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West Ham United v Aston Villa

Filed: Friday, 7th November 2014
By: Preview Percy

Paul Lambert's daughter, an FA investigation into Jesus Christ and the tube station that died of shame. Just another glimpse into the strange world of Preview Percy then.......

Next up we return to home territory where we will play mine host to Aston Villa. Kick-off for the second week running is 3pm on Saturday. There’s no engineering works on the tube in the immediate vicinity of Upton Park, though the outer reaches of the Central Line between Woodford and Epping will be closed with replacement buses being the order of the day out there. Lines out of Fenchurch Street and Liverpool Street should also be fine, though Tottenham Hale station will be closed, presumably out of embarrassment and shame.

Villa are not in the rudest of health at present. It seems there is a general air of gloom and despondency over the place at the moment, something that is reflected in their current position of 16th averaging a point a game from the ten played thus far. Those ten points came from their first four games which were comprised of 3 wins and a draw. However, that opening flourish masked some underlying problems which appear to permeate the club right from the top.

American owner Randy Lerner has been trying to sell the club for some time now. Despite this he awarded manager Paul Lambert a new contract during the initial four match flourish since when it’s been six defeats on the trot, culminating in last weekend’s (admittedly flukey) defeat to minnows Spurs who are making a habit out of scraping undeserved points at claret and blue venues.

Lambert brought in some help during the summer in the form of the bizarrely hirsute Roy Keane who has been very vocal on the subject of his “hard man” credentials of late. Entirely coincidentally of course he has another book out. He’s combining the Villa role with something similar in the Republic of Ireland hierarchy. However, although Keane never seemed quite as hard whenever Julian Dicks went over for a “quiet word”, one would be grudgingly forced to accept that he is slightly tougher than striker Christian Benteke, whose girly slap earned him a red card against Spurs last weekend. The “offence” came in reaction to a Spurs head pushed gently into his face (also a red card offence) and was of such weakness that Lambert claimed that his daughter could hit harder than that. The net result of the whole contretemps is that, a mere three starts into his return from an Achilles injury, Benteke will be enjoying a three match suspension, the first of which will be this weekend. There's been no word as to whether Lambert's daughter will play. Late fitness test I expect.

If supporters had been looking for their new summer signings to inspire them they would have probably been left somewhat underwhelmed by the quality of the new arrivals. Even Mrs Senderos probably finds it hard to get too excited when hubby Philipe yells “hi honey I'm home” as he crosses the threshold of whatever Midlands dwelling they share at present. Senderos is on his third club of the calendar year, having done the rat/sinking ship thing at Fulham, leaving for Valencia just as the January window shut. Failing to make much of an impact in Spain, he joined Villa for free on a two year deal in the summer stopping off to appear for the Swiss national side in the World Cup en route.

Valencia was also the source for left back Aly Cissokho. Cissokho was the subject of a bizarre attempted transfer deal a few years back. In 2009 Milan announced that they had agreed a €15m deal to sign the player from Porto, subject to medical. Those last three words became rather important as it was subsequently announced that Cissokho had failed said medical. “What”, I hear you ask, "was the problem?” A long term knee injury perhaps? An ankle problem maybe. Nope it seems that dear old Aly had an issue with his teeth. Apparently there was a problem with his choppers that could “potentially indicate spinal problems”. This is not as far fetched as it seems. The last time I put my back out was bending over to pick up my teeth when I accidentally knocked over the glass where they reside overnight. However, the true motive behind the contents of Milan's medical report can probably be divined from their attempt to renegotiate the deal on a loan basis. Sound familiar? The player subsequently claimed to have passed a second medical and signed a pre-contract but Porto remained unimpressed and eventually flogged the player to Lyon. Having been at Valencia since 2012 he spent last season on loan at Liverpool before joining Villa this summer. He's been capped once by France, an attempt to play for Senegal the country of his ancestry falling through when the Senegalese FA cheesed him off by losing his passport.

Another who spent his summer in Brazil was Carlos Sanchez who the work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips informs me was a £4.7m capture from Spanish outfit Elche. Sanchez played in all five of Colombia's matches in the World Cup and is, apparently, nicknamed the rock, though whether this is because he is as implacable as a chunk of granite or it is because of a lack of mobility is something we'll have to wait and see.

In midfield both the on loan Tom Cleverley and Fabian Delph received recent call-ups to the England squad. The call-ups raised some eyebrows in these parts, with many wondering exactly how many players Hodgson was going to try out before wondering if someone in good form, say, for example, Mark Noble, got a look in.

Neither of the two Villa men have made the squad announced this week, six defeats in a row being too much even for Hodgson to stomach – though Delph's dislocated shoulder won't have helped his cause. Although this suggests that form is now one of the criteria for selection, the inclusion of Smalling, Shaw, Henderson, Townsend, Carrick, Chambers, Walcott and Lambert suggests that as ever you can never be too rubbish for England if you play for certain clubs. Unless the Lambert referred to is the daughter of the Villa boss in which case the selection would be a brave move indeed..

Top scorer thus far is Andreas Weinmann who has three of their five goals in the league this season. The other two have come from Gabriel Agbonlahor. That's it. Nobody else has found the back of the net for them. At all.

There are two former Hammers available to them, one fondly remembered the other not remembered at all. One has to feel a little sorry for Joe Cole. Having barely got a look in with us last season as injury and simple non-selection curtailed his appearances, he must be casting an envious look at the way we're playing this season after his release during the summer. He's not been overused by his new employers this term. An early season injury sustained in the 1-0 league cup defeat to the O's has been followed by him watching most of Villa's matches from the racing car seats; late sub appearances in the away defeats at Everton (3-0) and QPR (2-0) being his sole contribution to the league cause. Still it's not all doom and gloom for him. It's his birthday on Saturday.

The other ex-Hammer is Kieran Richardson who didn't actually trouble the first XI during his spell as a trainee. Poached from us by by Man Utd, he's somehow managed to amass 8 England caps in his career. Yes Mark Noble, I know mate, I know.

And what of us? Well last weekend we had a bit of a wake-up call. The absence of Sakho and the pushing forward of Amalfitano altered the shape of the team that has served us so well this season to the extent that for much of the match we looked like the team of 2013/14. Fair play to the boss, he changed things for the better at the interval, with the introduction of Carlton Cole freeing up Valencia to play more of his natural game. Valencia got a thorough kicking for his trouble, something predictably ignored by the pathetic Mark Hughes in all his moaning about Song's challenge that five weeks later led to the goal. The good things to take from the match were the stuff we learned from it, the continued return to form of Adrian and, of course the guts and spirit in the team that made the comeback possible in the first place.
We are told that Sakho, Winston Reid and, yes, even Andy Carroll should be available for selection this weekend, though whether Carroll will be risked with an international break coming up is another matter. Should all three pass their relative fitness tests that would leave us with only Demel on the injury list. One player out. Just think about that for a minute. We've discussed this matter at length here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For the Bewildered. In fact our discussions went on so long we were forced to adjourn to the lounge bar of the Swan And Superinjunction for refreshments. The net upshot of our deliberations were that; a) none of us could remember the last time we had so few players injured; and b) at our age we could barely remember last Tuesday so trying to remember when we last had so few players injured was probably a really pointless exercise in the first place.

Prediction? Well the wake up call from last week will hopefully have been a lesson well learned. Sakho will be going for a record 7 from 7 league starts and there will be a general buzz of anticipation in the air. We'll be playing a side that has struggled with goals all season, shorn of their brightest goal prospect by suspension. A team that has lost six in a row. We have both the manager and player of the month. It's all set up to go horribly wrong isn't it?!

In days of yore this would have all the portents of a typical West Ham sequence- busting defeat. However I don't believe that this will be the case this time. Last week's point showed a resilience not always on display in the past and one gets the distinct impression that the players are keen to ensure that the less impressive parts of the Stoke match are not repeated.

So this week the traditional Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home for The Bewildered £2.50, freshly liberated from the now empty jar in which they keep the home's winter heating fund, will be going on a home win. Let's say 3-1 as Joe Cole gets something nice to celebrate his birthday with.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn 0-0 (November 2013). We had the better of the match but failed to convert that into goals. They might have nicked the points when a hitherto anonymous Benteke saw his header come back off the bar. Razvan Rat played. Apparently.

Referee: Jonathan Moss In prior seasons stats show him awarding two penalties for each one awarded by his so-called “Select” group colleagues. Awarded 4 in the Man City v Spurs match the other week which suggests that that stat may still be valid.

Danger Man: Andreas Weinmann – default selection for Danger Man this week by virtue of him being top scorer.

Daft fact of the week:Kieran Richardson once celebrated a goal at Sunderland by revealing a Kaka-style T-shirt bearing the words “I belong to Jesus”. The player was fined by the FA but when we rang them to ask whether they had investigated the potential breach of third party ownership rules they told us to go away.

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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