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Liverpool v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 29th January 2016
By: Preview Percy

We're not saying Preview Percy is old but when Man City scored their "over the line" second the other night he started muttering stuff about Newcastle's equaliser against Arsenal in the 1932 FA Cup Final. Of course it was all fields around here back then. Here's the grumpy one's look at this weekend's trip to Anfield....

Next up we return to Anfield for an FA Cup 4th round tie against Liverpool. Kick-off for the second week running is 5:30pm for the benefit of tv. Which is fine for getting up there by train. Not so fine for getting home by train with the last service leaving pretty soonish after the final whistle. Or, given the traditional friendly refereeing they usually get up there, ten minutes before if they happen to be needing a goal.

If you happen to be travelling up by train the lines are pretty clear, though if your journey into town involves the eastern bit of the Central Line you may want to allow a bit extra with replacement buses being the order of the day from just about anywhere beyond Leytonstone. Look before you leap.

Liverpool. Well aren’t they the comedy present that just keeps on giving at the moment?! Much of the humour stems from the antics of new boss “Klippety” Klopp, with whom we ourselves were linked during what we laughingly refer to as “summer”. Like his predecessor he does seem to like a gimmick. Look at the celebration thing that brought them so much ridicule.

Now sending your players over to acknowledge the support is not a new thing, granted. Doing a choreographed curtain-call style thing is, however, a bit naff at the best of times. Doing so when you have just rescued a home point against the mighty West Brom with a deflected injury-time equaliser? I reckon if our players had done that they’d have deserved all the scorn they would probably have got from the Bobby Moore Lower. Here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered, the catering staff have a similar celebration planned for those occasions when they produce something edible. I have no idea what it looks like - I’ve only been here 25 years.

There are other things that make me wonder if we haven’t dodged something of a bullet in our choice of manager. Take last weekend. Their 5-4 win over Norwich at Carrow Road was bizarre to say the least and an on the ball referee and lino might well have given Norwich another penalty in addition to the one they finally got when Moreno, presumably lulled into a false sense of security by the ref’s failure to spot a penalty when it was right in front of him, decided to see how many times he could foul Naismith in the box before the ref noticed. He found out that the answer was “3 times”. There was also a question mark over one of the Liverpool goals during which Milner appeared to came back from an offside position as part of the build-up.

Now had we been winners under those circumstances, you can bet the one thing of note from Mr Bilic’s post-match press conferences would have been honesty. He’d have commented on a spot of good luck and bemoaned the defending that let in 4 goals. Klopp’s reaction was somewhat different: “we defended better today” was his comment. One might almost have thought he’d lost his glasses in the first minute of the match rather than in the last minute of stoppage, though admittedly he did have the nous to preface his comments on letting in four to relegation-threatened Norwich with the phrase “It may sound crazy when I say this but….”. You said it Jurgen.

To say that they ride their luck is a bit like saying George Best might, possibly, have been fond of a dram. They managed to edge past Stoke the other night despite only really looking like scoring in the penalty shootout. As usual every mention of the Stoke goal was asterisked with a mention of the fact that it was a foot or so offside, something commentators always seem strangely reluctant to mention when the boot is on the other foot with Liverpool. Which is odd given that the refereeing at Anfield over the years has traditionally been less than impartial over the years.

In addition to their defensive woes – set pieces seem to induce panic of “Dad’s Army” proportions – there seems to be an over-reliance on Daniel Sturridge to do the business up the other end of the ground in sufficient quantities to bale out the somewhat porous defence. Fine player and all that but if he’s not actually on the pitch there’s not a lot he can do. When I last put quill to parchment on the subject of this weekend’s opponents it looked like Sturridge was going to be fit to face us at the Boleyn in what was likely to be his comeback game. I even cited him as “Danger Man” given his history of returning from injury against us and score. As it happened, he failed to make the bench that weekend and the latest report from last Friday said he would be out for “at least” another 10 days. With Benteke looking worth every penny of that 30+m fee only if you are dealing in Zimbabwean dollars, they need a striker and they need one fast.

The work-experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles tells me that they have been sniffing about Shaktar Donetsk’s Texeira who, totally by coincidence, has announced that he wants away. Funny that. There seems to be an issue over the fee. Shaktar regard the Brazilian as just about their most bankable asset and so have set a fee to match. Liverpool, on the other hand, are beginning to get a bit fed up with their reputation as a gullible cash machine and have baulked over the reported £35m asking price that Shaktar are rumoured to be seeking. Incidentally, a story I have heard from more than one reliable ITK source on Tyneside suggests that when they bought Carroll from Newcastle, Ashley would have settled for something like the £17m we paid for him when he decided to improve his lot. The story goes that Ashley, having seen £17m dangled in front of him, decided to keep rejecting bids in an attempt to see how far Liverpool would go. £35m being the final fee.

With the club having shelled out over £30m for Benteke, Klopp has warned that they would no longer be paying “Disneyland” transfer fees. I’m sure you are all intelligent enough to construct your own punchline involving the words “Mickey” and “Mouse” at this point. With £35m apparently being too strong for their liking, it is said that they have turned their attention to Celta Vigo forward Nolito who apparently is available for something like £13m, this being the buy-out clause in his contract.

Of course with this being the transfer window silly season there have been all sorts of stories flying about. Schalke’s chairman went into print to describe stories linking defender Joel Matip with a move to Merseyside as “a hoax”. Elsewhere, excitement was stirred up by Luis Suarez’s comments that he’d love to go back there some day because the fans were so good to him, what with them ignoring all the diving, biting and racism and all.

Perhaps more intriguingly there has been talk linking them with a move for Chelsea’s Gary Cahill. How much of this is kite flying by the press I have no idea but Cahill has fallen down the pecking order at the Money Launderers and with an England place to protect might welcome first team football. However, with Arsenal and, allegedly, Barcelona both also interested, it would have to be one hellofa sign-on fee to get him to Merseyside. Or a lot of rohypnol.

One player who is coming back from injury and who may feature for them this weekend is the thug Flanagan. His start in the League Cup semi-final was his first for something like 20 months. Despite my reputation for natural grumpiness (reputation????? Ed) I would reiterate my previously stated position that, no matter the provocation I would never wish injury on a player. However, I will admit that when the football gods visited a serious knee injury on Flanagan, I shed no tears. The two knee ops he’s endured are simply just desserts following his shocker of a challenge on Downing a couple of years back. The challenge left Downing requiring 23 stitches in an horrific gash to the back of his leg after a tackle, no make that an assault, which, although marked by a free kick, wasn’t deemed severe enough to merit even a yellow - and that in a match that saw Nolan (rightly) dismissed for a challenge borne of frustration after they went through his back time and time again. That friendly Anfield refereeing again.

The football gods do seem to have a habit of wreaking vengeance on those that displease them – James McCarthy of the other scouse lot picked up an injury a week or two after the tackle, no make that assault, that put Payet out for so long. However, I don’t think it fair that we should leave these things to chance. I mean, up in football heaven or wherever it is these deities hang out, they probably have better things to do than aiming thunderbolts at hamstrings every few moments. Wouldn’t it be good if tackles which set out to deliberately injure a player were punished with a suspension at least equal in length to the number of games missed by the injured party. Of course, thinking it through, you’d probably end up with some of our more corrupt clubs fielding some journeyman they can do without for six weeks simply in order to kick Payet off the pitch.

They are sweating over a few injuries – Loveren may be fit again but Origi, Skrtel, and Coutinho are all said to be a week away. Sturridge is still showing as “no return date”. Ings and Gomez are long termers who are both looking at 2016/17 for a comeback.

Us? Damned fine game that last one. We were pretty unlucky not to take all three points from it – Joe Hart and the last second’s intervention of the crossbar prevented the match getting the result it deserved. There were so many outstanding performances on the pitch that, anywhere else, it might have been difficult to allocate a MOTM. Except it wasn’t really was it? From the superlatives and hyperbole surrounding Payet at the moment you’d think that the player was some sort of superstar footballing deity blessed with powers the remaining 21 accompanying him on the pitch each week can only dream of. There is a good reason for this: it happens to be true.

Team news is that we will be without Jenkinson, possibly forever. The knock he picked up in giving away the penalty as Aguero made a beeline for his outstretched leg looked painful at the time and it now appears that the damage was “significant”, with ligament damage being quoted as the culprit. Shame on you then if you subscribed to the ludicrous “he’s going off because he doesn’t fancy it” theory.

Just for once it appeared that a spot of luck had gone our way in the form of the arrival of Byram six months ahead of schedule. I was impressed with the youngster’s debut – coming as it did after limited time to train with his new teammates. He didn’t look out of place. The only fly in the ointment is that the lad is cup-tied. Hopefully Tomkins will have recovered from that which ails him to step in at RB – reports say that he has resumed training. Otherwise is Joey O’Brien still in the house?

Carroll, Sakho and Lanzini are inching closer to a return. Carroll returns to proper training next week and may be on the bench for Villa. Lanzini and Sakho maybe a couple of weeks later. The only other doubt is over the skipper. Noble had a fine game against Man City but has been listed as suffering with some unspecified illness. I only hope it’s not the same sort of cold that is going about here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered – trust me it’s a sod (and I’d like to apologise in advance to those I’ll be sharing transport with on Saturday for my sneezing).

Noble is listed as probably being available so I’d therefore expect the side to not look to dissimilar to that which started against the Citizens, with Tomkins replacing Jenkinson and perhaps the swapping of Randolph, who kept a clean sheet in the corresponding league fixture, for Adrian as has been the manager’s policy in the Cup so far.

Prediction? This will probably upset scousers (there again that’s not particularly hard to do is it – just look at the comments section from past previews) but we have a much better team than they do at the moment. Think about it. Look through our starting XI last weekend and look at where you would take a player from their team to replace one of ours. And then remember that we were without two frontline strikers! Even at right back, where though it’s a bit early to judge Byram perhaps, he at least did enough to suggest that he could be a fine signing. Coutinho? Perhaps. After that I’m struggling.

However, average as Liverpool are at the moment, crap teams seem to raise their game a bit against their betters so it may be a bit closer, on the face of it, than one might have expected.

Although the Anfield Referee Syndrome last time up didn’t end up affecting the game – though it did cost us a fine - this just means we’re overdue a dubious offside or dodgy penalty against us. The more I think about this the more I see a replay under the lights on the horizon. No bad thing – as we saw last weekend there’s nothing quite like night football at the Boleyn to stir the blood. There will be precious few nights left at the old place so, slightly more than usual, I hope that I’m right when I take the £2.50 I had earmarked to send to Google to help them with that oh-so-inconvenient unexpected tax bill down to Winstones The Turf Accountants and place it on a 2-2 draw.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At Anfield: Won 3-0 (August 2015) Described as “a masterclass of counterattacking football” by their in-house website (aka bbc.co.uk) the win was our first up there in 52 years. At 2-0 we had a scare when Kevin Friend decided that a perfectly fine tackle from Noble was worthy of a straight red. This poor decision was possibly swayed by Ings’ playacting, which the footballing gods subsequently rewarded with a genuine season-ending injury a few days later. Noble’s red card was rightly rescinded, though we picked up a fine for having the temerity to complain about it.

Referee: Martin Atkinson I made a joke the other week about us getting him every other week. The joke is beginning to come true. This is his fifth time in charge of one of our matches this season. We had him in similar numbers last term as well – in fact we had him for the last match of last season and the first of this one. I’m beginning to think he may be augmenting his ref’s salary by moonlighting as our kit man or something. We last saw him take charge of the 3-1 win at Bournemouth a couple of weeks ago. Celebrated his appointment to the ranks for Euro 2016 by missing the ball going out of play for Man City’s crucial second the other night.

Danger Man Roberto Firmino: Coming into a bit of form at the moment. Also honourable mention for Benteke, who has been so poor it would just be our luck to see him play out of his skin against us.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter of the Week.: I was going to plump for the scouse couple who turned up on one of those documentaries about the so-called “black economy”. He had a conviction for flogging knock-off football kits made in China on his market stall. In time-honoured stereotypical style his wife was whining that it wasn’t fair that he had been given a criminal record as a result, though quite why she thought this to be the case with him having pleaded guilty was never quite explained. However, I’m told that one appearance on the box does not a celebrity make. So this weeks ICSOTW is Gary Barlow, tax-dodging purveyor of crap to the gullible. So not too dissimilar to the couple on the documentary then.

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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