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West Ham United v Swansea City

Filed: Friday, 6th May 2016
By: Preview Percy

With it snowing last week and shorts weather this I think we can safely say that the end of season weather has been a bit bonkers. Talking of which, here's Preview Percy....

So it’s the last Saturday then. For many, for whom midweek matches provide insurmountable logistical or financial problems this well be the last hurrah at the Boleyn. As if it really mattered, Swansea will be the visitors for a 3pm kick off on Saturday. The Gospel Oak – Barking line will be shut as will the DLR between Poplar and Stratford but other than that the lined in the immediate vicinity of E13 will be behaving themselves. Other parts of the Underground won’t be so lucky so, as ever, check your route before you go.

Swansea then. Well it seems like an eternity since they were flavour of the month for their style of football. However, since those heady days of League Cup success it’s been a bit, well, flat really. They have had three managers this season of course, which didn’t help much. The season started with former player Garry (yes, I know – settle down at the back or I’ll give you detention) Monk. Monk limped on in charge from the start of the season to the beginning of December when he was finally “let go” in what seemed to be the world’s worst-kept secret. Alan Curtis took over on a caretaker basis just before we played them in a desultory 0-0 at the Taking A Liberty Stadium. Curtis lasted to 18 January when, after a lot of talk about various potential appointments, they appointed Francesco Gudolin as boss. Speaking as one of the many (including Swansea skipper Ashley Williams who admitted resorting to something called “google”) who said “who?” on the announcement of his appointment, I am indebted to the work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles for his research on that there internet thing. He’s had an odd managerial career. Much of this has been spent knocking around the less feted lights of Serie A, though he did have a less than successful spell at Monaco, where his 10th place finish was attributed to “financial issues from within the club”. On his second spell at Udinese in 2912-13 he got them to 5th spot in the league, enough to get them a place in the so-called Champions League qualifiers. In 2014 he announced that he was going to quit the coaching scene. Instead he took a consultancy role with the Pozzo Family, meaning that he had oversight of no fewer than three teams in the form of Udinese, Granada (the Spanish Club not the old Ford banger) and, er, Watford. I’m sure there are rules about that sort of thing or is that just for us?

Before stepping down to resume first team duties Curtis saw the departure of Jonjo Shelvey to Newcastle. You might recall that Shelvey made himself about as welcome as Ken Livingstone at a Bar-Mitzvah by offering to meet a grumbling supporter outside after they’d been dumped out of the cup by Oxford. Shelvey has had one half decent game on Tyneside (sadly against us though even then he ought to have been sent off) and has been largely anonymous otherwise. However, to this day he remains Swansea’s most-capped Englishman, something that grates given Hodgson’s continued refusal to consider the likes of Noble for selection at full international level.

With Villa being relegated back in August (well it seems like that anyway) there have only been two relegation spots up for grabs and, with Norwich, Newcastle and Sunderland all squabbling over 17th spot, relegation was always going to be a wee bit unlikely. However it was only last week that the maths of the deal was sorted out, their 3-1 defeat of Liverpool finally allowing them to put the calculators away for this season. That win left them on 43 points from 36 games, enough for 13th spot. That win was their third in seven, the other victims being Chelsea (1-0 at home) and Villa (1-0 at home – naturally). In amongst all that lot were a couple of heavy defeats – 3-0 up at Newcastle and 4-0 at Leicester. There was also an away draw at Stoke 2-2 if you’re that interested. Their away form has been undeniably poor – only Newcastle and Villa (naturally) have fewer wins away from their own patch this season, which suggests that all that international travel doesn’t exactly agree with them.

Possibly due to the change in management, possibly with one eye on the coffers they didn’t go mad in the window. Biggest of the two signings to come in was striker Alberto Paloschi who arrived from Chievo, presumably in a deal that had more than a little input from Guidolin who had managed the player during a spell a Parma. He has a couple of goals to his name since arriving for a reported £8m and he has impressed the good people at Wales Online a bit who, whilst admitting that the player has yet to set the world on fire, have seen enough in his energetic style of play to suggest that he may have something to give in future matches. This is, of course, quite surprising. Wales Online? Who knew that they had the internet?

The other winter arrival was 19 year-old Ryan Blair who came in from Falkirk. He’s been variously described either as a “box-to-box midfielder” or a “street gang member who turned his life around to become a multi millionair” depending on whether you can be bothered to look at the right Wikipedia page. Since he’s gone into the Swansea U21 squad my money is on the “box-to-box midfielder” – but should the club shop start selling copies of the book Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur I may revise that view.

Top scorer is the gifted-if inconsistent Gylfi Sigurdsson whose eleven goals have all come in the league. Next on the list is Andre Ayew with 8. Sigurdson, however, is unavailable for this match having picked up a shoulder injury. As a result he won’t be fit to join the list of Icelandic nationals to have stitched us up over the years. He will be a big miss for them given that he has had a hand in more Premier League goals since Swansea arrived for their current spell in the top flight than any other player. In that respect he is possibly as talismanic to them as Hammer of The Year Dimitri Payet is to us at the moment.

So the week then. Well watching Spurs implode is always hilarious. Watching them do so after going into a 2-0 lead was doubly so. Especially at the end when they basically abandoned all pretence of playing football and introduced their version of the infamous British Lions “99” call (the 1974 Lions, fed up with South African teams getting away with murder, introduce a call which basically meant “forget what you are doing and deck the nearest opponent”). Nine yellow cards told only half the story as Clattenburg , well I was going to say lost control but that would imply he ever had control in the first place. Such was the stuff going on there should have been a number of reds, notably That arising from Dier’s “later than South East Trains” towards the end.

Leicester are, of course no angels – though quite how Huth escaped with only a 3 match ban for his contretemps with Fellaini last weekend lord alone knows. Huth argued that a 3 match ban would be excessive which, given his track record must surely bring his attempts at mitigation into the realms of “frivolous” – I mean surely by now the penny should drop that none of the warnings as to his future conduct (and they must be into the dozens now) have worked. A five minute show reel of his greatest “hits” culminating in the Fellaini hair tug should have seen him with his feet up until Christmas I’d say. Much has been written about their triumph this season. Fine achievement though it is they have benefited from a perfect storm insofar as Chelsea, Arsenal and the two Manchesters all had long lousy spells this season. This allowed lesser sides like Spurs and Leicester to put in a challenge and, in the end Leicester were the team to hold their nerve at the end. Elsewhere, if ever you needed proof that the Thursday night League is a bit, well, crap, the fact that a team as mediocre as Liverpool has blundered their way to the final should seal the matter once and for all.

As for us, well after a tentative start up at West Brom (something I’d like to see us not do for once - it was nice to come out the other end with three of both points and goals. That third goal in particular was an absolute beaut, the movement and passing from the back, the individual skill of Mr P, the tempting chipped cross and the skipper’s thumping finish all combined to make possibly the perfect goal. How d’ya like them apples Pulis?

Team news is that after a couple of injury-free weeks (I’m not counting Jenkinson) we appear to be facing something of an injury crisis at the moment. Adrian has a calf injury which might keep him out of all three of our final games of the season. If that’s the case step forward and take a bow Darren Randolph. I am the first to admit that, seeing him in pre-season/Thursday Night League action all those months ago, I was far from convinced. However I’m delighted to indulge in doffage of the cap in his general direction as, when he has been called on to play in proper football matches he has been outstanding.

Amazingly, there are still plausible scenarios by which we might actually qualify for the so-called Champions League. The most straightforward of these involves us winning our last three games with Arsenal beating Man City. There are other combinations which involve lining up Venus with Uranus and getting a free ball after a snooker (possibly – I wasn’t really paying attention by that time) but I’ll work those out nearer the time. Now I’m not particularly fussed either way at this particular point. Great though it would be to qualify I’m rather content already with how the season has panned out. Entertaining football that has kept us going right to the end of the season has been the order of the day – unlike this time last term when, having done enough to stay up, we kinda declared leaving us all counting the minutes until the end of the season.

So time for my antepenultimate prediction of the season then. From their point of view much depends on the frame of mind their players are in and, to a certain degree, on their relationship with the current manager. Swansea is one of the few places that Brendan “David Brent” Rodgers can walk down the street without being pointed at by people and laughed at and it wouldn’t be the world’s biggest surprise to see him reinstalled in the managerial hot seat ere long. So if the players were of a mind to speed up that process a little now that the they have made themselves mathematically safe after beating the scousers it wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows. So with that in mind, the £2.50 I was going to spend on paracetamol to send in a care package to the people of Leicester will be going on a wager at Winstones The Turf Accountants on a 3-1 home win which will attract odds considerably stingier that the 5,000/1 some people got on this year’s title race.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn: Won 3-1 (December 2014) . A win that took place during the period last season where we were playing football and winning. It wasn’t to last. We bossed this one but somehow went 1-0 down. A Carroll brace and a fine finish by sub Sakho were enough to give us the points.

Referee: Michael Oliver. Referee: One of the younger officials he nevertheless shows the sort of lack of bottle over big decisions usually displayed by buffoons twice his age. Last seen taking charge of our 2-1 “Jekyll & Hyde/game of two halves” victory over Southampton back in December.

Danger Man: Andre Ayew Top scorer of those that are likely to be available for selection. Picked up a brace and a few MOTM awards in the match against the Scousers the other week.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter Of The Week: Michael Sheen. Ok not particularly irritating in himself but he did play Tony Blair in a number of films and let’s face it some of that evil must have rubbed off…

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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