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West Ham United v Middlesbrough

Filed: Friday, 30th September 2016
By: Preview Percy

Whatever it is Preview Percy drinks when he writes these previews, he assures us that he has a "therapeutic use exemption" for it. You may wish to apply for one yourself before reading any further...

Next up we play host to Middlesbrough. It’s a Saturday 3pm kick-off which is just how it should be of course. Travel? Well the bad news is that all the stuff that is going on in and out of Liverpool Street, including replacement buses to Newbury Park, will still be going on. Worse still, if you come in from east of Pitsea on C2C be prepared for diversions and replacement buses between Pitsea and Upminster. If you left the ground early last week you might just wish you had stayed put.

So Boro’ then. They have 5 points from 6 games so far leaving them two points and two places above our good selves. All their points thus far came in the first three games which consisted of a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke, a 2-1 win in the “other” North East derby at Sunderland and the world’s least surprising 0-0 draw at West Brom. Since then they have lost their last three at home to Palace & Spurs (both 1-2) and away at Everton (3-1). They were also knocked out of the League Cup 2-1 at Fulham. So they have a few things to think about then.

Of course this time last year they were in the Championship having been relegated in 2008-09. Their promotion last season, which was achieved by virtue of their finishing in second place on 89 points, four points behind champions Burnley. They were there or thereabouts for most of the season though it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Manager Aitor Karanka is said to have had a bit of a contretemps with club owner Steve Gibson over none other than Stewart Downing. Now Downing’s a bit of a favourite up there, not least with Gibson. However, it seems that Karanka doesn’t share the general enthusiasm for the player that abounds on Teeside.

Things came to a head in March when a frank exchange of views between chairman and manager took place at the club’s training ground. Convention dictates that any disagreement that takes place on a training ground should be referred to as a “bust-up”. At the end of the bust-up it looked as if Karanka would be on his bike as assistant Steve Agnew took charge of the team for the trip to Charlton, a match that they somehow contrived to lose 2-1 against a team destined for relegation with a whimper.

The result may or may not have had something to do with the fact that on the Monday hands were shaken, backs were patted and bygones allowed to be bygones and Karanka returned to lead the team to second place. In a neat spot of predictive processing by the fixture computer (or more likely, by fluke) their last game of the season saw them play Brighton with whom they were level on points, carrying a two goal goal difference advantage. The 1-1 draw thus saw them promoted on goal difference.

According to the work experience girl wearing the Department S t-shirt without knowing who they are, the promotion gave us a bit of a windfall as the Downing deal provided for an add-on payment of a reported £1m to be paid should they get promoted. Hurrah. Whatever Karanka’s misgivings about the player – and with the exception of one or two matches I myself could never quite see what all the fuss was about – that particular hatchet would seem to have been buried as Downing has started all 6 league games this season.

The biggest fee shelled out this summer was the £12m that went out on Dutch midfielder Marten de Roon who is probably known as “Wayne” to his mates. He came in from Atalanta where he had spent just the one season following three years with Heerenveen. Although he got 36 matches under his belt with Atalanta last season It seems the new boss didn’t fancy him and the lure of Middlesbrough’s lights (red, amber , green) proved too great to resist.

Between the sticks they brought in veteran custodian Victor Valdes from our old friends FC Unattached, with whom he had been training since the expiry of his contract with Moan Utd. He spent much of his time at Old Trafford on the naughty step having fallen out with management after refusing to play in a reserve match. The latter part of last season was spent on loan in Belgium which surely counts as cruel and inhuman punishment.

Standard Liege were the beneficiaries before he signed for Boro’ this summer on becoming a free agent. Clearly Belgium must be worse than I thought. Valdes is one of those chaps with two countries on his international appearances list. To his 20 Spanish caps he can add a further 12 for his native Catalonia which, like Scotland and Wales, isn’t a proper country. Unlike Scotland and Wales they don’t have FIFA membership so don’t get to play with the big boys that often.

For once, the work experience girl’s t-shirt this week is, in fact, quite apt given that another £3m (or, if you prefer €5m) went on another “Vic” in the form of Dane Viktor Fischer. Danish Vic’s early days were spent with that club with the typing error for a name that Winston Reid used to play for. However, there is some sort of Danish connection with Ajax, who have sourced many players from that part of the world over the years and Fischer ended up completing his youth career in Amsterdam. He then spent four years in the first XI before Boro’ swooped during the last window. Variously described as an attacking midfielder or a winger he’s now into double figures for Danish caps.

They also pulled in a new right-back in the form of Spaniard Antonio Barragan. This is in fact Barragan’s second spell in England. As an 18-year-old he raised a few eyebrows when Liverpool nicked him from the Seville youth set-up, despite him not having ever played for Southampton as far as anyone could tell. He managed just the one first XI outing for the scousers – in a so-called Champions League qualifier – before returning to Spain where, following shorter stints with Deportivo La Corunna and Valledolid he pitched up at Valencia. He spent 5 years there, a particular highlight coming in scoring in a 2-1 win over Real Madrid that brought a 22 match unbeaten run to a conclusion and wiped that silly smug grin off Christiano Ronaldo’s boat. At 29, and with his last international recognition coming at U21 level 9 years ago, it’s probably fair to say that he’s not going to be bothering the compilers of international tournament sticker albums any time soon.

One of the more notable arrivals was that of Alvaro Negredo who came in on loan from Valencia. Negredo might be remembered for his spell with Man City in which he scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 1st leg win in the League Cup semi-final a couple of years ago. I forget against who. Clearly stunned by having been present during the Gary Neville reign at Valencia someone has persuaded him that Middlesbrough is a good place to be so here he is. He opened his account for the season in the season-opener against Stoke.

They also spent £2m on Cardiff full-back Fabio. He first came to prominence when on Moan Utd’s books alongside his twin brother Rafael. Fabio appears to have been the lesser of the talents in the family, and while his brother is plying his trade in France with Lyon, Fabio ended up at QPR on loan before ending up in Wales. He’s been struggling with a knee injury of late though he’s on the list as being ready for a return this weekend.

Elsewhere it’s been quite a week hasn’t it. Football managers on the take? Who’d have thought it? You’ll be telling me next that (Name of well-known football personality removed for legal reasons) had been known to (nature of accusation removed for legal reasons) with his dog as signatory. As for the former England manager, well the theory goes that as a player during an era when the rewards were so much lower it must be galling to see bog standard players becoming multi-millionaires hence his rather sad chasing of a pound note at every possible opportunity. The reported million pound pay-off is a bit of an insult though – that’s the sort of deal that should get whoever agreed it at the FA put away here in the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered. Only we’re full.

Us? Well last week was a complete and utter shambles. I knew it was going to be a bad day when the rest home’s “Happy Bus” picked us up to go to the match. Our journey was blighted by the appearance of that short bloke who helps run this site on the radio. Like most right-thinking people I wanted to kick in the “Happy Bus” windows when I heard his know-nothing ramblings. Since it was on the BBC I suggested to Matron that she should withhold the Rest Home’s TV licence for this year but she just coughed a bit and changed the subject.

Since then they’ve had a crisis meeting and been out on a bonding session which ended up either with either a quiet night in with some cocoa or like something like the last days of Gomorrah depending on who you care to believe. Frankly if they stop buggering about in defence during matches and start winning games they can stay up as late as they like as far as I’m concerned. Maybe even as late as eleven.

Team news and Nordveidt will be absent, this putting a dent in his quest to play in all eleven positions in as short a time as possible. We are told that his absence will be due to a “small procedure”. The last time I had one of those I (nature of procedure removed for reasons of taste). Apart from that we’ll be pretty much left with the same squad that depressed us so much last weekend, though the injury situation should ease after the break. Unless of course our luck continues on its current trajectory and pick up even more knocks over the coming week or two.

Prediction. Well things were so bad last week that I am tempted to draw on that old phrase “things can only get better”. However, I was then reminded that that particular song got used in the 1997 general election and subsequent events proved how wrong that title could be. Nevertheless, I do have a feeling about this one – and it’s not the result of that small procedure I mentioned earlier. They are on a bit of a streak of their own at the moment and, let’s face it, something has got to start going right for us eventually by the law of averages. So I will be taking the £2.50 we had collected towards Sam Allardyce’s retirement fund here at the Swan And Superinjunction and I will be placing it on a 2-0 home win, once the windows have been repaired on the Happy Bus so I can get down to Winstones The Turf Accountants to place the bet.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn: Drew 1-1 (Championship March 2013). Not much of a game to remember. Faye opened the scoring but we failed to press home the advantage, presumably under instruction not to go forward in case we surrendered the lead. So that we surrendered the lead to an 84th minute drive from Ogbeche. We also endured the statutory turning down of a stonewall penalty. Just to show some things never change.

Referee: Neil Swarbick. When he sent off the wrong player last season one of the papers said that Premier League referees would be “coming under scrutiny” due to their poor performances. Well Daily Telegraph what are you waiting for?

Danger Man: Stewart Downing The law of the ex and all that.

Percy’s Poser: Last week we asked you for the name of the alcohol-free beer advertised by Lawrie McMenemy shortly before his arrest for drink-driving. The first correct answer out of the digital hat was provided by Mrs Ursula Macfisheries of East Tilbury who told us “it was called Barbican and McMenemy’s catchphrase was ‘it’s great mon’. Needless to say, it wasn’t” Mrs Macfisheries wins a lifetime supply of the product.

For this week’s poser we look North East. The fine tv programme Auf Wiedersehen Pet is generally associated with Newcastle but part of series three was actually set in Middlesbrough. Our question is: why did the BBC have to broadcast a disclaimer caption at the end of that series? The first correct answer out of the digital hat will win a genuine can of Middlesbrough Smog (well we’ll give you the empty can and satnav directions to Teeside anyway).

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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