Blackburn Rovers v West Ham United

There's been a lot of talk about scrapping FA Cup replays recently. We're not quite sure where we stand on this one. On the one hand it would represent yet another erosion of those traditions that make the FA Cup so special. On the other hand each match that isn't replayed means one less offering from Preview Percy.....

Next up the frozen North where we will he hosted by Blackburn Rovers in the 5th round of the FA Cup, sponsored by someone who, as usual, haven't made it worth my while to mention their name. Kick-off is a rather inconvenient for me 2pm on Sunday. Just the 90 minutes for this one with extra time and penalties only kicking in should a replay be required.

Travel up there looks ok but you'll need to leave early to get to town to pick up your train if you come into Liverpool Street, there being no trains between there and Ingatestone all weekend. Have a gander before you travel.

So Blackburn then. In recent years they've been a bit of a basket case of a club. Or maybe, bearing in mind their owners, that should read "chicken in a basket case." It was said that Venkys (the Indian Chicken Farming mob that own the club) had not been aware of the concept of relegation when they took over. If that were true they soon found out otherwise - the drop to the second tier that had been threatening to occur for several years finally took place in May 2012 as we came up.

Since then it's been pretty uninspiring stuff. Their first season back down under saw them finish 17th, escaping relegation by 4 points. They made a better fist of things in 2013-14, missing out on a playoff spot by two points. Last term they finished 9th, 11 points shy of the playoffs. This term they are nearer the bottom than the top, sitting as they do in 18th place with 34 points from 30 games which is eight points clear of the trapdoor. They also have a game in hand on all six teams below them so Tuesday night's 3-0 win over Fulham looks to have been handy then.

They've made it this far in the cup thanks to wins at Newport (2-1) and Oxford (3-0). This match will therefore be their first home match in the Cup this season. However, in the league, last Saturdays's 2-0 defeat by Hull left them without a win since they beat Rotherham back in December, a streak that reached nine games in length until Tuesday's win against Fulham. At least that's one sequence we won't be worried about busting then.

They are currently managed by Paul Lambert, who took over from Gary Bowyer in November. Lambert can console himself with the thought that at least he's out of the carnage that is Aston Villa.

It may be my imagination but they seem to have spent every transfer window since they signed Jordan Rhodes trying to get shot of him, having (according to the Work Experience Kid with the Harry Potter spectacles) made him what was at the time the most expensive player outside the top flight. Things came to a head last summer when Middlesbrough had a bid in excess of ?10m rejected. The player expressed public disappointment at the club's failure to let him move on, something that, in hindsight, made his eventual departure a few weeks ago rather inevitable. It nearly didn't happen though - every time I turned on the telly his talks with Boro' seem to be foundering over what colour Smarties needed to be removed from his pre-match confectionery or something.

They brought in a couple of forwards on loan to replace their top scorer. Danny Graham came in until the end of the season from Sunderland. This spell is the player's 4th loan spell since joining the Mackems in 2013, with Hull, Boro' and Wolves all having availed themselves of his services in that period. He might have hoped for something leading to a permanent deal from those moves, being out of favour on Wearside but none such move materialised, mainly due to the fact that, not to put too fine a point on it, he doesn't score goals. Neither banjo manufacturers nor those involved in bovine husbandry have had much cause for concern in recent years. On signing the player Boss Lambert described Graham as "looking hungry". That would make sense if he had been paid by the goal - since leaving Swansea for Sunderland in January he's scored but 10 goals for the various clubs he's been hawked around, his goal v Fulham the other night being his first for about nine months. Thankfully he will be cup-tied so there's another sequence we won't have to worry about busting.

The other forward to arrive was Tony Watt. Technically he's on loan from Charlton, though a fee has been agreed for the summer. Watt's been about a bit starting out in his native Scotland with Airdrie before moving up to Celtic where he made enough sub appearances to win a Championship winners medal, which saved him the trouble of going through his breakfast cereal to look for one.

So-called champions league qualification for 2013/14 saw Celtic bolster their forward line and, finding himself down the pecking order, he went out on loan to Belgian side Lierse, a season that saw him perpetually at loggerheads with manager Stanley Menzo who, at one stage, gave grudging praise for a two goal performance saying "but I'll probably want to murder him tomorrow". The relationship reached its inevitable conclusion when Watt declared that he was fed up with carrying the can for the manager's failings, a comment that saw him relegated to Lierse's B team before returning to Celtic. However, he'd made a big enough impression in Belgium for Standard Liege to shell out ?1.2m for him in July 2014. However, by December he was regarded as a bit part player, being lucky to get the occasional appearance off the bench.

Liege eventually offed him onto sister club Charlton but despite a few goals here and there by last November the Addicks, by now wired into the little life support machine that goes "ping," were seeking to further offload him. A loan spell with Cardiff looked certain to be made permanent until the little matter of Cardiff's transfer embargo was raised. Charlton refused to extend the Cardiff loan and after a brief interlude at the Valley Watt found himself on loan at Ewood, Blackburn having had their own embargo lifted in December. The deal saw him turn out for three different clubs in three consecutive matches.

They did have young Hammer Doneil Henry on loan until the start of the year, a previous loan spell last year having gained him rave reviews before a hamstring injury curtailed his season. His return to the Boleyn saw them looking for another defender. Who should they sign but Elliot Ward who, after a shedload of injuries had his contract with Bournemouth terminated "by mutual consent". I dunno about you but discovering that he is 31 years old made me feel even older than usual. I still recall his defensive partnership with Anton Ferdinand that got us into the playoffs in 2005. Jeez 11 years ago. Where did that time go?

There is another ex-Hammer in the ranks. Sort of. Defender Matthew Kilgallon had a few games in a loan spell in 2003/04 but spent more time in the racing car seats than Jenson Button. He's been similarly unused at Ewood Park.

And so what's happened in the world of football this week? Well we took another step towards the league being decided by Mike Riley and his Blatter-esque cronies at PGMOL. Clattenburg's astonishing penalty decision in the Man City v Spurs game single-handedly changed the face of an important game and, no doubt, will go unpunished. It would be a different matter if Man City could complain to some sort of authority who could look at the conduct of match officials. Unfortunately the only people they could complain to are, er, PGMOL who will no doubt trot out their unsubstantiated claim that referees get 92% of decisions right (when requested for an analysis they clammed up - and even that percentage is down on previous years). If you get wrongly nicked by the police and complain even they get another force to investigate.

As for us, well I possibly underestimated the effects of the previous Tuesday night on the legs but it was heartening to see enough determination in there to get us point. The most disappointing thing about the weekend was its timing - we ended up settling for a point when all three would have seen us go up a place. Still that's the magic 40 out of the way so I'm willing to perhaps say that, all things being considered, we stand a decent chance of staying up. Probably.

We were also treated to the car crash sight of Roy Hodgson on MOTD being asked about Mark Noble. Clearly embarrassed as to why the skipper hadn't been looked at for England, Hodgson muttered something about Drinkwater in the manner of a schoolkid shoehorning all he knows about Macbeth into a mock exam question on King Lear in the hope that the marker won't realise they didn't do enough revision. If ever a tv performance merited a place here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered that was it.

Injury news is promising, Lanzini is on the verge of a return whilst, assuming there have been no ill-effects from his head injury over the last few days, Kouyate will be available to return from his statutory absence. Sakho and Reid are looking at next weekend but Eminike will be eligible for this one which is just as well as Carroll is out after another knock. As is Valencia who took a right kicking against Liverpool and was still suffering at the end of the Norwich game. In defence we will have our hands tied to a certain extent. Right back may be an issue as injuries to Tomkins and O'Brien and Byram being cup-tied so one or two of the kids are likely to be involved.

Prediction? Well I know we have had more than enough problems over the years against teams from lower divisions but I think one has to go with one's head. On paper (yes I know I've said that before but...) we ought to have enough even with one or two out. I'll therefore be diverting the ?2.50 I had earmarked for the "Apple Aid Fund For Those Stupid Enough To Reset Their iPhones to 1970" (sod 'em - shouldn't be gullible enough to buy Apple stuff in the first place} in the general direction of Winstone's The Turf Accountant where it will be exchanged for a betting slip bearing the words West Ham to win 2-1.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at Ewood Park: Drew 1-1 December 2010. A largely forgettable game that was oddly notable for a number of weird reasons. Ruud Boffin started in goal. Behrami got injured in the warm-up (it was flipping taters up there that day as I recall) and Spector's call-up into the team left us with just 6 subs on the bench, including 16 year-old 'keeper Jake Larkins, such were the injury problems. Kieron Dyer started and played 82 minutes. All at once. Stanislas' 78th minute equaliser cancelled out Nelson's 58th minute opener against a side that had sacked some chap called Allardyce from the manager's seat earlier in the week

Referee: Jonathon Moss Poor official who, earlier this season, was threatened with legal action by a linesman who accused him of deliberately injuring him during a training ground clash.

Danger Man: Tony Watt In his "honeymoon" period with the club and probably thinks he has something to prove.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter Of The Week Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron. As if his job didn't already make him a shoo-in, he once signed a letter to the Advertising Standards Authority criticising their banning of an ad by some group promoting faith healing - the letter arrogantly challenged the ASA to prove scientifically that faith healing didn't work. Berk.

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