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West Ham United v Leicester City

Filed: Friday, 14th August 2015
By: Preview Percy

Last Sunday's season-opener ended an 8-year wait for a win over Arsenal. The wait for Preview Percy to get a round in on the other hand goes on.......

Next up we have our first home game of the final season at the Boleyn where we will play host to Leicester City. Kick-off is the traditional 3:00pm on Saturday, something we will now be seeing more of than we might have anticipated.

Transport-wise the only problems on the tube are on the end of the Victoria line nearest to Tottenham so nobody is particularly bothered. Check before you travel though in case there are any problems somewhere that matters.

It’s been a summer of change on the banks of the River Soar. The rather odd Nigel Pearson was always walking a bit of a tightrope after a second spell at the club that included his receiving a fine for telling a supporter to “f*** off and die”. Other crimes and misdemeanours included a pitchside altercation with Palace’s James Macarthur that wasn’t quite as light-hearted as Pearson wanted to make out and an exchange with a journo in which Pearson called the offending scribe an “ostrich”. The already fragile relationship between Pearson and the club’s owners was finally stretched beyond breaking point in the wake of the publicising of a video made by three of the club’s players whilst on a tour to Thailand. The trio – including the manager’s son - were sacked and the club’s owners – who were rumoured to have already sacked and reinstated the manager over the Mcarthurgate affair – issued Pearson Sr. with his P45, citing “fundamental differences of perspective” between them and Pearson and stating that the working relationship was “no longer viable”. They stopped short of saying that it had “ceased to be” and that it was an “ex-working relationship” probably because Monty Python isn’t a major cultural reference point for the club’s Thai owners.

After a spell when everyone thought that the job might go to one Allardyce, S. the surprise announcement was that they had appointed Claudio Ranieri. This did not go down too well with their celebrity support, who, in a break during his day job of filming those dreadfully unfunny crisp commercials, was heard to describe the appointment as “uninspiring”. Well if anyone knows the meaning of that word it should be him.

For all that, Ranieri got off to a decent start and his team arrives in second place in the league (at the time of writing) courtesy of their 4-2 defeat of Sunderland last weekend. Long-term readers (sufferers, shurely? – ed) of this column will be aware that we at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered don’t have much truck with this idea of publishing the league tables after one match. Things used to be better when they used to publish it for the first time on the second Saturday, by which time everyone had played three games. It was a bit like the start of a swimming race when the lead becomes apparent after the start only when the swimmers surface for the first time after diving in. Still that’s the way things are these days. I expect it’s the fault of us supporters – we usually get the blame.

Anyway it was an odd game at whatever their stadium is called at the moment. The initial stages saw Schmeichel needing to be alert to make a triple save. Then someone flicked a switch on the Sunderland team, altering their default setting from adequate to bloody awful. This enabled the home side to race into a 3-0 lead by half-time with goals from Vardy and Mahrez (2 – 1 pen). Sunderland woke up a bit and Defoe pulled one back in the second half only for Albrighton to restore the 3 goal advantage with an effort that was so far offside it was embarrassing. Schmeichel then had a Cech moment to allow Fletcher to make it 4-2 at the end.

Of the goalscorers last week Vardy is an interesting case. He was capped by England last term, albeit it being one of those “summer caps” given to players when more established pros find that the groin strains they’ve been carrying need to be rested on a beach somewhere warm, with a medicinal cocktail or two being part of the recuperation process. He’s done rather well for himself since arriving from Fleetwood a couple of years ago and is one of their better-regarded players. He’s currently in a spot of hot water having been filmed in a casino apparently racially abusing a fellow customer. The club announced the imposition of a hefty fine and a spot of “diversity awareness training” whatever that means. Oddly these alternatives weren’t offered to the “Thailand Three”, a fact that may or may not be related to the size of fee that each of the parties might be expected to fetch on the open market. As Groucho Marx once said – “these are my principles. If you don’t like them, well I have others”.

Winger Riyad Mahrez looked a bit lively last weekend. This is the Algerian’s second full season with the Foxes having arrived in the January 2014 transfer window. The work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles informs me that an undisclosed fee was paid to Le Havre for the winger’s services, adding that he started his pro career with a French club by the name of Quimper. Which sounds like one of those definitions out of Viz’s Rogers Profanisaurus.

Although, as mentioned, Albrighton’s goal involved a large assist from the officials, on a human level it would be hard to begrudge him the moment. His girlfriend’s mum and her partner were amongst the tourists killed in the recent Tunisian atrocity so it must have been a rough summer for the lad. Something to bear in mind the next time you see the word “tragedy” used in a football context by some lazy journo. And if you see me use it feel free to chastise me very roughly.

In the window just gone the most high profile departure was that of Esteban Cambiasso. He spent last season on a one year deal but left despite reportedly being offered a new deal in the summer. He’s gone to Olympiakos where, given the state of the Greek economy, one hopes that he’s managed to get his salary paid up front. Also released was Matthew Upson who has gone to Milton Keynes Dons who presumably think that they’ve signed Scott Parker. Paul Konchesky has also gone, this time on loan to QPR where he’s been charged with helping repair the wreckage caused by the previous manager, whoever that was.

Through the in-door has arrived Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki. Okazaki has been capped over 90 times by the Japanese national side, scoring 43 goals in the process. The work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles tells me that this makes him the third highest goalscorer in Japanese international football history, and top amongst those players still actually playing. Okazaki came in for a reported fee of £7m from German outfit Mainz for whom he scored 28 league goals over the course of his two seasons there. He started last week on the bench against Sunderland.

Another new boy who started on the bench last week was midfielder N’Golo Kante. Kante was a £5.7m capture from French outfit Caen, who he helped to promotion to the top flight of French football in the 2013/14 season. He’s yet to be capped by either the country of his birth (France) or the country of his forefathers (Mali), though qualification for a French passport means that all that pesky work permit stuff was easily dispensed with.

They dipped into the Bundesliga again to bring in Christian Fuchs who came in from our chums over at Schalke this summer. Fuchs had spent four years in Gelsenkirchen before departing on a free this summer. The left-back has over 60 caps for Austria and managed 17 minutes of pitch time at the weekend replacing Mahrez for the closing stages. Your correspondent would also like some sort of acknowledgement that he has managed to write nearly 100 words on this player without once resorting to any sort of wordplay involving his surname.

And so to us. Who saw that one coming then? A win over there is always sweet, obviously. To do it in decent style, which we did, made it even sweeter. To put it simply the tactics worked like a dream. The last time I saw a West Ham side win a match on tactics was probably the 3-0 at Spurs when their back four couldn’t cope with not having anyone to mark. In fact if you go back to the stadium now you’ll probably find Arsenal’s midfield still passing the ball across the pitch. A quick word about young Mr Oxford: Superb. However, there were fine performances all over the pitch, of course. So much so that the home support were even quieter than normal. I know it’s hard to be quieter than silent but if it is possible for sound meters to register negative amounts then that’s what they would have been doing on Sunday. The aural equivalent of a black hole. I suppose it’s too much to hope that last week’s Irritating Celebrity Supporter Of The Week will disappear permanently, but England winning the Ashes without his mate Pietersen and his team being outplayed by us will hopefully keep him quiet for a while anyway.

It is understood that Pedro Obiang will be close to availability for this match after his muscle problem, which would leave just near namesake O’Brien, Carroll and Valencia in the treatment room. There may be an issue with Amalfitano however, who blotted his copybook by missing a team meeting and has allegedly been sent to train with the kids (though if there are any more back there like Oxford that might be viewed as a promotion rather than a punishment).

Another in hot water this week has been Sakho, with whom Tower Hamlets plod had a word in his shell-like over a matter described as a “domestic issue”. Plod don’t want to see him again until September so he will be ok for this one.

One player who won’t be about will be Joey Barton. There has been a load of rubbish written about the collapse of this signing, with many sources citing supporter unrest as the principal reason for the deal not being completed. In fact, my spies suggest that the deal floundered on the thorny issue of pay, specifically the method of payment. The club favoured a pay as you play type of deal with Barton’s salary being largely dependent on first XI appearances. Barton, allegedly, wasn’t happy with this proposed arrangement and, with no assurances forthcoming that he would ever make a minimum number of appearances the parties shook hands and went their separate ways. My own view was that the player was wrong for the team from a football point of view anyway whatever you think of him as a person (and for the record I am most definitely NOT a fan of him personally).

Prediction? Well we have two teams that haven’t had the joys of early season victory knocked out of them by the passage of time so we could be in for a cracker. As well as they played in spells last week though it should be remembered that the win did come against Sunderland. There again it could be said that ours was only against Arsenal I suppose. However, despite that, I think we’ll win so I shall be taking the £2.50 that came from the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered’s collection to chip in to buy Chelsea a club doctor who doesn’t hold with all that “Hippocratic Oath” nonsense along to Winstones The Turf Accountant and placing the whole darn lot on a 2-1 win for us.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn: Won 2-0 (December 2014) Goals from Carroll and Downing were enough to seal all three points before the post-Christmas slump set in. One of the many of our matches refereed by Martin Atkinson last season.

Referee: Anthony Taylor – To say he’s prone to errors is a bit like saying that Arsene Wenger is prone to myopia. Only in charge because someone forgot to press the button marked “Martin Atkinson”.

Danger Man: Riyad Mahrez Looked on the ball last week and can also turn provider for Vardy.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter Of The Week: Gary Lineker. Celeb supporters of Leicester City are a bit thin on the ground if truth be told. However, their highest profile champion is, thankfully, genuinely irritating thus ensuring the continuation of this new feature for another week at least. The crisp salesman has a daft pseudo-satanic beard and, if rumour is to be believed, is not without the odd skeleton in his cupboard either.

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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