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Southampton v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 5th February 2016
By: Preview Percy

When we arrived to pick up this week's "effort" from Preview Percy we were surprised to find major celebrations under way at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered. When we asked what the occasion was we were told that, after the recent cold that he didn't like to talk about, the grumpy one had lost his voice. Sadly he could still write. Can't have everything we suppose.....

Next up is Southampton away. Kick off is 5:30pm on Saturday, unless they’ve changed it again (it’s been moved three times since I started writing). There’s no engineering works between London and Southampton itself but those of you who use the lines in and out of Liverpool Street may find yourselves on one of those there replacement bus type things, with lines between Shenfield and London closed.

Southampton then. They’re in 6th place with 34 points from their 24 played so far having moved up a place in midweek to overtake Liverpool, over whom they hold sway on goal difference. They are one place behind us at present, though the gap is five points.

Recent form isn’t bad – they’ve taken 10 points from their last four games, those consisting of Tuesday’s goalless draw at the Library, a 1-0 win at Old Trafford, and a couple of wins over West Brom (3-0) and Watford. However, the run before that wasn’t quite as impressive where they lost three in a row to Palace at home in the cup (1-2) away at Norwich (1-0) and away at our place (2-1), a match that seems ages ago but was in fact just over a month back. So, overall I guess you’d refer to their season as “patchy”.

The match at Arsenal finished with quite a good one-liner from boss Ronald Koeman who poured just a little more petrol on Wenger’s usual post-match haranguing of the fourth official. As Wenger laid into the hapless Pawson claiming “it’s always the same with you”, Koeman chipped in with “No Arsene – it’s always the same with you”. Ok hardly WIldean in its construct (though admittedly Wilde was an overhyped plagiarist) but it’s still a contender for “funniest thing ever said by a Dutchman” (well can YOU think of anything else?). Meanwhile the FA have announced that no further action will be taken against either Wenger or Arsenal for failing to control their manager. “It’s ok guys – we’ll just go and fine West Ham if we start running out of port” was the explanation nobody was honest enough to give.

Their activity in the transfer window was largely restricted to the bringing in the notorious Charlie Austin, over whom our co-chairman got embroiled in what became known in these parts (if nowhere else) as “kneegate”. The basic story was this: during the summer Austin was being hawked around by QPR with them turning down a bid from Leicester of £12m. We, like everyone else, were linked with the player but Mr Sullivan poured cold water on the speculation by suggesting that the player had “no knees”. Austin, bless him, got all upset at what he claimed to be an “outrageous slur” after which Mr Sullivan was forced to clarify his position, pointing out that £12m+ was a lot of money to gamble on a player with a failed medical at Hull on his CV, especially to a club with a history of injured strikers.

According to the work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles, Southampton spent £4m on the player, some £11m less than QPR were holding out for during the summer. The shortfall can be attributed to the fact that the player’s contract would have been up in the summer. So that bid from Leicester doesn’t look so “derisory” now does it?! At a more realistic £4m even Mr Sullivan would, apparently, have been tempted as long as the player’s wage demands were sensible.

The other principal move, from our point of view, was the release of Stephen Caulker from his season-long loan which was originally designed to give them defensive cover. He returned to QPR who lent him on to Liverpool, who used him to take full advantage of the experimental secret law change that allowed them to field two goalkeepers in the cup tie last weekend.

Talking of ‘keepers, Southampton's point at Arsenal apparently owed much to returning England back-up custodian Fraser Forster who pulled off a number of fine saves that the law requires me to refer to as “a string”. As a kid, coaches were worried that he might be too small to be a top class ‘keeper. That’s the 6’7” tall Fraser Forster. Must have been a bit of a growth spurt then. Forster was given the nickname “The Great Wall” by Barcelona fans after a standout performance against them in his Celtic days. Funnily enough that was one of the nicknames we gave to Preview Alastair here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered, only in his case it was after the Chinese Takeaway he likes to frequent on his unsteady way back from the Swan and Superinjunction.

Forster is a recent returnee from long turn injury having broken his kneecap last March. His return last month was probably a good two months ahead of his schedule – given the state of the Percy knees these days I ought probably to contact him for tips.

They have joint top scorers in the shapes of Shane Long and Graziano Pelle. Long is a wind-up merchant of the lowest order. He’s the sort of sneaky kid who would wind you up all day at school and then go running to teacher when the eventual, and deserved, slap was ultimately delivered leaving you to rely on there being a teacher with common sense around to deliver him an extra bonus slap for being a snidey little git. Given the current crop of select group referees haven’t got a grain of common sense between them, his style of “play” invariably leads to yellow cards against whoever has the misfortune to be marking him.

He has talent, no doubt, but he is one of those players who you’d love to see over on the Marshes on a Sunday morning against a lumbering ox of a centre half with a hangover and his missus’ nagging about playing football when there’s ironing to be done still fresh in his ears. I’d suggest that, after his first niggly foul, Long might not be in a position to make a second.

Pelle, like Long has 7 this season, though six of his have come in the league (as opposed to 5 for Long). It will be an interesting battle at the back depending on who plays as we could have Ginger Pele marking Pelle. That’s if Ginge can spare time away from modelling for album covers by 1970’s progsters Gentle Giant. Pelle (the non-Ginger one) is, these days a regular in the Italian national side and had notched up four goals in gaining his ten Italian caps (which are not nearly as funny as those awarded by the Netherlands). One of those goals came in the 1-1 draw against England in a Turin friendly last year. He finished up with 3 goals in their Euro 16 qualifying campaign which was enough to give him top slot in the Italians’ Euro Qualifying goalscoring charts. Though they topped their group with a three point cushion between them and Croatia in second place, they did only score 16 in their 10 qualifying games – two 1-0 wins over Malta (both through Pelle goals) suggests that this may not be the most fluent of Italian sides. Assuming both play, Pelle is the big target-man type that Ginge usually revels in marking so that one could be a good old-fashioned battle to watch.

They’ve also had 6 goals (three league) from winger Sadio Mane. Mane holds one of those bogus records that pretends that there was no football before the Premier league by virtue that he scored a hat-trick in 2 minutes 56 seconds in their 6-1 thrashing of Villa last season. Timekeeping is a recurring theme in Mane’s Southampton career; he’s been dropped twice in the last year or so for not being where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there. He was late turning up at St Mary’s before last season’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool and this season he was sent to the naughty step for turning up late to a team meeting. He can think himself lucky he didn’t have Mr Bilic as his boss if Amalfitano is anything to go by

What else has been going on? Well I hear that they have finally issued a death certificate for Lord Lucan which should put paid to all those rumours to the effect that he has been playing up front for Crystal Palace all those years. Or that he is, in fact that bloke with the funny moustache who keeps himself to himself in his room at the end of the corridor. “Lucky” I think he calls himself.

Elsewhere the world of football was in stitches as Sky’s attempt to overhype transfer deadline day into something that is supposedly bigger than the biggest thing ever (and I’m including Ruddock’s backside in that) fell flat on its backside due, in part, to the fact nobody was signing anyone and also in part to the whole thing being upstaged by the Guardiola announcement. We were therefore treated to the odd but amusing sight of Jim White having to announce that the biggest deadline day news was the fact someone had named their new-born kid after him. Something that saw him embarrassed in two ways at once.

Us? Well in the end the Villa win was comfortable and professional enough the other night. However, up to Ayew’s mad moment (which wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I listed him as “danger man”) we had been sitting back with our feet up . Granted Villa didn’t actually look threatening as such during that spell but even so we ought to have been doing a bit more to take the game to what was one of the poorest sides seen at the Boleyn for a long while. Once the sending off had happened (I wonder if anyone sat next to Ayew on the bus on the way back) we at least took control, though we laboured a bit to break them down. The second half was a different story and they had to rely on some fine saves from the ‘keeper plus a bit of woodwork to keep the score down. In the end none of us can think of a game in which we were 1-0 up where we had so little to worry about. Adrian could have stayed at home with the wife and new bairn and phoned it in. Actually just for once I wish I’d been on a sponsors’ corporate freebie simply for the humour potential there would have been in nominating Adrian for MOTM for that one.

The visiting support seemed to be turning all scouse post-match, going into whiney mode over a “stonewall” penalty (a ball drilled at a player from a few yards that hits him on the back of the arm while his back is turned apparently qualifies for "stonewall" status these days) and Ayew’s sending off which was apparently Cresswell’s fault with an oh so violent hand placed on gently on the player’s shoulder. There must be an awful lot of Villa fans getting beaten up if that’s worth an elbow in retaliation. Oh and Antonio’s goal was apparently offside, if you re-write the offside law to include players that aren’t in an offside position at any stage of the proceedings. It rather seems that Villa’s support have the team they deserve at the moment. As one acne-riddled Brummie was told on the tube as he tunelessly tried to sing his “West Ham’s a sh*thole song” a) you actually live in Birmingham and b) you wait until you see Rotherham next season. Assuming they stay up.

We have some good team news. According to Mr Bilic, Andy Carroll has been training all week and, barring further injury, will be part of the squad for this one. Eminkike should also be available, the bureaucratic bit of his transfer ought to be sorted out by then if the carrier pigeon makes it through to FIFA HQ without being eaten or sold. Sakho and Lanzini are probably another 10 days away though.

The only other addition to the infirmary inventory is that of Ogbonna, who is listed simply as being “ill”. Presumably it’s the cold bug that laid out Noble from the trip to Anfield and has hit me for six over the past 10 days or so. I’m much better thanks – not that any of you sods bothered to ask.

Prediction? Hmmm. Tough one. On the one hand they looked ok against us in the first half against us just after Christmas. On the other hand they looked bloody awful in the second half of the same game once Carroll had been introduced to the fray – and they will no doubt be somewhat concerned at the possibility of his returning to action for this particular match. On the other hand – er, assuming you actually have three hands, they have been a bit tough to beat in their last few matches (albeit the last one saw Arsenal spurn chance after chance).

So, all things being considered, what with one thing and another etc, I have a feeling that this one will end up all square. I will therefore be raiding the piggy bank and sticking the £2.50 that “Lucky” wants to borrow towards the cost of a copy some legal document he requires from the registrar of births marriages and deaths on a 2-2 draw, which at least will maintain the points differential between the two clubs.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at St Mary’s: Drew 0-0 (February 2015) We ended up fighting a rear-guard action after ref Pawson had incorrectly decided to dismiss Adrian. As usual the decision was rescinded once the FA had collected a fine off us for failing to control our players. A consistent and honest application of that particular regulation would be nice, if only to bankrupt Abrahamovic. Carroll was forced to play the last ten minutes with a knee ligament injury as a result of our already being down to ten men.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg Inconsistent whistlesmith who rode the tide of sympathy when getting stick from Chelsea the other year. Not liked much within PGMOL either judging y the stupid punishments they keep dishing out his way.

Danger Man: Charlie Austin – purely because he will probably think he has something to prove to Mr Sullivan.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter of the week: Pol Pot. Genocidal maniac who was responsible for the Cambodian “Killing Fields” atrocities in the 1970’s before going on to become an opera singer, winning the first series of “Britain’s Got Talent”. (note: this may not strictly be true but I’ve already mentioned Craig David and the drummer out of Coldplay in past previews and, despite extensive research, I have still been unable to ascertain exactly what it is Holly Willoughby is famous for in the first place).

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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