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West Ham United v Liverpool

Filed: Friday, 1st January 2016
By: Preview Percy

You thought Preview Percy was grumpy? You should try visiting him when he has his New Year's Day hangover....

Next up is Liverpool at home. Kick-off is 12:45pm which makes it hardly worth the effort of going to bed then. I mean no football match should ever kick off while you can still taste the toothpaste. It makes your ale taste funny apart from anything else.

Transport-wise the trains and tubes in the immediate vicinity look ok for once, though there are things happening elsewhere in the capital with trains that normally serve London Bridge being particularly, what’s the word I seek, er, knackered. Check first.

Well since we went up to their place, stuck our fists into their chest, pulled out their heart and fed them the still-beating organ for dinner they’ve had a change of management. Brendan Rogers, whose management style seemed to have come out of a book called “how proper football managers do the job”, was “let go” when the club’s American owners realised that he had only skimmed the gimmicky bits of the book, missing out several chapters, including the one containing “the point”.

Eventually they appointed flavour of the month German coach Jurgen Klopp. Klopp has a university degree gained from a thesis on walking – presumably he found media studies too difficult. He left Borussia Dortmund during the summer to “take a sabbatical”. At some stage during the proceedings our owners are said to have had a quiet word with him to see if he might be interested in doing a proper job. However, in his own words “the time was wrong” and he subsequently proved a lack of ambition by taking over at Anfield.

There are some suggestions from Otto, my correspondent in the Kaiser Wilhelm Stalag Fur Die Werwirrten that, in some respects, Klopp may have some similarities to Rodgers. Take the infamous celebration in front of the Kop a few weeks ago. Now as gimmicks go I can sort of see the point Klopp was trying to make – trying to make a better connection with the supporters is not the worst of aims I suppose. However, doing so in celebration of a streaky 2-2 draw at home to West Brom which arrived courtesy of a deflected goal in the 95th minute was almost pure Rodgers in its timing.

Since Klippety’s arrival they have improved to 7th place, a point and a place above us. They attained these heavy heights as a consequence of their 1-0 victory over Sunderland the other day at the Stadium Of Light, which, on past form should see them asking for a public holiday to be declared on Merseyside to allow people to celebrate. That win had its moments, notably when Lens’s tackle on their Sakho prompted angry scenes from their ever classy staff. Klopp later complained about the challenge, which led to the equally classy Allardyce describing him as a “soft German”. Dignity a bit in short supply all round up there then the other night.

Like us they will be missing a number of players. Joe Allen is the latest to pick up a bug that has been going through the camp – Jordan Ibe was a previous host – and was actually sent home from Sunderland in midweek, projectile vomiting not being generally recognised as the ideal way to prepare for a Premier League match. Jordan Henderson had a recurrence of the heel injury that has affected his season. Origi, whose deflected equaliser against West Brom prompted calls on Merseyside for Klopp to be given an honorary knighthood, has a hamstring problem, as has the accident-prone Skrtel.

Sturridge, on the other hand, is likely to have recovered from his own hamstring problem which is a worry as he is another of those who likes scoring against us. Sturridge has been in and out all season. He came back from a hip injury in September, lasted three matches then his knee gave out. He came back late in November, lasted three matches (two as sub, substituted in the other) then his hamstring went. Anyone would think that he was on his own fitness schedule based on doing laps of Chadwell Heath.

Sturridge’s last appearance was as a sub in the 2-0 defeat at Newcastle, his previous match coming four days earlier in the 6-1 defeat of Southampton at St Mary’s in the League Cup. The same club lost 3-0 to (an admittedly in form) Watford and beat (an admittedly off colour) Man City 4-1 on their own patch. This suggests a certain lack of consistency on the road.

Some of the inconsistency has been placed at the hands of ‘keeper Mignolet. Now it’s often the case that a couple of high-profile mistakes on a ‘keeper’s CV can present a misleading impression of his overall reliability. However, the work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles informs me that it is a proven statistic that no custodian in the Premier League has more errors leading to goals against his name. Certainly Klippety has found himself having to speak out in defence of his no.1 on more than one occasion since he arrived amidst rumours that he will be looking around the January sales for a new shot-stopper.

In amongst Mignolet’s various fumbles and missed crosses, probably his strangest error of the season came in the Thursday Night League match against Bordeaux. Now we all know that referees ignore many of the laws of the game – they seem to issue a yellow card for about one dive in a hundred for example. As for goalkeepers holding on to the ball – well the instructions are that anyone holding onto the ball for more than six seconds should be punished with an indirect free-kick. Most of the time refs don’t bother but Mignolet had the ball in his hands for so long that the referee had time to drive home and look up the relevant guidance. 22 seconds was the final count and Bordeaux scored from the subsequent indirect free-kick.

Wednesday night’s away win on Wearside came courtesy of a winner from Christian Benteke. In many ways he’s a typical Liverpool player insofar as he’s the latest of a long long tradition of divers. Watching his last effort a few weeks ago in the company of a Liverpool supporter I was struck by the way they go out of their way to justify such antics. “Of course he threw himself up in the air as if shot – if you look closely at the replay you’ll see that there’s the minutest of touches if you blow the picture up a thousand times”. I rather prefer our approach of actually being embarrassed if our players stoop that low – I recall James Tomkins apologising to supporters a few years ago after a face-clutching exercise.

Benteke is their top scorer this season with six of his seven goals thus far coming in the league (the other coming in the Thursday Night League).

Next down the scorers chart is Phillipe Coutinho whose five goals have all come in the league this season. In the current climate the £8.5m paid to Inter looks to have been a bargain – when they eventually cash in on the player they’ll make a tidy profit on that fee. He certainly has an eye for the spectacular goal. Although first capped by his native Brazil five years ago, he had to wait four years for his second cap – something that meant he needed a work permit hearing when moving from Milan. His performances for the scousers saw him selected for the Copa America squad and he’s been more of a regular this season.

Elsewhere in football I see that Sky are to do a Monday Night Football analysis of the 1966 World Cup Final featuring Jamie Carragher. Yup the world’s least able pundit, whose biggest service to England was quitting international football, is going to tell us exactly how he thinks that the game was won, presumably telling us where the Germans went wrong in the process. You couldn’t make it up.

Us? Monday evening was bizarre wasn’t it? If you’d told me at half time that you reckoned we would win that one I’d have given you a brochure for one of the spare rooms that usually become available here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered about this time of year (or at least will do if the weather ever starts to get a bit colder). The first half was as bad as anything I’ve seen us dish up this season. The second half had us scratching our heads and wondering what on earth they put in the half-time cuppas.

The win brought to an end an unwelcome run without a victory and came just before the possible return of Dimitri Payet whose absence has been telling.

We are also close to seeing returns for Reid and Moses, though the cup match against Wolves may be more realistic for them. Perhaps more importantly it’s looking as if Cresswell might be fit. I certainly hope so. The experiment of playing Jenkinson on the wrong wing in the first half against Southampton certainly didn’t work.

The other doubt is Jelavic, though with both Valencia and Carroll both available for selection, even if his knee injury has healed in time the bench will probably be the limit of his ambitions come kick-off time.

Prediction? Lots of variables this weekend. Which Liverpool will turn up? Will they be displaying their traditional frailty against the set-piece? Will we be able to take corners if they do? Will the two days extra rest over a side that faces consecutive matches at opposite ends of the country make a difference? Will first half West Ham turn up or second half? Will Payet start? Will the supply of turkey here at the rest home never end?

In the end I think that both sides will cancel each other out in the end and, sweet as a double over the BBC’s pet club would be I fear we may have to settle for a share of the spoils so the £2.50 earmarked for a meal at the Rest Home that doesn’t contain flipping turkey will be placed on an entertaining 2-2 draw.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn: Won 3-1 (September 2014) Goals from Reid and Sakho gave us a 2-0 lead within seven minutes. Sterling’s tap in of a rebound against the run of play gave the visitors hope but Amalfitano’s late effort clinched a deserved three points.

Danger Man: Daniel Sturridge – Really it ought to have been Coutinho but Sturridge always seems to make his comebacks from injury against us, scoring in the process.

Referee: Robert Madley The list the work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles gave me had him down for the Southampton match. Apparently you can’t clip them around the ear anymore. Still it means I can recycle what I wrote about him the other day. 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: For the away match I plumped for Chris DeBurgh. For the return it has to be “actor” (it says here) Adam Woodyatt who plays Ian Beale in Eastenders. Mainly because that bloody programme seems to have been on every flipping day over the Christmas period and Matron insisted on watching every lousy, poorly scripted, badly acted depressing second of it. I have seen hell. His Wikipedia entry says he is a keen Liverpool supporter and has a keen appreciation for sport. Well which is it? One or the other guys….

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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