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West Ham United v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Filed: Friday, 8th January 2016
By: Preview Percy

We received some disturbing reports after the Liverpool match that suggested Preview Percy may have actually been seen with a smile on his face. However, we've had a chat with Matron at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered and she confirmed that it was just his new dentures not fitting properly. So it's business as usual then. Sadly.....

Traditionalists rejoice! It’s time for the third round of the Cup which is sponsored by somebody or other but, in keeping with my usual rule, it will be referred to only as "the Cup" unless whoever the sponsors are want to cross my palm wih one hellova lot of silver.

There’s a good old-fashioned ring to the fixture which sees us face Wolverhampton Wanderers and kick-off is at the holy hour of 3pm on Saturday.

We’ve had a reasonable run of engineering work-free weekends and I guess the good people of TfL took a bit of a punt on us being drawn away this weekend when planning stuff. They were wrong which is why there’ll be no District Line or C2C services twixt Barking & Upminster on Saturday, which is fine for those of you who like staring at the bum cleavage of fat blokes but less so for those who merely want to travel. C2C services will be diverted via Grays adding a chunk of time to your travel. Check before you leave….

Wolves. It’s been a while. Partly because when we’ve been in the top flight they have been in the second tier and vice versa. They are currently having a middling season, sitting in 11th place with 35 points from the 25 matches they’ve played so far, the average-ness of the season being reinforced by their having a zero goal difference, which is, regular readers will be aware, the sort of meaningless statistic that pleases the Work Experience Kid with the Harry Potter spectacles no end. To put the points haul into perspective, that leaves them 7 points shy of Ipswich, who sit in the final play-off spot, and 13points clear of Bristol City, who are in the third of the relegation places. So safe enough then but a spot of work required if they are to bother the post-season fixture arrangers.

In recent weeks they’ve been heading in the right direction, having won 1-0 down at Brighton, who, having been the last unbeaten team in the four divisions, seem to be going hell for leather to make up for that fact by losing as many as possible as soon as possible. Before that they defeated our old tenants Charlton 2-0 at The Valley (Charlton’s 13th defeat of the season) and prevailed 1-0 at Molineux over Reading Inflatables on Boxing Day. Their last defeat came on 20 December when, after they had taken the lead at Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday ran in four without reply.

That reverse left them in 17th spot so the reversal of form, albeit against relegation candidates, the out of form and a side getting to grips with a new boss, has reaped a decent reward.

They are managed by Kenny Jackett. A Welsh international, his playing career came to a relatively premature end whereupon he did all of his coaching badges. Prior to doing charity work for 6 years at Millwall, Jackett was at the helm at Swansea, playing a part in their rise from whatever the fourth division is called now to the top flight. Whilst at Millwall he led them to Wembley twice, once in a successful League 1 playoff final against Swindon and once in an FA cup Semi Final against Wigan, a match that nobody would have been too upset had both teams lost. At the culmination of that season Jackett resigned as boss despite somehow keeping Millwall up. Or maybe he resigned from shame because he kept them up.

Jackett took over at Molineux in May 2013 and his 2013/14 season couldn’t have gone better. Having been relegated under the stewardship of Dean Saunders the previous season they went back up to the Championship as League 1 Champions at the first attempt, amassing a total of 103 points in the process. That dribbling noise you can here is the sound of Villa fans drooling at the thought of 103 points.

Last term they missed out on a play-off spot on goal-difference to Ipswich, a 1-1 draw between the sides left Wolves requiring snookers which they didn’t get. The 78 points they amassed is the most ever gained by a side without making the playoffs, something that must be nearly as annoying as getting relegated with 42 points.

Current flavour of the month is Leyton-born Benik Afobe. Afobe is the club’s current top scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, something that has allegedly attracted the attentions of other clubs. Although Derby, Palace and Bournemouth are all said to be sniffing around the 22 year-old England U17 cap, Jackett maintains that there has been no bids from anywhere to date. That sort of announcement is usually followed a week or two later by the player’s departure (it’s sort of the player version of a manager’s “vote of confidence) so it’s probably a case of “watch this space”. If the player misses this match with a mysterious “strain” that will have the added bonus of preventing him from becoming cup-tied the writing may well be on the wall.

Here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered we like players with unusual tales to tell, such as their skipper Danny Batth. Batth is an unusual chap on a number of levels. The unusual surname originates from his Anglo-Punjabi background – making him very much a rarity in an otherwise cosmopolitan sport. He’s been with the club since the age of 10, though he has had loan spells with Colchester and at Sheffield (both Wednesday and the perjuring hypocrite lot). In his second spell at Hillsborough in 2011-12 he did so well that he actually finished runner-up in their Player Of The Year award. Once Jackett arrived he was installed at the centre of the Wolves defence and was an ever-present in the side that romped to promotion. He recently spent a Saturday off (Wolves having played Forest on the Friday night) outside the Wolves Club Shop flogging copies of the Big Issue to highlight the plight of the homeless. That’s not an original idea of course – every time I go to White Hart Lane there seem to be as many people selling the Big Issue as there are programme sellers (though I can’t honestly say I recognise them as Spurs players).

They might be said to lack a bit of depth in the central defensive area at the moment. Batths been partnered in recent weeks by academy product Ethan Ebanks-Landell. There’s something odd about the surname Ebanks which requires the owner to add a hyphen and something else if they ever play for Wolves, as evidenced by the former presence of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake in their ranks. I did toy with the idea of changing my name for this preview to Preview Ebanks-Percy but Matron clipped me round the ear and told me not to be silly. Formidable woman matron.

Before Christmas they did have Newcastle’s Mike Williamson in on loan for a few games but the Geordies recalled him as injury cover where, in as good a proof of Murphy’s law as anyone could possibly want, he promptly went and pulled his hamstring. Wolves are keen on doing a permanent deal for the player, who nut-job former boss John Carver once accused of getting himself sent off deliberately. However it appears they face competition from Sheffield Wednesday.

Another recalled loan player they’ll be missing is 18 year-old winger Sheyi Ojo who was told to return to parent club Liverpool after they lost another couple of players through injury in their slightly streaky League Cup win at Stoke the other night. Frankly, if I were Ojo I’d have told Liverpool where to go. Either that or take anti-hamstring pills or something.

Another familiar name in the squad is that of on-loan striker Adam Le Fondre. As far as we can work out his last visit to the Boleyn was with Reading in the infamous “Inflatables” match where he was on target in a 4-2 defeat in the last match of a season thath had already seen them relegated. Although technically he is a Cardiff City player, he hasn’t been seen in Wales since January 2015 when he signed a loan deal with Bolton until the end of 2014-15. He signed a season-long deal with Wolves last summer which suggests that “Glenville” (his real first name) isn’t planning on spending too much time learning Welsh in the foreseeable.

Us? Last week you can file under “so sweet it’s a danger to diabetics”. A comprehensive defeat of a club whose arrogant supporters are now whining so much it sounds like a whole fleet of underpowered mopeds are coming around the corner. How amusing was it when they tried to get a chant going that petered out after a few seconds.

Their hopes of getting anything out of the game disappeared the second Noble pocketed up a stray plastic bag that had been blowing about the pitch. Up to that point the bag had been the visitors’ strongest player.

From our point of view there were strong performances all over the pitch, bolstered by the return of Payet, whose drag-backs instantly made the visitors look even bigger mugs than they were. Of course the injury jinx never really goes away and Lanzini’s absence, just as we were going to see him in tandem with Payet is as irritating as finding a box set of Piers Morgan playing on your blu-ray player when you can’t find the bloody remote control to turn the thing off.

Injury news is good – we’re now down to four on the list. One of those, Winston Reid, is now back training and should be available if required this weekend. This just leaves Sakho (February), Moses (Possibly ready for Newcastle away) and the aforementioned Lanzini (Possibly Man City at home) out for anything like long-term. So team selection rather depends on how much Mr Bilic wants to shuffle the pack and how much he wants those returning from sick bay to get game time under their belts.

Personally, I’d give both Reid and Payet starts if fit to build up match fitness. However, Mr Bilic has got little wrong since he arrived here and if he approaches this match with the idea of giving matches to some of the younger elements of the squad that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure Reid and Payet have tailored match fitness programmes to complete and if that doesn’t include this weekend so be it.

Prediction? Always difficult in the early stages of a Cup as much depends on the strength of the starting XI. However, we saw in the League Cup that Mr Bilic is not minded to stick too many of the youth team out and I think it’ll be a relatively experienced team out there – if not quite packed with first choices.

That being the case I think we should be too strong for the visitors so the £2.50 I might otherwise have spent on a Big Issue will be taken down to Winstones The Turf Accountants and placed on a 3-1 home win as we creep un-noticed on our way to Wembley.

Enjoy The Game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn: Won 2-0 (Premier League January 2011) A Zuba og (caused by a Carlton Cole Comedy Cock-up) and a decent effort from Freddie Sears gave us all three points on a match played on New Year’s Day 2011. That’s 5 years ago! Scary isn’t it.

Referee: Anthony Taylor Complete clown of a ref who displays all the intelligence of a traffic bollard. Refereed the first leg of the League Cup Semi Final the other night and made a great show of booking Mignolet for time wasting. Then failed to add on any time for the offence. Refereed our match against Leicester in which he decided that neither a deliberate two footed attempt to injure a player by Vardy, nor a clotheslibe challenge by Schmeichel on Sakho were worthy of red cards, whilst a painful but accidental clash involving Adrian on Vardy (who, by that time shouldn’t have been on the pitch) was. Looks like they want this one evened up then.

Danger Man: Benik Afobe – If he is in the shop window he’ll be keen to make an impression to any watching scouts.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter Of The Week: : Although a noted Wolves fan, anyone who said Robert Plant can go and do one right now. Apart from fronting one of the greatest bands ever, his nickname is Percy so I’m not having that. No, purely for his role in bringing the god-awful “Come On Eileen” that everybody (except me) tries – and fails - to both sing and dance to at wedding receptions, I give you Kevin (and not Keith) Rowland out of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. To-rye-aye my ar*e.

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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