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West Ham United v Aston Villa

Filed: Monday, 1st February 2016
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy is smothered in a cold. He doesn't like to mention it much. Here's his look at the forthcoming visit of Aston Villa, whose supporters have good reason to be even grumpier than he is. And regular readers will know just how grumpy that is....

Next up they have dragged me out of my sick bed to write about the visit of Aston Villa. Tuesday Night 7:45pm so no engineering works planned. Just the usual rush-hour stuff to contend with then.

So Villa then. Despite a slight improvement in results since the arrival of new boss Remi Garde, they are still deep in bother. When we last saw them on Boxing Day they were bottom and were ten points from safety. Whereas now they are out of the cup. And bottom. And ten points from safety. For what it’s worth they have 13 points from 23 games with Norwich being the club on 23 points who they need to overhaul. The recently installed new chairman Steve Hollis summed it thusly: ”it’s a crisis”. Not much gets past him does it?

I’m sure those involved in the management of the club would deny this if asked but there seems to be an air of “let’s write this off once and for all and make sure we’re in good nick to come straight back” about the place. Hollis’s own comments would certainly seem to be pointing in that direction: “We don’t fear relegation” was his opening gambit, with a coda to the effect that, by the way, spending large amounts of money on new players was not on the cards. All of which may be true but convention rather dictates that your club’s management puts a more defiant spin on things. You know the sort of thing “we won’t give up until it’s mathematically confirmed” That sort of stuff.

Funnily enough they’re unbeaten in 3 in the league, a 1-0 home win over a faltering Palace was followed up with a draw (1-1) at home to Leicester, and a 0-0 draw at West Brom, the DVD of which is currently being used as an alternative to traditional general anaesthetics in major operations by a cash-strapped NHS.

“Villa aren’t that bad” claimed Tony Pulis, apparently with a straight face, though being Pulis, whose acquaintanceship with the truth is often a passing one, he was probably trying to merely deflect criticism from the general awfulness of his own side.

Hollis’s comments on the lack of spending seem to have been backed up in the window which, at the time of writing, shows nothing in the arrivals column. On the way out have been our old mucker Joe Cole, whose loan to Coventry was made permanent when the window opened, and Philippe Senderos. Hands up all those who remembered that the ex-Arsenal defender was actually a Villa player? It certainly surprised the work experience kid who took his Harry Potter spectacles off, polished them several times before shaking his head and muttering to nobody in particular “blimey who knew?”.

Senderos had actually been excluded from Villa’s 25-man squad at the start of the season after an succession of injuries, something that meant he wouldn’t have been available for selection until this month anyway. His contract was cancelled by mutual consent whereupon Senderos went back to his native Switzerland after signing for Grasshoppers.

There was much humour gained from their being linked with former Man Utd defender Nemanja Vidic. Vidic agreed an early end to his contract with Inter having fallen well out of favour there. Shortly after rumours of Villa interest surfaced the player announced that he would be hanging up his boots, prompting all sorts of “he would rather never play again than play for Villa” comments on social media.

With most supporters screaming for the signing of a proven goalscorer the one deal that they had agreed was the £4.9m signing of a ‘keeper. That was the figure agreed with Hajduk Split for custodian Lovre Kalinic. However, when it came to doing the paperwork the player failed to meet all the criteria to qualify for a work permit. An appeal against the rejection also failed. So even an attempt to sign a third choice ‘keeper failed.

Another who won’t be coming is striker Seydo Dombia. They held extensive talks with the player who was available on loan from Roma before he decided that Newcastle was probably a better option if he really had to get involved in picking up a big salary as part of a Premier League relegation battle.

They have also been linked with a loan move for none other than Ravel Morrison, whose spell out in Rome is going, well pretty much as well as one might have expected. 151 minutes spread over seven appearances is the sum total of his Lazio career thus far, a tally that includes just the one start. Bournemouth have also been linked with Morrison but other reports suggest that Lazio are keen to keep the player.

Villa’s reported interest in Morrison seems a little odd given they already seem to have the “talented but wayward youngster who has upset the boss” slot filled. On the bench yet again for the West Brom game was youngster Jack Grealish. This time last year he seemed to be flavour of the month with pundits purring excitedly. On the appointment of Garde as manager he found his new boss somewhat less tolerant of his antics than maybe his predecessors had been. After a spell being demoted to the development squad, Grealish has been on the bench more often than not. And, more often than not, he has been used very sparingly. He saw no action during the West Brom match (like all the other spectators then) and only got 10 minutes in Saturday’s home cup drubbing from Man City. In fact his last start was in the 2-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers in the cup. Still a lot of penance to serve then. Meanwhile all that talk about whether he would be playing for England or the Republic of Ireland seems to have gone a bit quiet hasn’t it?

When I last wrote of Villa in advance of our Boxing Day trip to the Midlands their top scorer was Scott Sinclair who at that time had six. Their current top scorer is still Scott Sinclair, who, er, still has six. This is despite him usually being bench-fodder. Which sort of tells you where some of their problems lie.

Joint second on the goalscoring chart with 5 is Rudy Gestede . He came in from Blackburn during the summer for a fraction of the £32+m they received for the going downhill fast Benteke. He’s a big doubt for Tuesday evening having picked up a hamstring strain in the West Brom match. There’s also a doubt over Libor Kozak. The Czech striker hasn’t had the best of luck with injuries in his three years at Birmingham he’s broken a leg, and missed a whole season. His latest problem is an ankle injury picked up against West Brom, though between him and Gestede he’s the more likely of the two to to start.

And so to us. Not that I expect any of you lot will give a monkey’s but I really shouldn’t have made the trip up to the frozen north at the weekend. I felt lousy enough with this cold and my recovery was not assisted by standing up there in sub-zero temperatures, even if they did resemble the “normal” settings on the thermostats here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered.

We didn’t play well up at Anfield so it speaks volumes that we still came away with a draw in a match which was a bit of a throwback to the bad old days when for referees saw it as their sworn duty to assist Liverpool in any way that they could. This was such a throwback Atkinson even temporarily rescinded the back-pass law just to turn the clock back to the 70’s and 80’s when the likes of the scousers ruined the game with their cynical use of the tactic to kill off games. Thw in the Caulker incident that was not one but two penalties and we can be glad we were able to bring them back – as hoped – for a night under the lights at the Boleyn.

Randolph had a less than convincing Europa/pre-season campaign but since the season proper got under way he has shown that he is a more than able deputy for Adrian, to whom we must send congratulations on becoming a Dad for the first time. Not sure if he’ll be back from Seville in time for this match but it’s nice to know that one can rely on his stand-in if required.

We say hello to Nigerian striker Eminike who we have until the end of the season. Eminike comes in from Fenerbahce via Abu Dhabi’s Al Ain with whom he had been on loan. He’s been capped 37 times by Nigeria, scoring 9 times in the process. He announced his retirement from international football last October at the tender age of 28. The player’s actual age has been the subject of some speculation in the past with him and his agent having sued various Turkish publications over allegations that there was a 7-year difference between the date of birth shown on his passport and his real one.

He’s a player well-known to Mr Bilic who has encountered him as an opponent in both Russia and Turkey and the player himself has stated that the manager is the main reason he has signed, a comment that a number have players have made this season. A few more than last season anyway! The deal is believed to contain an option to sign on a permanent basis at the end of term and is likely to see a departure for Jelavic who is licking his lips at the prospect of a Chinese takeaway worth £60k a week.

Tomkins is a doubt, those 13 stitches in his head looking rather nasty. Byram is a likely replacement though O’Brien let nobody down on Merseyside at the weekend. Kouyate is likely to have recovered from being kicked off the park by Liverpool. Carroll and Sakho are unlikely to be risked which should see some involvement for the new boy. Noble is likely to have recovered from this sod of a cold.

Prediction? Well it’s hard to see anything other than a home win for this one. They are in their current position for a reason and, their recent unbeaten run notwithstanding, they don’t have the winning habit. There seems to be a “let’s write this season off” attitude amongst the management and, if last summer’s transfer window was less than inspiring, this winter’s must have been downright depressing for their supporters. I’ve hung on as late as I can before handing this over lest they sign Messi or someone but if Sky are going to be sending their cameras to Birmingham it’s going to look like they’ve signed a load of Tumbleweed.
For those reasons, and assuming there’s no saviour coming in before the window closes, the £2.50 that I was going to put towards another load of Night Nurse will, instead, be going on a 2-0 win once I can get someone to break quarantine and pop down to Winstones The Turf Accountants with my betting slip.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn:
Drew 0-0 Guzan was MOTM as Sakho’s scoring streak came to an end.

Referee: Jonathan Moss Did the same match last season when he forgot how to award a penalty. We were fined after the Chelsea match this season for failing to control our players. Meanwhile the organisation that provides and protects these incompetents has just been given even more power. And people wonder why refereeing standards are plummeting through the floor.

Danger Man Jordan Ayew: Joint second top scorer and his goals have come more recently than, say, Sinclair’s.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter of the Week: This week’s ICSOTW is David Cameron. The choice has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the fact that anyone in public life who feigns affiliation to a football club in order to make themselves look cool should be banned from whatever it is they do. Especially if they can’t get the name of the team right.

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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