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Aston Villa v West Ham United

Filed: Thursday, 24th December 2015
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy took time out from laying out his seasonal array of anti-personnel mines for carol singers to write this. Aren't we the lucky ones.....

Villa away then. Boxing Day. 3pm kick-off. Nice and traditional. Trains? Yeah right. Unless you have one of those hand powered see-saw type trolleys I think it’s the M1 for you matey what with just about every part of the network shut. Good luck then.

Aston Villa. Bottom. 7 points from 17 games with a -17 goal difference. In many cultures 7 is considered to be a lucky number. Not in Birmingham I suspect. They started out with Tottenham Tim Sherwood in charge. He had what you might call an “interesting” transfer window.

It started promisingly enough, Scott Sinclair came in on a free having previously been on loan from Man City. Sinclair’s story is a salutary lesson for young players who get blinded by the bright lights of the glitzier clubs. Having been signed by Chelsea from Bristol City for what the work experience kid in the Harry Potter spectacles described as “some fluff Abrahamovic found down the back of his sofa” he spent a while on the Chelsea trading stock loan merry-go-round before alighting on the other side of the Severn Bridge at Swansea, which was where his reputation really started to grow. A hat-trick against Reading in the 2011 play-off final (titter) saw Swansea promoted. A reasonable first season in the Premier League ensued whereupon he announced that he wouldn’t be signing a new deal.

Moneybags Man City came a-knockin’ but, as is often the case when young talent gets snapped up by one of the big boys a bit too early, he found opportunities severely limited at the Etihad. Injuries didn’t help of course but even so in retrospect he might now be musing at what might have happened had he spent just one more season in Wales. After a loan spell spent mostly in West Brom’s reserves he arrived at Villa Park in January on loan, the deal being made permanent this summer.

Another thing Sherwood had to deal with was the departure of Fabian Delph. Delph signed a new 4 year contract in January of this year. Come the close season it seemed clear that he was on his way. It was said that a medical had been arranged at Man City. However, with half of Sky’s OB team presumably camped outside City’s training ground in a hope of getting a glimpse of the new Citizen, there was no sign of the player to be seen. A statement was released on the Villa website saying that the player was happy and was staying put. Presumably it was at this point that someone had a word in his shell-like that consisted of the phrase “Are you bonkers in the nut or something?” and, a week after his love note to Villa Park he upped sticks and joined City for the £8m release clause contained in his contract.

They also got a further £32m in for Christian Benteke, who probably finds his diving skills more appreciated on Mersyside. So with £40m in for just those two players surely the scene was set to bring in some quality? Er, well, not exactly. The likes of Gueye, Amavi, Ayew (J), Gestede, et al all read less like a “Who’s Who” of football and more like a “Who the hell are you?

So, with better players leaving and their replacements looking as if they were bought from football’s equivalent of those “Happy Shopper” places that I understand some of you working class oiks frequent – specifically the “own brand” sections, it didn’t come as a major surprise that team that struggled for much of last term continued to do so at the start of this one. All those sevens leave them a whopping 10 points clear of the safety zone, behind Newcastle with whom they played out a 1-1 draw on Tyneside this weekend. In the end Sherwood lasted until 24 October before being given the boot by the improbably-and hilariously-named Randy Lerner.

The new boss is Remi Garde. Garde’s previous managerial experience consists of a few years in charge at Lyon, which is a French football club as well as being a chain of Corner Houses famed for afternoon teas. There Garde concentrated on first team matters, delegating the signing of nippies and the ordering of buns to other members of staff (one for the teens there).

Garde left Lyon in 2014 citing “personal and family reasons”, an explanation that always raises eyebrows, especially when it comes from an MP, though for the benefit of the kumb lawyers whose faces are draining of blood by the second, I would point out that in the case of Garde I’m sure nothing improper was going on. Probably.

With Lyon he won the 2012 French Cup and followed that up with the French Version of whatever the FA have currently “rebranded” (ugh) the Charity Shield. Since leaving Lyon he’s been sat at home watching whatever the French version of Jeremy Kyle is (that must be a sight – horrible loathsome people who are also French? Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?!).They still await their first win under the new regime, three draws (0-0 at home to Man City and 1-1 away at both Man City and Newcastle) and three defeats (4-0 at Everton, 3-2 at home to Watford and 2-0 at home to Arsenal) being the order of the day.

One of Garde’s first jobs was dealing with the probably not quite as talented as he thinks Jack Grealish. Grealish’s previous misdemeanours have included the use of nitrous oxide for non-dental purposes and, after the 4-0 thrashing at Everton, he was pictured out on the lash. If Garde was looking for some sort of incident to use to stamp his authority on the squad, Grealish’s behaviour was a gold-plated present wrapped up in Harrods’ finest gift-wrapping paper. Grealish found himself banished from the first team squad to train with the U21s. He’s since been restored to play with the big boys, though the fact that he’s been on the bench since his “return” suggests that forgiveness is a slow process with Garde. The work-experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles reckons that Grealish got ten minutes or so v Arsenal and was unused up at Newcastle last weekend so no doubt he’ll be chomping at the bit if he gets any action against us.

Part of the problem with Grealish may lie indirectly with our very own Joe Cole. After the “laughing gas” furore Cole, at the behest of Sherwood, is said to have taken Grealish under his wing. Maybe it’s just coincidence that Grealish’s recent problems have coincided with Joe’s departure on loan to Coventry. Maybe not. The other issue he has had recently has been the fuss about whether he wants to play for the Republic Of Ireland or England at full international level. He has been capped at U21 for the Irish but he has now apparently plumped for England. He will need clearance from FIFA which, as far as I can ascertain, has yet to be granted. Presumably with Blatter and Platini now out of the picture for the next 8 years nobody is quite sure who to bribe to get the paperwork done.

Their goalscorer up at SJP was Jordan Ayew, brother of Andre who we faced last weekend. He came in from French outfit Lorient for a reported £8m. He’d scored 12 in 31 league matches for Les Merlus (a type of cod apparently) which was a much better return than the 14 in 111 that Marseilles, his previous employers, had gotten out of him. No goals in his first 7 at Villa Park originally suggested a player more Leyton Orient than Lorient but four in his last eight suggests that he is slowly beginning to find his feet a bit more.

And so to the week in football. Chelsea, having found that Allardyce was not available to come in and save them, have appointed Hiddink as manager to the end of the seasom. I wonder if he’s on a bonus if he keeps them up. Mourinho’s availability and the announcement that Pep Guardiola will be free this summer prompted speculation about the future of Van Gaal up at Old Trafford. And having celebrated a 1-1 draw at home to West Brom as if it were a 5-0 away win in the Nou Camp, Liverpool have declared a city-wide day of mourning following their hilarious defeat to Watford. However, the open top bus tour planned for this weekend will still go ahead as long as they get a corner to celebrate against Leicester this weekend.

Us? Well the 0-0 draw against Swansea wasn’t as entertaining as either the Stoke or the Man Utd games but when you have six frontline and mainly attacking players out I guess that’s the time to start talking about “respecting the point” (and not when you have a full squad to choose from). Much has been written about the possession stats from Sunday. Now I’m all for playing it about but 25 passes that start and end with the ‘keeper without actually getting into your opponents half is, I’d suggest, possibly not the way forward. We created the same number of on target chances from about a third of the possession which would worry me if I were Swansea.

Our attacking options may improve by the weekend with the return of both Carroll and Lanzini, though Villa Park may be a day or two too soon for them. I did notice Jelavic getting some stick from a few people on Sunday. I felt a little sorry for him – he did a lot of running around to try and close down the opposition but for that to work if you’re playing one up front you do need your midfielders to press forward and help out. This didn’t happen so having shuttled his way back and forth across the back four it must have been a little frustrating for the player to find the ball played in behind him with his nearest team mate 50 yards away.

The rest of the injury crew are still out for a while. Reid and Moses are looking at mid-January, Payet, Dimitri Payet may be fit for Liverpool whilst Sakho will probably be February or possibly even March. For our opponents the big absentee is likely to be Micah Richards who is “very doubtful” with a knee problem.

Which leads me nicely on to a prediction. Whilst it’s fair to say that, with all the injuries, we haven’t been winning too many, it’s also fair to say that we haven’t lost too many either. There is a lot of psychology attached to this match. Whilst the old twaddle about being bottom at Christmas has not proven to be true over the past two seasons, neither Leicester or Sunderland were more than a win or two away from safety come yuletide. Villa on the other hand are a whopping ten points shy of Newcastle going into Boxing Day. This may, in my humble opinion (humble????? – ed) prove to be the decisive factor in this match.

For all the personnel problems we have had, much better teams than Villa currently are have found us hard to beat, so adding a bit of attacking quality to that mix will hopefully prove to be the difference between the two teams.

At this time of year we at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered usually have to remind cook that whilst leftover turkey is, generally, acceptable to be serving on Boxing Day, it should at least be turkey left over from THIS Christmas. However, despite this, I am going to take a risk and take the £2.50 we had earmarked to top up on Diocalm for the holiday period down to Winstone’s The Turf Accountant and place it on us to win 2-1 .

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At Villa Park: :Lost 1-0 (May 2015) As the season ground to its inevitable end we all just wanted it to be over. Cleverley’s goal on the half hour combined with the usual string of bent decisions from Lee Mason were enough to give them three points and just about guarantee them safety for the season.

Danger Man: Jordan Ayew Although Scott Sinclair is nominally their top scorer, all but two of his six this season have come in the League Cup. Ayew has four in his last eight, all of which have come in the league and his goal up at SJP last week wasn’t bad at all.

Referee: Mike Dean Gees they really hate us at PGMOL don’t they? With Blatter out of football for 8 years this is the person they should go for next.

Irritatiing Celebrity Supporter of The Week: I had a few complaints last week. “Come now” they said, “Catherine Zeta Jones? Hardly ‘irritating’ is she?”. Ok but I think you’ll find that this week’s choice more than makes up for that> Ladies and gentlemen I give you the man whose fake accent makes Dick Van Dyke sound like he was born in the Belfry at St Mary Le Bow, Mr Nigel Kennedy. There is hilarious footage of him being interviewed by the BBC as a schoolboy in the 1960s with an oh-so plummy middle class accent which, by the time he had reached adulthood, had mysteriously changed into marketing tool cockney.

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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