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West Ham United v Southampton

Filed: Friday, 23rd September 2016
By: Preview Percy

We've got Percy. Preview Percy. I just don't think you understand. But there again nobody does....

Southampton next. Thankfully it’s at home which means I don’t have to go back down there, having spent far too much of my misspent youth evacuated to that part of the world. Let’s put it this way, when you look up a list of things the locals like about Southampton and no. 4 on the list is that it has a branch of Subway, you can see why I returned to civilisation as soon as they invented the railway. I will concede that Southampton is better than Croydon but only because the former Mrs Percy didn’t come from Southampton.

Important stuff: Kick off is 4pm on Sunday for the benefit of those with saucepan lids stapled to the side of their homes. Be warned: there is lots of travel stuff going on in the area. The main line out of Liverpool Street is only operating between Liverpool Street to Stratford. 4 trains an hour and that’s yer lot. If you’re coming from any further out than that you are looking at replacement buses, many of which will be running to/from Newbury Park on the Central Line, which, as a consequence, will be even more unpleasant than normal. As ever check before travelling and, just to be on the safe side, I’d leave about five minutes before you started reading this and don’t forget to add an hour to walk around the outside of the shopping centre lest you should contaminate any of their clientele.

So Southampton then. They seem to be having a spell where they get through a manager a season. This season’s merry-go-round saw Ronald Koeman head north to Everton. He was replaced by Nice boss Claude Puel. That’s Nice as in the French city, or biscuit named after it, rather than a suggestion that he is a splendid chap, which, of course, for all I know he may or may not be. That sort of research goes beyond the remit of what I don’t pay the work experience kid wearing a Tonto’s Expanding Head Band t-shirt without knowing who they are to do. Puel once incurred the wrath of “Sir” Alex Ferguson for encouraging his Lyon team to walk off after Man Utd had scored with a typical piece of gamesmanship in a so-called Champions League tie a few years back. “It’s intimidating the referee” blustered the multiple winner of “Britain’s Got Hypocrites”. Clearly Puel should have gotten his players to simply surround the referee for a “quiet chat” then.

So far they have picked up 5 points from as many games this season, an opening day draw at home to Watford was followed up by a 2-0 defeat to Man Utd in Salford. This was, in turn followed by another 1-1 home draw with Sunderland and a 2-1 away defeat to Arsenal. The series of 1-1 home draws was finally broken with their firat win of the season, a 1-0 defeat of Swansea. In between all that they qualified for the group stages of the Thursday night league largely courtesy of the dozen or so points we were missing thanks to bent refereeing last term. Their first match was a nice easy jog out against Sparta Prague who they beat 3-0 last week. Their other outing came in the what I will still call the League Cup when they beat Croydon’s Crystal Palace 2-0 to qualify for a red & white striped derby against Sunderland.

Apart from the traditional managerial change they kept up another footballing tradition this summer, one which saw them milk Liverpool for a few bob once more with £34m coming in for winger Mane. Rumours that Liverpool had offered a similar amount for Mother Theresa once she had become a Saint are of course scurrilous and totally false. The transfer window had shut by then.

About £10m of the Mane money was spent on Norwich winger Nathan Redmond, who hung around at Carrow Road for less time than you could say “Championship Football” following their relegation, his transfer being confirmed on 25 June. The former England U21 international was on the scoresheet in his first competitive match for them, getting their goal in the Watford draw.

Another £12.8m (depending on the rate at the post office) went on Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hjobjerg, whose surname is full of letters that my typewriter can’t reproduce. He arrived in the summer from Bayern, for whom he was their youngest ever player in the Bundesliga. However he wasn’t a regular there and actually spent last season on loan at Schalke. PEH (to save my sanity) claims to model himself on Zinadine Zidane. Funny how nobody ever claims to have modelled themselves on anyone more realistic isn’t it? Well that is apart from the Liverpool first team squad obviously whose influence from the Disney film “Bambi” over the years is there for all to see. PEH was awarded a gong by the Danish version of the PFA for being “Danish Talent Of The Year” in 2011, though I’m damned if I could spot him in the relevant film.

Pule didn’t have to raid the Liverpool lolly for the transfer in of Nice full back Jeremy Pied. That’s Nice as in the French City etc etc. Jeremy, whose surname means “foot” in English, is usually thought of as a right-back but has just the one sub appearance to his name at the time of writing. That figure isn’t going to be rising any time soon as, in a Hammeresque spot of luck, the player did his knee ligaments in in training to the extent that it would appear that his season is over already.

Their biggest fee of the window –a reported club record £16m – went to Lille for Moroccan midfielder Sofiane Boufal. Boufal has a couple of caps for Morocco. He has yet to feature this term, another knee injury being responsible for his absence. However, Boufal’s injury is nowhere near as serious as Pied’s and he should be available in a few week’s time.

They should be able to call on the services of Charlie Austin in the squad. Austin joined in January 2016 having spent the first part of the season with QPR. He was memorably the centre of a bit of a spat last summer when someone asked David Sullivan if we’d be interested in the player. The co-chair pointed out that QPR were asking £15m for the player which was a sum that would break our “Financial Fair Play” limit. So far so good. However, Sullivan then went on to say that, even if we did have the £15m in the glass bottle of £2 coins kept on the shelf for the kids’ holiday spending money, it was not money that he felt able to risk on Austin, what with the player having failed a medical at Hull a few years back and all. Sullivan went on to mention how unlucky the club had been in the past with injuries, with the likes of Dean Ashton being cited. However, by the time the interview had finished Sullivan’s supply of umbrage was nowhere to be seen – Austin had taken it. The player issued his own statement to counter comments that he described as “ignorant. Of course the law of sod, being what it is, saw the player miss a large chunk of games in April 2016, thanks to a hamstring injury, which was closely followed by a knee injury.

Austin does seem to enjoy a bit of an argument. After they were awarded a penalty of a highly dubious nature against Sparta he and Tadic got into a little contretemps over who was to take the spot kick. Shades of DiCanio vs Fatboy then, except ours was funnier. For the record Austin won the argument and scored. More seriously, Austin was hauled before the beak a few years back, having decked a chap in a Swindon nightclub who suggested that the player had taken drugs. For the record, Her Majesty won that particular argument and Austin was left with a conviction and a bill for over £3,000. Ironically, as anyone who has ever been in a Swindon nightclub will attest, the player would probably have been given one of those therapeutic use exemptions had he actually knocked back a bottle or two of Night Nurse before entry, it being generally acknowledged that nobody in their right mind would ever enter a Swindon nightclub without taking something with a view to blotting out what a completely ghastly experience it is to enter a Swindon nightclub in the first place.

They have swapped about a bit up front. Former Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez has featured, though he missed out on the 1-0 defeat of Swansea with that oh-so-vague injury that is described as a “knock”. In his absence they went with the irritating Shane Long up front. Long plays with the sort of “style” that suggests he is precisely the sort of person who enjoys going to Swindon nightclubs purely to cause a fight, though I don’t suppose for a minute that he has actually done so. His forte is playing off the shoulder of the last man and getting onto the end of passes or clearances from the back.

And so to us. Against Accrington we looked exactly what we were on the night. A scratch side comprised of players low on confidence who had barely played together. Fair play to Stanley – they didn’t come to what I believe in the modern idiom one must say “park the bus” though it’s fair to say they lacked the cutting edge in the final third to test Randolph in any serious manner. The problem was that we were similarly blunt. The lack of confidence could be judged by the reaction of Feghouli when played in by a superb through ball in the first half. Instead of taking the keeper on he didn’t so much as slow down as stopped completely, allowing a defender to get in and rob him. Things improved in the second half with the introduction of Lanzini and Payet and, for all the visitors’ hard work, it was noticeable that the few real saves in the match came from the Stanley ‘keeper. The relief when the genius’s free-kick went in was twofold. Apart from meaning that we were likely to have dodged a banana skin it also meant that we would be spared another 30 minutes of that stuff. As it was we were so late getting back to the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For the Bewildered that we had to break back in over the wall, dodging the anti-personnel mines. The 12 men of Chelsea-PGMOL face us in the next round.

Injury news is that the usual suspects are out for the usual length of time, though Reid’s knock will have healed sufficiently for him to be available for this one. To those we can now add Masuaku, whose knee will keep him on the sidelines for another six weeks at least. Much shuffling about in the back four then, though we can probably discount the rather mischievous proposal from Matron that we pick one of the stewards at left-back on the grounds that they must be good for something

Prediction? Well it’s hard to see us winning at present. Accrington apart, the defence has been having a mare of things lately. The midfield have not exactly dominated anything and in Zaza and Calleri we have forwards who it would appear couldn’t set the world on fire if they were armed with a can of petrol and ten boxes of matches. Zaza seems to have difficulty in taking the ball in his stride whilst Calleri seems to have difficulty in not being invisible. Which leaves us for the main part as having Antonio as our main goal threat. With all that in mind I think the best I can plump for in this current form will be a draw. I’ll pop in to Winstones the Turf Accountants on my way to the Swan and Superinjunction (hipster types decidedly NOT welcome) to proffer a betting slip containing the words “1-1 draw” using the £2.50 I was going to help fund that vital research into why so many top class athletes have asthma.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn: Won 2-1 (League December 2015). The proverbial game of two halves. We were poor in the first 45 in which we went 1-0 down. We were the only team in it after the interval, though it took a freak goal from Antonio to level the scores. Carroll converted after Antonio had hit the bar to give us what eventually were a deserved 3 points for the first time in 8 games. An omen?

Referee: Jonathan Moss. Fine referee, much respected by his fellow officials. These are just two things you will never hear said about Moss.

Danger Man: Charlie Austin In good recent form though he may be missing if he tries to pick a fight with the people blocking his way through Westfield.

Percy’s Poser: Last week we asked you which progressive rock luminary was turned down for a professional contract by Accrington Stanley on the grounds that he was too “frail”. The first correct answer out of the digital hat was supplied by Mrs Elizabeth Fibrin-Meshwork of Laindon who knew that it was Jon Anderson, former lead singer of Yes, who failed to make the grade with Stanley. Mrs Fibrin-Meshwork wins a visit to whatever planet Anderson was on when he wrote the lyrics to “Close To The Edge”.

For this week’s poser we go back to a former Southampton manager in the form of Lawrie McMenemy. In the late 1970’s McMenemy was arrested for drink-driving, but we want to know: What was the name of the alcohol-free lager he earned a few extra bob advertising at the time? The first correct answer drawn out of the digital hat will win a lifetime’s supply of the product in question which, as anyone will tell you, will come to one bottle of the stuff, because nobody in their right mind would ever willingly drink a second bottle.

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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