preview Percy saw the item on the first gay marriages on the news the other night we were surprised to find that the reactionary old buffer was in favour. "Good" he explained. "Why shouldn't everyone suffer like the rest of us?" You can see why he celebrates his decree absolute every year.....

Next we schlep up the A1(M) etc to the Stadium Of Light where we'll be hosted by Sunderland. Kick off is 8pm.

That's right. 8pm on a Monday night for a round trip of something like 550 miles. Thanks to Sky. That's the same Sky who run those adverts telling us how us important us supporters are to the game. Clearly not that important then.

Our opponents come into this match in a spot of bother, sitting as they do in second from bottom place with 25 points from their 29 games so far.

The spotty work-experience kid tells me that they've gained just the four points in a last six that reads WLLDLL. The win was a 3-0 defeat of hapless Newcastle at St James' Park that gave them a double over their rivals for the first time since 1966/67. No doubt they consider that should count double or something.

It doesn't and since going down 3-1 to Manchester City in the League Cup Final at the start of March, their only league point came in a 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace. Otherwise it's been defeats all the way, the most recent being up at Anfield where, unlike Tottenham, they did at least give the home side a nervy 20 minutes when going down 2-1.

Things have calmed down a bit at least on the domestic front up there. The managerial situation seems to have stabilised itself since the appointment of Paolo Di Canio prompted the resignation from the board of genocide apologist David Milliband who was disappearing off to the US anyway. Di Canio's ideas of discipline prompted a virtual mutiny in the ranks and, whilst the avoidance of relegation at the end of his first season gave him a stay of execution, it was always going to be a messy end (as if Swindon didn't provide enough clues).

Gus Poyet came in (having allegedly only discovered the termination of his Brighton contract at half time during a spot of TV punditry) and can at least point to a Wembley final in his first season in the hot seat. I'm not as impressed myself. Using my freedom pass on the Saturday night before the match my journey across London was constantly interrupted by requests for directions from Mackems who seem uniquely ill adapted to the simple task of reading a tube map. It's as as if a whole city had caught some form of congenital colour-blindness.

The amazing thing was that any of them found the Jubilee line on match day(though at least the extension of the Circle Line to Hammersmith means we will be spared the sight of dozens of them being doomed to spending the rest of eternity looking for an escape.

The home side have two long term injury problems – one at either end of the pitch where 'keeper Kieran Westwood and striker Steven Fletcher will both be out. Fletcher plumbed new depths for footballer behaviour earlier this year when not only did he spit on the back of a London rickshaw driver, he then went on to compound the offence by videoing the incident and posting it up on social media. Still at least he didn't annoy me by interrupting my crossword and asking “where do I change for Ealing Broadway”.

Fletcher's absence has placed pressure on others to come up with the goals. Top of the charts at present is Adam Johnson 7 of whose 9 goals this season have come in the League. Johnson apparently holds out hopes of going to Brazil with England this summer, though his outburst at Hodgson's failure to select players outside the top few clubs probably did him few favours. That and not being much good.

Their next top scorer is the lively Fabio Borini who has six this term, though three of those came in the League Cup, including the opener in the final. Borini missed the trip to Anfield as that's where Sunderland have borrowed him from so he'll be fresh for this one at least.

The other striking option is Conor Wickham. Wickham was brought back from his loan at Leeds, partly to alleviate a lack of goals and partly to get him the hell out of there lest he get repossessed when the bailiffs turn up at Eland Road.

And so to us. Much was made of the post-match booing after the somewhat fortuitous win over Hull. If you read the papers you could have been forgiven for thinking that thirty thousand or so people were deafening a large area of East London with howls of disapproval, rather than the sound of a few hundred disgruntled individuals.

I guess that having shelled out over forty quid for a ticket one does have the right to express an opinion but I do wonder sometimes if we're a little too eager to grumble (says the world's grumpiest man! – Ed). I've seen far worse performances at the Boleyn than that over the years and, whilst it was admittedly a dismal game of football, given that we're not totally out of the relegation battle, my own sentiments at the coming of the final whistle were ones of relief rather than annoyance.

Mark Noble's later comments that anxiety off the pitch transmits itself to the players was also interesting. It begs a chicken and egg question as to whether supporters react to the players or vice-versa. As an old-fashioned sort I sort of prefer it when we are getting behind the team – I usually save my booing for mealtimes here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered.

Team news is that the calf injury that did for Ginger Pele after about three seconds of the Hull match will keep him out of the trip to the North East. Roger the Relegator also picked up a knock to the eye – though I'm not sure if it occurred before or after the superb tackle that broke up a Hull breakaway the other night.

Thankfully, Winston Reid should have recovered from the bug that ailed him in midweek so there will be options in the centre of defence – as long as Tomkins' ankle (an injury rather than an obscure place in Arkansas) is ok. Matt Jarvis is a doubt though – his hip injury (as opposed to all those really uncool injuries that players get) will make him a doubt. Other than that the usual two of O'Brien and Boriello will definitely be missing.

Prediction? Well Sunderland have the worst home record in the league and our away record isn't exactly the most inspiring. We ought to be able to get a win up there but my inkling is that this will be a bit dour.

We at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered were going to fly a message over the Stadium Of Light either in support or against the manager (we hadn't tossed the coin yet) until matron pointed out that the kids' balloon would be impossible to read at night anyway and writing "Back Sam" or "Allardyce Out" on a balloon using my trusty quill pen would probably burst the thing anyway.

So, I'll be putting the £2.50 we were going to spend on our tribute and/or protest on a 0-0 draw, which will serve Sky right.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Stadium Of Light: Lost 3-0. Bit of an off day, particularly for Premier League debutant Dan Potts whose error contributed to one of the goals. Marouane Chamakh made his debut for us that day. Yup it was that bad.

Referee: Howard Webb. His disgraceful insistence that he was right over the Carroll ending off was dishonesty of the lowest order, He'll be right at home with the likes of Blatter in Brazil then.

Danger Man: Fabio Borini. Has a bit about him and, as a Liverpool player he probably can't be relied on to stay on his feet too often.

Daft fact of the week: Most people credit Thomas Edison with the invention of the light bulb, though a chap called Joseph Swan demonstrated something similar in Sunderland at about the same time. This could account for the fact that, when not bothering me for directions hundreds of Sunderland supporters could be seen pointing in amazement going “oooh” at the technological marvel that is the traffic light.

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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