Sunderland v West Ham United

With high winds and heavy rain forecast for tomorrow, we visited The Ghana's Avram Grant Rest Home For The Bewildered a day earlier than usual this week in case the place had blown away by the time we got there. Preview Percy took time out from wiring the front doorbell to the mains as a precaution against carol singers to bring us this. Is it us or did the lights just dim?

Next we embark on one of our longer treks of the season as we head to the frozen North East to visit Sunderland. Kick-off is at 3pm and there are no engineering works to speak of as far as I can tell so if you leave now you ought to get there in time for kick-off.

They've had a funny couple of months of late. They currently sit in 14th spot with a point a game from the 15 played so far, which is enough to keep them two points clear of the trapdoor zone. A quick look through their results to date shows where the problem lies. Goals. A lack of at one end and a glut at the other has been the issue. Apart from a couple of 2-2 draws (home to Spurs and away at West Brom) only once have they found the back of the net in multiple, that being a 3-1 away win at Palace. Otherwise it's been lots of zeros and ones which the work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips said resemble a very funny joke only in binary. I worry about that girl sometimes.

The lowlight in amongst all those results was the 8-0 thrashing they got at the hands of Southampton back in October - 46 years almost to the day we turned them over by the same score at the Boleyn. I know pundits have been going into raptures over Southampton's performances that season but it has to be said that Sunderland were worse than abysmal that afternoon. Some of the goals conceded that day ought to have the sort of honky-tonk piano soundtrack that used to accompany those old Keystone Cops movies that were popular in my teen years.

The possibility of a lack of goals doesn't appear to have been uppermost in the eyes of the management during the last transfer window. Although they brought in seven players before the deadline, the shopping trolley consisted of three defenders, three midfielders and a 'keeper. You may notice a positional absence amongst that lot. The fact that they elected not to bring in a striker may have something to do with their rejection of our reported ?5m offer (some say ?4m) for Conor Wickham back in the summer. In the end we went with Sakho, which seems to have turned out ok. Wickham scored some crucial goals in the run-in last term which helped them to stay up. His contract is due to expire at the end of this season and, with talks seemingly having reached an impasse, they must have been tempted to considering cashing in in January. However, it seems that a new deal has been agreed so he'll be staying put for a while.

The new 'keeper to arrive was Costel Pantillimon who arrived from Man City where he was no.2 to Joe Hart, his main purpose in life being to give Hart a night off for League Cup matches. Pantillimon spent seven years on the books at Politechnica Timisoara (which by now has probably been renamed "University of Romnia" or something). Those of you of a certain age may remember them being amongst our opponents in the 1980/81 Cup Winners Cup run. They were the lot who weren't Dynamo Tiblisi (a team who were just a little bit good). Pantillimon, whose full name is Romanian for the phrase "these trousers are expensive", probably, has started the last six league matches, these occurring after Southampton match in which former first choice 'keeper and minor character from the Godfather trilogy Vito Mannone had what one might politely refer to as "a bit of a mare" Sure he wasn't helped any by the atrocious defending going on in front of him but even so it was one of the less distinguished goalkeeping performances of the modern era. The last we heard anything of his whereabouts was when he was allegedly carted off in a straightjacket having lost the plot at a dinner party when someone thoughtlessly offered him an "After Eight" mint.

Midfielder Jordi Gomez arrived from Wigan, probably just before the club's owner moved onto to the Spanish as a target for his offensive views. Surplus to requirements at Espanyol, he spent 2008-09 on loan at Swansea where he was something of a hit - scoring the winner in a derby v Cardiff will do that for you down there. As the season ended Roberto Martinez, the then Swansea manager, claimed that, whilst he'd like to have bought the player, there was no way Swansea could afford the fee. A few weeks later Roberto Martinez, the then Wigan manager, announced his delight at signing the player. Of course only a cynic would suggest that Martinez's decision not to sign the player for Swansea was in anyway influenced by his possible move to Wigan. After all it would be most unlike a chairman of the integrity and honesty of Dave Whelan to get himself involved in anything improper.

They brought in another defender in the shape of Sebastian Coates, who came in on a season loan from Liverpool. The Uruguayan missed most of last season with the scousers through a knee inury sustained on international duty. Commentators insist on pronouncing his surname in a continental style - presumably some of them are of similar age to us and are desperate to avoid calling him "Ralph" by mistake.He's barely featured this season either, an appearance in the League Cup left him with a knock and he didn't reappear until the 4-1 defeat by Man City last week.

The top scorer thus far this season is Steven Fletcher, whose four goals came in a pair of braces, against Stoke and against Palace. The sweaty had a bit of a falling out with the then Scotland manager Craig Levein a couple of years back. Fletcher publicly criticised Levein who then left Fletcher out of the squad. Then recalled him. Fletcher refused to play. Eventually Strachan took over and Fletcher is back in the fold. All a bit handbaggy if you ask me.

And so to us. Last week was an odd - though entertaining - game. We started well and were totally in charge until they finally mustered an attack and scored. We had a funny few minutes until we equalised. Second half we dominated, pausing only to have a funny few minutes after the sending off before finally killing the game off. Three points, ta very much.

Of course the champagne we had on ice to celebrate the first ever clean sheet on the injury list had to be returned to the 'fridge once it became apparent that Mark Noble wasn't, as had been hinted, fit to play after all. The usual listings are suggesting that he'll need another week's work on his troublesome calf.

To Noble we can add Carl Jenkinson who tweaked a hamstring in the second half last weekend. The usual sources suggest that he might be fit for Saturday but I'd be surprised enough to raise a quizzical eyebrow if he appeared. Hamstrings are tricky coves and given the manager's usual methodical approach to injuries and recovery periods and such stuff I'd have thought that Jenkinson might be saved for the Christmas period. If that's the case Joey O' might get a rare start

Other than those two it looks like a pretty full squad - the Carroll-Sakho partnership looked promising last week and, with Valencia looking a little out of sorts against Swansea, it wouldn't surprise me if we started with those two up front again. It'd be a mouthwatering prospect to see them up against Wes Brown and John O'Shea for example.

So for my prediction ths week I shall be putting the Ghana's Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's fund to hire a hitman to have a word with whoever wrote that bloody "Frozen" song (?2.50) on us to come away with three points. I'll go with 2-0 to us this time.
Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Stadium Of Light Won 2-1 (March 2014) Carroll's early header and one from Diame (whatever happened to him?) added in the second half saw us over the line and pushed them into relegation bother.

Referee: Phil Dowd First time in charge of us this season for the old chubber, whose last match involving us was last season's 2-0 home win over Spurs.

Danger Man: Steven Fletcher - on the grounds that he is their top scorer and always seems to score against us.

Daft fact of the week:The non-existent Watneys Book Of Records credits Sunderland with the record for "The game of football most over-hyped in relation to its actual importance ever". Their 1895 friendly against Scottish Champions Hearts was billed as "The Championship Of The World". Sky Sports are believed to have based their entire marketing strategy on this one game. How else would they try to describe Swansea v Spurs as "Super Sunday"?

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