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West Ham United v Southampton

Filed: Sunday, 27th December 2015
By: Preview Percy

The traditional festive fixture list means that we are in the unenviable position of having to having to pay no fewer than three visits in a week to see Preview Percy. we've suffered and now it's your turn...

Southampton at home. Monday. 5.30pm so our visitors can have an extra two and a half hours rest after being on the box on Boxing Day evening. Those of you who come in from Essex by train might want to leave yesterday – major engineering works are afoot between Liverpool Street and Ingatestone with replacement bus services operating to/from Newbury Park to connect with the Central Line. Have a look before you leave.

So Southampton then. After Boxing Day they lie in 12th place with 24 points from their 18 matches played so far. Prior to the Boxing Day match against Arsenal they had achieved what the work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles refers to as the “statistically interesting” (i.e. deadly dull) trick of not actually having a goal difference. Until Boxing Day their current form run stood at LLDLL – and even the D part of that run came against Aston Villa, so the win against Arsenal was as welcome as it was unexpected. The opening goal was a cracker – even though there was a major offside during the build-up. They also had another spot of assistance from the officials as Long’s trip disposed of the prospect of any meaningful challenge for his first.

Taking the Arsenal thrashing out of the equation it’s not been an over-inspiring season for them thus far. Like us they had a pre-season runout in the Thursday Night league. Their sojourn took them to the Netherlands, where they dispatched Vitesse of Arnhem, and to Denmark where they went out 2-1 on aggregate to FC Midtjylland, a club more famous for having produced Winston Reid. At least we got a suntan out of our week on the beach in Malta out of the competition, a week most fondly remembered for the marvellous hospitality afforded to your correspondent by the inhabitants of that most pleasant island.

On the transfer front It was a relatively quiet pre-season down there this time around. This was in stark contrast to the previous season in which Pochettino had displayed a lack of ambition by upping sticks to Tottenham and half the team disappeared. In retrospect, despite all the upheaval, they did quite well last term so the relative calm of this summer must have been a bit of a relief.

There were still a couple of big(ish) name departures though. The £12.5m received for Nathaniel Clyne suggests that, after all these years, the Scousers’ American owners still haven’t got the hang of the difference between dollars and pounds whilst the player’s continued appearance in England squads validates the theory that Hodgson would pick Danny La Rue for the England side if he was on Liverpool’s books despite the fact that he is a) Irish; and b) dead.

Morgan Schneiderlin finally got the move he’d been after for over a year when he left for Moan Utd this summer. Southampton refused to let him go to Spurs last summer despite some obviously illegal talks having taken place around the back of the bike sheds. Spurs were outbid this summer by the Salford whingers who paid a reported £25m for the midfielder.

Through the in-door came Dutch defender Virgil “Dick” Van Dijk for whom something like £13m was paid to Celtic. Van Dijk was quoted as saying that he had learnt more in his first five matches for Southampton than he had learnt in two seasons at Celtic, though surely it must be common knowledge that there are Subbuteo sides still in their boxes who would fancy their chances north of the border.

A further £5m went on midfielder Oriol Romeu who came in from Chelsea. Well, nominally so anyway – as is the way with most players signed from Chelsea these days, he played more games on loan to other teams than he did for Chelsea in his four years on the books there.

The festive headlines were grabbed in part by defender Cuco Martina whose rocket of a goal set them on their way to victory against Arsenal. Martina signed for a fee believed to be slightly in excess of £1m and, although he was born in Rotterdam he qualifies and has played over 20 times for the Curacao national team, a fact that is intriguing because a) who knew they had a national side?; and b) according to the work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles he is actually the third player from that country to play in the Premier League. He did tell me who the other two were but I forgot and I figured that you’d be as bored if I told you as I was when he told me anyway. Martina, whose name, like that of his country, sounds like an exotic liqueur, arrived from Twente having worked with Southampton assistant boss Erwin Koeman at RKC Waalwijk a few years back. “I’m pleased to be joining a big club like Southampton” Martin is quoted as saying when he signed. Bless.

The Dutch connection is maintained with the current first-choice ‘keeper Maarten Stekelenberg, who is currently on loan from Fulham. Stekelenberg has over 50 Dutch caps and was twixt the sticks in the 2010 World Cup Final when the Dutch lost out to Spain. It has been three years or so since his last international appearance, something that suggests that he won’t be holding his breath to add to that tally.

Top scorer Graziano Pelle is likely to be missing through injury for this one which leaves Shane Long their top scorer amongst those likely to appear. Long was on target twice in the Arsenal match though, as mentioned, his first owed everything to a snidey little trip as he bore down on goal. It was a trademark foul from a player who was once described as being able to start an argument in an empty room. His first transfer to these shores was shrouded in controversy as it was suggested that confidential information relating to the contracts that he and his fellow Cork City team-mate had been leaked to that bastion of honesty and probity Reading FC, who sported former Hammer Eamon Dolan on the management team at the time. Whatever the facts of the case – and where Madejski is involved there is usually a whiff of Billingsgate about matters – let’s just say that it didn’t harm matters that Dolan’s brother Pat was in charge at Cork City at the time.

And so to the week in football. There’s been terrible weather in the North West of the country caused by a succession of storms tracking across the region, a situation not helped by a mass outbreak of incontinence as millions wet themselves laughing at the antics of Man Utd. Meanwhile, at Liverpool a full civic reception is planned for their historic 1-0 victory over Leicester, something that will be marked with the erection of a statue to Klopp over the next few weeks.

Us? Well yet again one finds oneself looking at the antics of Mike Dean who can’t wait to give penalties against us when the ball is driven at someone from two feet away and it brushes past their elbow from behind but when someone deliberately plays the ball with their hand against us for some reason Dean throws the law book out of the window. The man clearly believes himself to be above the laws of the game – and the one tiny chance of anything ever happening disappeared when a few of the assessors showed themselves capable of independent thought and marked him down. This saw the scrapping of the (so-called) independent assessing of referees in favour of covering everything up.

Dean’s decision to ignore Gestede’s continued shirt-pulling of Ogbonna and penalise the defender for the inevitable collision once the striker had stopped dead in front of Ogbonna effectively changed the whole tone of the game – which as usual is Dean’s sole aim in life and we ended up hanging on in a match that was going in a different direction.

The Villa match is one we’d probably have lost 12 months ago with a similar number of injuries and we shouldn’t ignore the fact that despite not winning since October we have still only lost four in the league this season. And those injuries are beginning to recover. Lanzini and Carroll appear to be pencilled in for a return for this match whilst Payet is also said to be in with a chance against the Scouse divers.

We do have a couple of fresh knocks to worry about. Tomkins looks like the poor sod who ended up with my ex-missus the night after he arrived home from the pub 15 minutes later than promised. There is also a question mark over goalscorer Aaron Cresswell who felt a muscle tighten up. Tomkins’ presence will be decided on the day of the game when we know whether or not he can actually see out of that eye.

Prediction? Well this one may be a bit of a battle – part of the reason for Southampton’s success on Boxing Day was that they weren’t above kicking lumps out of Arsenal who, as we know “don’t like it up ‘em.

However, they are possibly as inconsistent as we are and if we’d just beaten Arsenal we’d all be looking at a defeat the following weekend and an explanation containing the words “typical” and “West Ham”. Much will depend on a strong referee keeping an eye on Long who is a dirty sod who thrives on winding up opponents.

As it’s not totally clear as I write this what sort of side we will be fielding I shall err on the side of caution and go for yet another draw. I had earmarked a small sum for a slap up celebration at the Holiday Homes For Pets Pie Shop to celebrate my knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List for services to match previews. However, I’ve heard nothing yet so, on the assumption that I’ll have to wait until HM’s birthday list for the gong to arrive, I’ll be putting the whole £2.50 on the evening to finish 1-1.

Enjoy the game! Oh and may you have a mediocre new year, which in the case of Mike Dean would be a vast improvement.

When Last We Met At The Boleyn: Lost 1-3 (August 2015) Noble put us 1-0 up wth a deflected effort. Poor as we were the visitors still required a couple of assists from the perennially bent Mike Dean to win the game. Schneiderlin (2) and Pelle were on target for the visitors.

Danger Man: Shane Long – Con artist and wind up merchant who needs to be handled carefully.

Referee: Robert Madley Has only taken charge of us on two previous occasions: a 2-0 League Cup win up at Burnley a couple of years back and, more famously, the 2-1 win earlier this season at Man City. Let’s hope he makes it a hat-trick of wins for us before he gets corrupted by PGMOL.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter Of The Week: It was a toss-up this week between Coldplay’s Will Champion and Craig David. In the end I plumped for Craig David on the grounds that that he actually wrote that god-awful “7 Days” record himself, a song that is so bloody annoying it makes even a normally calm and placid person such as myself want to punch a nun. Champion, on the other hand, for all Coldplay’s whiny pompous output, is only the drummer is therefore probably too dim to be of interest.

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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