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West Ham United v Stoke City

Filed: Thursday, 3rd November 2016
By: Preview Percy

It's time for Preview Percy's look at this week's visit of Stoke City. Also, for the first time we are pleased to be able to bring you some informative graphics courtesy of the good people at www.kickoff.co.uk. Personally we'd advise skipping Percy's stuff and going straight to the graphics....

Next up we play host to Stoke City at the Stadium we’re not supposed to call the Olympic. Kick-off is 3pm so you’ll be home in time to take the dustbins to see the fireworks. Unless of course you travel by Greater Anglia in which case abandon hope all ye who enter here. The usual engineering works between Liverpool Street and Billericay/Witham will be operating and rail replacement buses will be the order of the day. Roller skates might be a help then.

So. The Potters then. A bit of a rocky start to the season which has stabilised somewhat over the past few weeks just about sums it up. After an opening day draw away at Boro’ they proceeded to lose their next four games – five if you throw in the 2-1 home reverse to Hull in the League Cup. They picked up a point in a 1-1 draw at home to West Brom, and another in an identical result at Old Trafford.

Since then they have won their last three, though one might point out that they haven’t exactly been the most taxing of opponents given that they saw off Sunderland (2-0 at home), Hull (2-0 away) and Swansea (3-1 at home on Monday night). Those three deservedly occupy the bottom three places and even at this stage of the season, it might be worth a trip to your local branch of Winstones (other bookmakers and bets are available etc) to stick the traditional £2.50 on that being the case at the end of the season. So despite our lapse last weekend this will be a slightly harder test for them.

In terms of hard cash it wasn’t a wildly exciting transfer window for them. The work experience girl wearing the Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts t-shirt without knowing who they are tells me that the biggest fee shelled out this season was the £13m given to Liverpool to secure the services of Joe Allen. Allen featured in the Welsh side that got to the Euro semi-finals this summer even though he was actually born in Wales. The work experience girl wearing the Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts t-shirt without knowing who they are reckons that he resembles the footballer that Joan Collins turns into having eaten a particular brand of chocolate bar, largely thanks, she says, to his daft beard.

Whatever ad that is they don’t seem to advertise on the specialist channels I tend to watch so I’m none the wiser. I am also informed that Allen has a keen interest in animal welfare and has a penchant for saving hens whose egg laying days are past them. Now there is a chain of fast food outlets in the North West that goes under the name of “Allen’s Fried Chicken”. Whose colour scheme is (like every other fried chicken outlet in the known universe) Red & White stripes. But I expect that is just coincidence. Or so our lawyers reckon anyway. No doubt Harry Kane is working on something similar on his time off at the moment though I can’t see Kane’s Haringey-Fried Goldfish catching on even in that god forsaken neck of the woods where they save up for a McDonalds for special occasions.

The other main expenditure of the summer was the £5m outlay on young Egyptian winger Ramadan Sobhi. Sobhi came in from Cairo outfit Al Ahly with whom he had a habit of stopping the ball and standing on top of it in a piss-taking exercise a-la-Jimmy Kebbe in sock-mode. At least one of the occasions that Sobhi has performed this trick has resulted in him getting a well-deserved kicking. Every so often a red card is worth it. At the tender age of 19 Sobhi is already a regular in the full Egypt (port) side and is often referred to as the “new Mohamad Aboutrike”. Which apparently is a good thing if you are Egyptian. Incidentally Kebbe is currently a free agent having been kicked out of both Palace and Leeds and failed a trial at Southend. Good.

They also dipped into the loan market, £2m securing them the services of out of favour Man City striker and one-time Irons target Wilfried Bony. Bony took full advantage of the law of the ex to pick up a brace on Monday night, something that may act as a confidence builder for a player who had gone 7 matches without troubling the “goals for” column. However that should be tempered against the fact that, well, it was only Swansea. Bony’s preparations for 2015-16 were thrown into disarray when he picked up Malaria, presumably as the result of a visit to his home continent.

It’s one of the rarer excuses for absence in English football – the only other example that I can think of was our own Samassi Abou(uuuuuuuuu), whose illness prompted a rather inappropriate comment from Harry Redknapp at the time I seem to remember. There may of course have been others but it’s unusual nevertheless, though no doubt had Kieron Dyer hung around the Boleyn for long enough he would probably have picked it up just after his latest hamstring strain had cured itself. Bony speaks a number of European languages, including French, English and Czech. So quite how he communicates when in the Potteries, where the word “duck” is a term of endearment rather than the name of an aquatic fowl that tastes delicious with orange sauce, is anyone’s guess.

The other loan arrival was that or Ronlando Maximillian Martins Indi. Sadly the player is known universally as “Bruno” rather than by either of his official given names. Which is a shame. Anyone who features a name as wonderfully and splendidly over the top as “Maximillian” ought to be made to use it rather than waste it. Of Guinea-Bissauan heritage, he was born in Portugal but the Martins Indis moved to the Netherlands when he was a mere babe in arms and came up through the Feyenoord youth system, making over 100 appearances for the first team before earning himself a transfer down to Porto. Through his parents he qualified for the aforementioned Guinea-Bissau and through birth for Portugal at international level. However, having been raised in the Netherlands he elected to turn out in that fetching shade of orange that they wear and has (traditional joke advance warning) over 30 Dutch caps (pause to take the traditional applause).

The goalkeeping position has been a bit interesting. With Jack Butland being out to probably the end of the month after breaking his ankle on England duty earlier this year, they turned to veteran custodian Shay Given at the start of the season. Given didn’t have an awful lot of luck, as exemplified by his saving of a Leighton Baines spot kick in the match against Everton. Having pushed the ball on to the post he was powerless to do anything as the ball rebounded back onto his noggin and into the net.

The match finished 1-0 to the Toffeemen with “Given (og)” going down in the official stats. Letting in 4 against Palace and, worse still, Spurs saw Mark Hughes electing to ring the changes and in came Lee Grant, who had been picked up on a six-month loan deal at the start of the season to provide cover in Butland’s absence. Clean sheets against Hull and Sunderland counted in his favour (despite the low value of that currency for those two clubs) and he seems to be the no.1 choice at present.

There will be a couple of notable potential absences from the visitors’ squad this weekend. Shaqiri had apparently already been struggling with a knock prior to the Swansea match but was deemed fit enough to start. However, he failed to make it to the interval, and a hamstring going “ping” seems to have ruled him out for Saturday at the time of writing. He’s an odd chap. With over 50 caps for Switzerland he now has the hump with management over their failure to award him the captaincy. Despite representing the Swiss for so long he would also be eligible to play for Kosovo due to the fact that that particular country only recently came into existence in the football-political sense. Indeed, Serbia are still in denial which is why they mess about with World Cup and Euro qualifying draws to keep them apart.

The other notable absence – this one definite – will be that of Marko Arnautovic. Arnautovic picked up his 5th yellow of the season in the Swansea match which, like Winston Reid, will mean that he will watch this one from the naughty step. Like Shaqiri he seems to have some sort of talismanic air about him for the visitors, for whom he was top scorer last season. I was slightly surprised that the number of goals required for him to take this particular gong was so low – he netted 12 in 40 last term. I had it in my head that he had scored a lot more than that, though that’s probably due less to anything of significance regarding the player, and more to do with me not really paying attention. However, he will be missed by the visitors.

Before I do the “Us?” section if I might raise a general point: You know that all-important law change that means that the kick-off no longer has to go forward? Is it just me or does it just look, well, wrong when players simply kick it backwards as they do nowadays?

Us? Well it’s disappointing that after such a fine performance v Chelsea so many players elected to have a stinker on Merseyside. Yes Mr Payet I do mean you, though you were far from alone in that regard. The sad thing is that had we scored some of those good chances early on up at Goodison we’d probably have taken them to the cleaners as it was we pretty much folded in the second half and we could have conceded more. A striker might help in that regard. Sakho might possibly be around for this one though another two weeks is the prognosis for Carroll, which is pretty much what they’ve been saying for the last three or four weeks.

Meanwhile Diego Costa still hasn’t served a suspension whilst Winston Reid joins Aaron Cresswell on the list of players who have, Reid’s rather soft yellow from Anthony “Sod the laws of the game I can’t be sacked anyway” Taylor was his 5th of the season resulting in a week’s holiday, news of which was subsequently followed by that of a hamstring pull that will add another two weeks to his absence. Expect Ginge to deputise then.

I reckon that, Reid apart, the boss will stick pretty much with the XI that started against Everton. There are cases for a number of changes, and at some stage this season I wouldn’t mind seeing young Fletcher getting a bit more game time than the five-minute cameos he’s been getting but if you go back only a few days you can see the potential in that line-up so it’ll be up to them to show that Everton was a one-off.

Prediction? Well on the one hand three wins have moved them out of the danger zone, but on the other hand they will be without (arguably) their two best players. However average we have been this season we are still a class above Hull, Swansea and Sunderland (well two classes above them) so we will hopefully be providing a sterner test than they have had to face of late. So for that reason the £2.50 I was going to send the FA towards any FIFA fine that might come their way if England wear poppies will be going on a Winstones The Turf Accountants betting slip containing the words 2-1 home win.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn: Drew 0-0 (League December 2015) Jack Butland and the Stoke metalwork ensured that the match remained goalless in a match described as “scrappy but entertaining”. The match was notable for marking the first Premier League start for Michael Antonio.

Danger Man: Joe Allen Remains Stoke’s top scorer despite Bony’s brace on Monday.

Referee: Andre Marriner Managed the unique trick of being able to watch Aguero elbow Reid in the face up at Man City without actually seeing it happen. Wenger’s syndrome I believe it’s called.

Percy’s Poser: Last week we asked you: “what did Carl Bishop do in Formby on Merseyside in 2003 that meant he was either very, very, very brave or, more likely, very, very, very stupid?” The answer is that he decided to commit a burglary. Not uncommon up there perhaps, however few are daft enough to try and turn over the home of (current Everton coach but then player) Duncan Ferguson, who took exception to the attempted robbery to the extent that Bishop spent two days in hospital recovering from the encounter! Mrs Persephone Carbohydrate of South Woodham Ferrers was the first name out of the digital hat with the correct answer this week and she wins an Everton Mint. (Just pick the fluff off love – it’ll be fine). Well done Persephone!

This week’s question is short and simple: Just tell us “Whatever Happened to Nick Hancock”? First correct answer out of the digital hat will win a 6 month old oatcake (don’t worry – they’re just as awful as they are when “fresh”). Good luck everyone!

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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