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West Ham United v Crystal Palace

Filed: Friday, 1st April 2016
By: Preview Percy

If the London Borough Of Croydon actually has a tourist board, it's fair to say that Preview Percy won't be applying for a job with them any time soon. Here's his look at this weekend's final visit to the Boleyn of Crystal Palace......

Next up we have the start of a run of, er, lots of games in, er, not very much time as we play host to “Bloody” Crystal Palace as they are known to those of us who would quite happily vapourise the so-called London Borough Of Croydon on the grounds that that hole was responsible for producing the former Mrs Percy.

Er, where was I? Oh yes. Kick-off is at the duly appointed hour of 3.00pm on Saturday. Central line between Marble Arch & Bethnal Green is out. From the east there is a reduced service between town, Gidea Park and Shenfield and buses will replace trains between Shenfield and Chelmsford/Witham. Also there’s buses between Upminster & Pitsea if that’s your usual journey. And the Movers Lane underpass will be reduced to one lane while the emergency services deal with a punctured spacehopper. Probably.

So Palace then. It would cause much jollity here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered were they to actually get relegated. Did I mention the ex-Mrs Percy? Well I’m sure that Preview Alastair would also join in with the celebrations, partly because their demise would possibly mean a reprieve for his beloved Newcastle and partly because he just doesn’t like them either.

It was all so different for them earlier on this season when they were vying for the European places alongside us as we went through that patch of drawn games. At Christmas they were joint 4th. It doesn’t take their support much to overreact to anything and the words “Champions League” were being muttered all over Croydon without the derisive snort that one might have expected.

Since then they have won precisely the same number of games in the league as rounds of drinks bought by Preview Alastair in the same period. That is, none. In fact, so bad have been their results in that period they even managed to lose to Aston Villa, a result for which the authorities must surely be considering introducing a points deduction.

This all leaves them in 16th place with 33 points from 30 games. That’s five points clear of Norwich, over whom they have a game in hand, and seven clear of Sunderland, over whom they haven’t. So clear enough for the time being but with both Norwich and Newcastle still to play they are close enough to the drop zone to be scanning other teams’ results for the foreseeable.

Just before Christmas it was announced that the owners of something called the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia 76ers (no, me neither) had invested some £50m in the club. Presumably the club’s lofty position at that stage was enough to persuade them and the management that everything in the garden was rosy and nothing was required in terms of playing staff. So they bought nobody. In retrospect that decision does look a bit short-sighted, especially when one considers that even back then there was a worry about the lack of contribution to the goals for column from their strikers, more of which later.

One of the areas that the septic investors might be having a word about should things not pick up is the manager. As regular readers will be aware, every time I have to jot a few lines about Mr Pardew the kumb legal team get very worried. However, just for once, I can report legitimately without fear of legal reprisal that Mr Pardew was accused in an employment tribunal of “knowingly giving untrue evidence” in the current Jonas Gutierrez discrimination case. Mr Pardew being economical with the truth in a legal setting? Fancy that.

It’s been a slightly different matter in the Cup of course. They managed to see off Southampton, Spurs reserves and, in the Muppet Supporter derby, Reading, leaving them with a trip to Wembley where they will face Watford to determine who will fill the FA Cup runners-up spot. Pardew had been quite vociferous over the Benteke dive that cost them their match against the scousers the previous week. He was somewhat more reticent after the Reading game when Bolasie went down in similar circumstances. In fact I’m sure I heard him claim not to have seen the incident when interviewed straight after the game. Given their past history I wonder if Pardew appreciates the irony of his employing Arsene Wenger’s favourite tactic?!

Now the last time they actually made the Cup Final (with Pardew there as a player) I was based, nay marooned in a dead-end job in Croydon. The number of people who suddenly remembered that they had been lifelong Palace supporters all along was astounding. No matter that they forgot all about football the second the final whistle went in the replay, they were lifelong supporters, one of whom actually told me that he’d been a Palace supporter ever since they had become the first team to win the European Cup all those years ago. Ok he was a spectacularly shining example of the failure of our educational system to deal with special needs, but the general clamour for tickets amongst people who went to the ground so little that they were complaining about the walk from Crystal Palace station come Monday morning has stuck with me ever since.

So why are they struggling so? Let’s pretend for once I actually care then. Well, as mentioned, it’s largely a matter of strikers and their failure to produce. The work-experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles tells me that, of the 32 goals scored in the league this season, only 6 have come from what you would call “recognised” strikers. One of those came from the notorious Emmanuel Adebayor. It wasn’t all that long ago we were supposedly in negotiation with Spurs to sign him – thankfully we’ve progressed quite a bit in that time haven’t we? Adebayor arrived in January having been released by Spurs last September having fallen out of favour. He had previously been in favour but prior to that he had been out of favour again. I do hope you are following all this – there will be a test afterwards. Adebayor arrived on 26 January as a free agent but he was the only arrival of an otherwise quiet window for them.

The other five goals have been credited to Connor Wickham. Wickham was going to be the next best thing as a youngster with Ipswich, for whom as a 16 year-old he became the youngest ever player back in April 2009. He moved to Sunderland at the start of 2011/12 but fell out with Martin O’Neill after one of the perennial managerial changes they’re so fond of up there. Various loan spells then took place over the next season and a bit. A recall from Leeds for the last few months of 2013/14 following a striking injury crisis on Wearside got him a run in the side and his goals are credited with ensuring the Mackems’ survival at the end of that season. Despite that, and despite signing a 4 1/2 year deal at Christmas 2014, he never seemed to establish himself as first choice up there and nine million of her majesty’s pounds were enough to secure his services at Selhurst. Wickham’s season has been punctuated by injury – he’s currently been suffering from a hip/thigh problem so may be a doubt for this one.

With their strikers displaying all signs of never having seen the word “prolific”, let alone showing the slightest trace of having an inkling as to its meaning, one might have thought that there would have been more of a role for Chelsea loan player Patrick Bamford. However, even though there was an apparent mass outbrerak of “Cow’s backside and banjo” syndrome amongst the Palace strike-force, Bamford was largely overlooked and at the end of the year he returned to Chelsea, citing a lack of opportunity as his reason for going. He’s now at Norwich and I suspect that should he score in the “Bird Derby” any celebration he undertakes will by-pass all this “not in front of your former club” nonsense that seems to be the norm these days. And rightly so

One ex-Hammer we won’t be seeing is Marouane Chamakh whose loan spell at the Boleyn a while back stuck in the mind for just as long as it took for us to realise he wasn’t very good. That is approximately ten seconds. His groin strain has him listed as having “no return date” – something that will probably upset Palace fans as little as it upsets those of us with one eye on the “law of the ex”.

Skipper Mile Jedinak is also doubtful. He spent the international break travelling twixt London and Australia and picked up a hamstring problem that kept him out of the convicts’ defeat of Redknapp’s Jordan. There’s not much news of how the injury is bearing up but one would have thought that 24 hours in the company of Qantas – even in first class – is hardly good preparation for a Premier League derby. Yes I’m aware of Frank McAvennie getting off a flight from Down Under to score the winner against QPR but, well, let’s just say that he might have had some sort of artificial assistance that, in these rather more stringent days of player monitoring, won’t be available to Jedinak. Jedinak has previous for the odd snidey off the ball challenge so, if he is unavailable, the club will save a few bob in danger money paid to our strikers to cope with the occasional stray elbow.

Us? Well the refereeing performance at Chelsea was so bad that even the usual apologists ran out of excuses for the antics of Bobby Madley. His performance was unacceptable in this day and age, which is precisely why PGMOL will do nothing about it. Those of you looking to see what punishment Madley gets for his handling of the Chelsea match (and even taking the big decisions out of the equation it stunk the house out) will look in vain – he will be in charge of the Bournemouth v Man City match this weekend.

Otherwise, well the international break was reasonably kind to us. Here, the England manager is clearly unaware of the existence of Mark Noble and insisted on picking midfields containing the likes of Henderson and Lallana with predictable consequences. Although England did well to win in Berlin the contribution of those two was practically non-existent. Lallana did manage to play a part in England’s goal against the Netherlands but largely spent the rest of the match giving the ball away and avoiding doing any of that nasty tackling stuff that the big boys were doing. Meanwhile, over the channel they do things differently. French manager Deschamps had previously stated why he didn’t fancy Payet and by that I mean properly explained, not merely changing the subject to another player. Nevertheless, Deschamps recognised that since his last look at the player Payet had hit a rich vein of form and might be worth a look. As a result it’s fair to say that Payet might just have booked himself a spot in their Euro squad.

Noble’s omission (in favour of players scarcely good enough for Scotland) meant that he was able to enjoy his day in the sun on Easter Monday when a splendid time was had by all. Stand out moments being Adrian’s totally unassisted (or should that be unopposed) goal, Ashton’s absolute beaut and, for real lump in the throat stuff, Taylor Tombides’ finish and celebration. For many there that day the scarcity of tickets for the remaining league and cup fixtures means that Monday’s match will be their last visit to the Boleyn. Which kinda brings it all home doesn’t it.

Back to this weekend and our injury list is slowly beginning to clear. Tomkins will return to the squad leaving him probably to vie with Joey O for the right-back slot. Byram will require another week as will Ginge. Once those two are back that will leave the probably never to be seen again Carl Jenkinson as the only player left on our list. Whether that should technically be the case I’m not sure as I believe that he has gone back to the library for his treatment.

So a prediction then. Well they’ve got a few injuries and we don’t. We’re in a decent run of form, they’re not. We’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet. They haven’t. Even though this is West Ham and we’re used to things not quite going to plan I can only really see this one going one way.

So the £2.50 that was going to be spent on trimming back some of the trees here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered (no longer required thanks to Katie) will instead be exchanged at Winstones the Turf Accountants for a betting slip containing the words “3-1 home win” as we look onwards and upwards.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn: Lost 1-3 (February 2015) . Mike Dean refereed this one and, as is so often the case with that particular official, he handed the game to them on a plate. Valencia got our consolation as our dismal post-Christmas run continued apace. Thankfully we had amassed enough points before yuletide to ensure safety. Unlike Palace this season…

Referee: Mark Clattenburg. Bit of a loose cannon – disliked by the mafia at PGMOL House who constantly try to find little things to punish him with. They can’t get rid of him on performance grounds you see, otherwise they’d have to do the same with everyone else in the so-called select group. Correct though that would be…..

Danger Man: Yannick Bolasie – tricky cove who has a bit of pace about him and will need close watching.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter Of The Week: Nigel Farage.

Ok usually I try and pick a different ICSOTW for both home and away matches. However, with the referendum now announced, the debate is going to be more annoying even than the one that accompanied the “let’s hope we can get shot of Scotland” bash last year. The fact is that you are going to be seeing an awful lot of Nigel Farage on your screens between now and June the whatever it is. And that is a prospect that will please nobody irrespective of your chosen side of the debate.

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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