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West Ham United v Liverpool

Filed: Friday, 19th September 2014
By: Preview Percy

We'd hoped that an independent Scotland was somewhere we could have deported Preview Percy to. No wonder they voted "No". While we get on to the Ecuadorian Embassy to find out whether that room is free yet, here's his look at this weekend's visit of Liverpool.....

Next we return to the Boleyn for a Saturday evening 5.30pm kick-off for the benefit of space tv. The late kick off will at least give some of you a bit of extra time should the District Line be your preferred mode of transport. Yup it's the return of the weekend engineering works timed to coincide with one of our home matches. Buses will replace trains between Barking and Upminster though C2C services between the two stations will be running.

The extra time will also allow their players time to walk the three feet from the gate to the dressing room should they have the same coach driver as last year who couldn't negotiate the reverse into the car park that every other coach driver seems to be able to manage.

The visitors arrive in 8th place with 6 points from the four games played so far two wins and two draws. The two wins came against Southampton (2-1) and Spurs (3-0). The defeats came against Man City (0-3) and last weekend at home to Villa (0-1). The opening day win against Southampton was far from convincing. They looked a lot more comfortable against Spurs who clearly used up their luck ration for the month against us. Even then Liverpool required the use of another dive at a crucial moment to gain a penalty, Joe Allen becoming the latest in a long, long line of Liverpool players to exaggerate the slightest suggestion of contact.

Now every time I write about Liverpool in the context of the diving disease that infects the game a strange thing happens at the bottom of the page. Liverpool supporters get all touchy about criticism of their club. I was even accused of having been dumped by a scouse woman in the past and “bitterness”. (For the record, I've never been quite THAT desperate!) The sad thing is that, having seen their U21s in action a couple of times in the last 12 months, it is clear that the “art” of simulation is not something that is limited to their first XI squad. Whether this be a result of imitation or Pulis-like coaching I guess that we'll never know but the results are there for all to see.

Not too long ago I got into a debate on the matter in the Swan & Superinjunction with a Liverpool supporter who had somehow evaded the pub's security systems. The excuses were brilliant. Firstly “Everyone Does It” - an argument easily countered with the help of Monty the Landlord's dubious Albanian Sky+ system re-running that penalty we didn't get at Arsenal last season. The next excuse was priceless: You see it's all the fault of the FA for not punishing diving enough. Whilst admittedly referees all too often bottle the yellow card that should go with simulation, to use that as justification for the tactic (which is what it is) shows how far some teams have sunk. It's an interesting argument but not one I'd advise using the next time you get caught speeding “It's your fault officer – I wouldn't have done it had the death penalty been in place” . Meantime Liverpool fans, rather than moaning about imagined slights, you could take a leaf out of Swansea's book – their reaction to the antics of Flores at the Boleyn was commendable. The use of the phrase “not something I want at my club” is one that shows class.

The summer transfer activity was centred initially on the south coast where they took advantage of the internal shenanigans at Southampton. To be fair Southampton did ok out of the deals – eyebrows were raised at the size of the fees paid for Lallana (£25m) and Loveren (£20m). Even the £4m for Lambert seemed a bit steep or a player at that stage of his career. They would have taken in more from St Mary's but they'd run out of players with names beginning with the letter L.

The big arrival of course was serial nut job Mario Balotelli who came in for £16m (yup £9m less than Lallana), a player that is often as good as he is bonkers. Bravely, he apparently turned up at training the other day in his £250,000+ Ferrari which he's had brought over from Italy. Probably best to leave it at home & get a cab on home matchdays up there Mario. Fine player though he undoubtedly is (and ignoring the often hilarious off the pitch stuff that goes on – bathroom fireworks anyone?) his last spell in England was characterised by disciplinary issues. According to the work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips, during his season and a half at Manchester City he missed eleven domestic and European matches through suspension, which is some going – though I suppose 11 games is small beer compared to the player he's replacing at Anfield. He opened his account in the midweek struggle against somewhere unpronounceable from Bulgaria which means that at least he won't be doing the traditional duck-breaking thing against us.

The other big money arrival was Lazar Marcovic who came in from Benfica for something like £20m depending on how many Euros young Doris at the Post Office is giving out to the pound this week. Marcovic started out at Partizan Belgrade after which things get complicated. In June 2013 Partizan claimed that Chelsea were going to buy the player and lend him to Benfica. However, when a deal was eventually done it was between Partizan and Benfica direct, the player signing a 5 year deal at the ground the Portuguese outfit share with Sunderland. Or so it seemed. What in fact had happened was that Benfica owned 50% of the player, the other half being “owned” by one of those mysterious “funds” that got us (but strangely not certain other clubs I could mention) into trouble all those years ago. Fast forward a year and enter Liverpool. In went a bid whereupon it transpired Chelsea were involved after all. It seems the deal that saw the player move from Serbia to Portugal included Chelsea after all, the dodgy Russian having negotiated a deal whereby the Pensioners had an option to buy the player. Chelsea didn't take up the option (though it must have been tempting to do so just for a laugh) and, free to negotiate their own price (rather than the cheaper option price Chelsea had) Benfica squeezed about £5m more out of Liverpool than they'd have got from the Russian. Nothing at all dubious there then.

German midfielder Emre Can (£10m), Spanish left back Alberto Moreno (£12m) and Belgian striker Divock Origi (£10m) completed the spending or the summer. Origi was immediately lent back to Lille whence he came. They also brought in right back Javi Manquillo on a two year loan deal and Tottenham kid Kevin Stewart. All of which was financed by the sale of racist diving biting cheat Luis Suarez for £75m, and from savings in the cost of printing “Suarez Is Innocent” T-shirts. One does wonder that if the club and its supporters had actually condemned Suarez's many crimes rather than trying to blame everyone else for them he might have knuckled down and let the football do the talking but I guess that would go against the grain too much. One's sources inform me that the club's US owners were already fed up with Suarez's antics and his World Cup mid-match-meal was the final straw. Paying out big wages on someone who was banned until the next total solar eclipse will be visible in the UK didn't appeal and Brendan “David Brent” Rodgers was told to get shot of the player, who would have gone last year but for some rather shady goings on where the club decided to ignore the buy out clause in the player's contract. Shame the player didn't press that one – technically he could have gone for free on a beach of contract had he had the gumption to force matters and it would have been quite a laugh seeing the club trying to defend its position.

Their injury news is that Joe Allen is out with a knee injury as is thug Flanagan. Newboy Can (ankle), can't. The talismanic but equally unsteady Sturridge is another week away whilst ex-Hammer Glen Johnson is also a long-term absentee – which will mean he can't score against us for a bit.

And so to us. Two and a half cheers for Monday night's match then. The performance may hopefully indicate that the Southampton debacle was a blip. The two goals conceded were a bit annoying though. Both came at times when we were on top and it's irritating to think that, had we scored first (or third) we would probably have gone on to win comfortably. The performance overall suggested that the manager's comments to the effect that we would be going all out to ensure that our opponents didn't win was either some sort of double bluff mind game type thing (wasted on Bruce surely) or that the players went out and did their own thing. Either way it was a much better way of getting a point than we've been used to over the past 12 months. And as for Valencia's strike, not bad was it?

Apart from the obvious defensive lapses one other thing irritated me. Guy Demel. Nice chap no doubt and he has his moments both defensively and going forward. However, for the life of me I can't work out what it is he keeps in his left sock and football boot. Whatever it is it isn't a left foot. Now I appreciate that few are blessed with genuine and natural two-footedness, but for a professional footballer to be that bad on one foot is surely unacceptable. Time and time again Demel got into good position where a pass with his left would have set up a chance on goal. And every time he turned it on to his right and the chance was gone. As kids, the PE teacher at the Lord Haw Haw Secondary Modern used to make us practice with our “wrong foot” so that even now, when I get out of my bath chair I could knock the stray kids' balls back over the razor wire-topped walls we have here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered with either foot. I don't, of course. I stick a knife through them to annoy them. The point is that I could if I wanted. Coaching staff – tell Demel “left foot only” for a few weeks.

Injuries – well it's the same squad as for Monday with O'Brien, Nolan and Carroll definitely out. Jarvis faces a late fitness test. I'd expect therefore to see a similar starting XI to that which turned out on Monday, with perhaps the now fit Jenkinson in for Demel.

Prediction? Well with this lot much depends on referees being on the ball enough to spot the simulation – and based on past experience I have little faith in that being the case. I fear that no matter how well we play they'll mug us off at some stage – last season being a typical example. So the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered Scottish Bail Out Fund (£2.50) is going on a 2-2 draw this time round.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn: Lost 1-2 – April 2014. Referee Anthony Taylor handed them all three points with a shocking penalty decision after a dive from Flanagan that would have embarrassed any other club. Apparently the grass was too long (it wasn't), they were made to park miles away from the stadium (they weren't) and it was too warm in the changing room (turn that big thermostat thing down on the wall then). All this according to Steve Gerrard whose relationship with the truth over the years has proven to be tenuous to say the least.

Referee: Craig Pawson Cost us 3 points up at Stoke when Munesia was allowed to play basketball in the box. Upset Diego Poyet's dad Gus in a Brighton match a couple of years back by sending off two players in the first ten minutes.

Danger Man: Mario Balotelli Unpredictable and now that Villa have gotten away with kicking him all over the place we're unlikely to either try it or get away with it ourselves.

Daft fact of the week: Although Steve Gerrard actually retired from international football after the last World Cup (and not during it as most of us watching it thought), due to a contractual obligation, Andy Townsend will still award him the MOTM award for the next six England internationals he commentates on.

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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