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West Bromwich Albion v West Ham United

Filed: Thursday, 28th April 2016
By: Preview Percy

So four games left and we still have a positive goal difference. On the down side that means we still have about 8,000 more words from Preview Percy to wade through, including his look at this weekend's visit to West Bromwich Albion . Still at least it's stopped snowing....

Next we journey up – literally – to England’s highest football ground where our hosts for the weekend will be West Bromwich Albion. The tv companies have decided that the excitement of a Baggies home match will be too much for the viewing public and so have forgone the opportunity of broadcasting the match live, which means kick-off on Saturday will be at 3pm. The trains between London and that part of the world look like they will be behaving themselves and even the local transport network (“Centro” – named after one of Marvel’s less successful comic-book superheroes) looks to be free of engineering works as you wend your way towards the “just as depressing as it sounds” environs of Smethwick.

So the men in ill-fitting trousers then (to give them their full nickname) then. What of them? Well having reached 41 points and sitting in 13th place they seem to be going through the motions a bit. They are going to bother neither the Football League Admissions administrators nor their counterparts “sur le continent”. In short they have had a season so uninspiring that anyone would think that they were managed by Tony Pulis. Pulis has a year left on his contract at the Hawthorns but when talk of an extension was raised recently, Pulis said that he would prefer to sit down in the summer with Chairman Jeremy Peace and have “a bite to eat and a nice bottle of wine” to discuss a new deal. Well if the restaurant is the sort of place where they ask you if you “want fries with that” or the chairman only has one glass for the Albanian Beaujolais when you arrive Tony, you might just not be there to discuss potential new signings.

Recent form has been patchy to say the least. They beat Man Utd 1-0 on 6 March but since then it’s been defeats and draws. The losses came at at home against Norwich and Watford (both 0-1) and away ay Man city and Arsenal (2-1 and 2-0 respectively). One of the draws came at home to Sunderland – 0-0 in what must have been the single most predictable result of the season. Of course most recently they have become famous for holing Spurs’ title bid below the waterline. For the first 20 minutes or do it looked for all the world as if they were going to be steamrollered with Boaz Myhill (silly name, sillier beard) being the busiest man on the park. However, early in the second half they actually showed a level of ambition seldom seen in a Pulis side and, whisper it, the equaliser when it came was well-deserved. Actually that’s a bit of a shame really. Just think how much funnier it would have been had Spurs been denied by a Moss mess-up or a Clattenburg Calamity. I guess that those only happen to us.

Prior to the victory over Man Utd their last win came at the end of February in a 3-2 win over Palace. That win had bittersweet connotations, overshadowed as it was by the early departure through injury of Chris Brunt with knee ligament damage. You have to feel for the Northern Irishman who has had a career plodding away at international level with little reward, until this particular group worked their way through to qualification for their first international tournament in 30 years. Picking up a season-ending injury must have been depressing in the extreme. Let’s hope that the Northern Irish qualify for the next World Cup in 2018 and he’s still fit enough at 33 (as he will be by then) to take some part. And, in case you think I’ve gone soft, let’s hope they lose every game except those involving Scotland, France, Germany and anyone else who manages to annoy me between now and then.

Back in blighty, the most interesting thing to happen at West Brom this season has probably been the Berahino saga. Earlier on this season he had the right hump. Having failed to get a move to Spurs, Berahino went into this season tweeting left right and centre to the effect that he would never play for that chairman again. This state of affairs didn’t seem to worry Pulis and Peace unduly – Peace probably didn’t even look up from testing the bouquet of the Albanian Beaujolais. In the end Berahino’s non-appearance in the team had less to do with any withdrawal of labour on his part and had everything to do with Pulis’s refusal to pick him in the first place. A “lack of fitness” was cited with Berahino wisely eschewing any “fat-burning” tips that may have been passed his way from Merseyside. Pulis’s own comment was to the effect that the player was “Lucky to be in the squad, never mind the team”. A £20m bid from Newcastle came to nothing during the January window and, when that departure opportunity closed, Berahino eventually elected to apologise to everybody for the “Kevin The Teenager” act (“it’s so unfair!”).

Recently, He has quietly crept back into the side, not that you would notice from his contribution to the goals for column. His most recent headline-making effort this season was his failure to convert either of the two penalties awarded to his side in the 1-0 home defeat to Watford the other week. This was something that Mark Noble had no problem with, once he’d gotten over the potentially fatal shock of having been awarded more than two penalties in the same season, never mind two in the same match. Meanwhile, with Spurs doing passably well without him, that particular ferry seems to have left the harbour. So it’s not all bad news for him. It could be worse, of course. He could be on Villa’s books.

It was “feet-up” time again when I asked the work-experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles what they had done in the January transfer window. There is a philosophy within the club, emanating from Chairman Peace that January purchases are somehow an inherently “bad thing”. It’s not unknown for them to do business as the decorations come down but the general position is that they’d rather not if it’s all the same to you. Summer? Different matter. That’s when they brought in Salomon Rondon and Ricky, some say “Rickie” Lambert.`

A few years ago Lambert was flavour of the month. One of those flavours of the month that Roy Hodgson never picks, except for when he does. In Lambert’s case this led to him gaining 11 caps for England which, shamefully, is eleven more than Mark Noble has. Even more galling it’s eleven more than I have myself. Southampton cleverly cashed in just as the player’s annus mirablis was passing its best and the ever-gullible Liverpool shelled out for the player. They soon realised that they had signed a decent journeyman whose stock was beginning to fall. A lack of first team opportunities saw him disappear down the M6 last summer. However a series of uninspired performances up front for the Throstles has seen him slip slowly down the pecking order so that, under normal circumstances, even the infamous Berahino is now more likely to get game time – and we all know how much Pulis thinks of HIM.

Having said that these are not normal circumstances the likelihood of seeing Lambert appear may just have increased. Berahino was omitted from the squad to play Spurs the other night with an ankle injury that has “no return date” listed next to it on the usual sicklists. This didn’t stop the conspiracy theorists having a field day, given Spurs’ previous fondness for the player. But there again conspiracy theorists are, by and large, people you wouldn’t want to share a train carriage with (assuming that you’ve given the chauffeur the day off and have no alternative to public transport, obviously).

Their MOTM at Spurs, Myhill, is likely to continue in the custodian of the onion bag role. This is because the normal no.1, Ben Foster, also has an ankle injury. It must be catching. I recall that Myhill’s real name is “Glyn” and that his folks always wanted to call him Boaz but, for some reason, never got round to sticking that name down on the Birth certificate. A bit like Piers Morgan, whose parents never got round to registering the name “twat” that everyone uses anyway. Frustrated at constantly being the no.2 choice he retired from international football only to see his chosen country – Wales – go and qualify for Euro 2016. “D-oh!” as his birth compatriot Homer Simpson would say.

Euro 2016 is not a concern for skipper Darren Fletcher. This is because he is Scottish. He’s not had the best of luck over the years. Apart from being born the wrong side of the border he is most remembered for the long and debilitating battle he had against ulcerative colitis. This came after a verbal – and, frankly, unwarranted verbal mauling from Roy Keane who publicly wondered what all the fuss was about. Well Roy I’d say that maintaining a career in professional football whilst suffering from what was at the time an undiagnosed problem displayed a level of character and bravery well above that displayed by a player who, say, deliberately went out to injure a player, boasted about it in his autobiography and then blamed his ghost-writer for the boast. Just picking an example at random.

Fletcher, thankfully, recovered from his illness and came close to signing for us, him being the kind of utilitarian and solid midfielder much beloved of our former manager. In the end the club got cold feet over the player’s medical history, presumably prompted by the possible financial ramifications and having the likes of Kieron Dyer still fresh in the memory. Fletcher went along the list of clubs beginning with the word “West” and ended up in the Midlands. And we ended up with Payet.

“So Percy. Enough of our opponents, what’s your view of recent events?” I hear you say. Well it was a nice week off for us last weekend. Best result of the day was the Geordies picking up a point at Anfield having gone 2-0 down. The fact that a team as poor as the scousers is actually anywhere near us in the league (a win would have seen them overtake us) is proof if ever any were needed that our league position owes more to PGMOL than it does to our efforts on the pitch. Talking of which I understand that messrs Carroll and Bilic have, surprisingly, escaped punishment for their comments on the performance of Moss at Leicester. I say surprisingly not because they didn’t have a point, but because it’s not like the FA to miss out on the chance to replenish their drinks cabinet at our expense.

I contacted the FA to ask whether they had written to Moss and his employers for an explanation of a performance that, even in a season of poor performances from our increasingly substandard pool of referees, stank the place out. They told me that it was not their policy to comment on such matters to people who live in homes for the bewildered. So that’ll be a “no” then.

Since Leicester we took on Watford who were, well, awful. Mike Dean actually had what was for him a reasonable game. Clearly the fact that the match wasn’t live on tv, or didn’t have much on it meaning that it wasn’t important enough for him. There did seem to be a general air of “end of season-ness” about the whole thing it has to be said, and when even Dean can’t be bothered to stamp his name all over proceedings you know that you the season is not long for this world.

Team news for this weekend is that, unlike most referees, we have pretty much a full deck to play with, Jenkinson being the only player officially listed as on our books and unavailable. It would be churlish in the extreme for me to go against Mr Bilic’s judgement but I’d STILL prefer Antonio to be utilised further forward than at right back or wing-back as has happened whilst he is filled in in the absence of Jenkinson. I know Tomkins isn’t really a full-back and Byram is quite young but I just think Antonio offers so much more when he is further up the pitch. I won’t shed any tears if he is still used in a defensive role mind – let’s face it the season we have had suggests that the manager knows what he is talking about.

Prediction – well they will be cock-a-hoop (what exactly does that phrase really mean?) at getting a point at Spurs though their cock-a-hoopedness ought to be tempered by the fact that by the interval they ought to have been dead & buried. If football has taught us anything (other than that players are, by and large, a bit dim) it is that a team that unexpectedly gets a result one week can often be brought crashing to the ground the following week. So my prediction for this is based on that theory.

30 years ago we went to the Hawthorns still with a shout of the league title and won 3-2 only to discover that the ever untrustworthy Chelsea had rolled over and died for Liverpool. So, if only for nostalgia’s sake I’ll be sticking the traditional £2.50 that was going to go towards Sakho’s membership of Weight Watchers on a 3-2 away win when next I sally forth in the general direction of Winstone’s The Turf Accountants.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Hawthorns: Lost 4-0 (FA Cup February 2015). What is it about us and Valentine’s Day? This match had all the appeal of a night out with my ex-missus. The away support turned up. The away team didn’t.

Referee: Lee Mason. And when you think things can’t get any worse….

Danger Man: Salomon Rondon Top scorer and gets the nod over Berahino on the grounds that he is likelier to get a start. Especially now that all the fuss over the “Satanic Verses” seems to have died down.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter Of The Week: Eric Clapton. All that great stuff with Cream and what gets played on the radio? “Wonderful To-bloody-night and Tears In Bloody Heaven” that’s what.

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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