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Leicester City v West Ham United

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

The good news is that 2016 is nearly over. The bad news is that Preview Percy will be back in 2017. Here's his look at the New Year's Eve visit to Leicester. Happy New Year everybody!

Next we make our last away trip of 2016 as we visit Leicester City on New Year’s eve. Kick-off is 3pm which is good. There are tons of engineering works in and out of Liverpool Street to Essex and points East much of which involve replacement buses delivering you to Stansted Airport or Newbury Park so if you’re travelling into London to get the train up to the Midlands allow even more time than you might otherwise have done. And, of course, check before you leave.

So Leicester then. They rode a perfect storm of good form and, when it was most required, luck to take the title last season. They were majorly assisted by the decision of the usual suspect title contenders decided to all take the same season off, leaving Leicester and fellow long shots Spurs to thrash it out between them. Spurs then dramatically and hilariously spontaneously combusted at Stamford Bridge, electing to kick lumps out of Chelsea rather than concentrating on the matter in hand, handing the title to the Foxes on a plate. Fair play to them for taking advantage.

This season of course has been a different matter with them currently lying in 16th place with 17 points from 18 games. Their last outing on Boxing Day was a 2-0 home reverse against Everton, a result that left them only three points clear of Sunderland who currently occupy the uppermost slot in the relegation zone. A lack of consistency is highlighted by their qualification for the so-called Champions League knockout stages. They have been helped by the fact that you only have to turn it on every few weeks in that particular competition, the record 5-0 defeat by Porto coming only after qualification had been secured and featuring a side that contained a lot of youngsters a-la- League Cup.

The big bit of transfer activity in close season was focused on the departure lounge more than anything. The work experience girl wearing the Showaddywaddy t-shirt without knowing who they are tells me that, whatever exchange rate you apply to the €8m Leicester paid to Caen, the £32m received from Chelsea for N’Golo Kante represents a sizeable profit on the player who, as recently as 2013 was playing in the French 3rd Division. Whilst Mahrez and Vardy – of whom more later - were grabbing the headlines last season, seasoned observers gave much credit to Kante for Leicester’s success. Their current form does rather beg a “chicken and egg” question: Is Leicester’s current position a function of Kante’s departure or, did Kante, in an interpretation of whatever the French is for lightning not striking twice, see the follow-up season going the way it has?

The vast majority of that £32m went on striker Islam Slimani (who I will be very disappointed if I hear that he is NOT nicknamed “Fatboy”) who came in from Sporting for £28m. The Algerian striker nodded two goals on his debut against Burnley back in September but has struggled to keep that sort of form up since, netting only two more in the subsequent 9 starts plus two sub appearances. He has picked up one in five so-called Champions League matches but his season hasn’t been helped by a groin strain. A full Algerian international, he averages a goal every other game at full international level and will be one of those missing in January for the African Cuppasoup.

Another who is doing the swallow thing by flying to Africa for winter is Nigerian winger Ahmed Musa. The Nigerian winger cost what, until Fatboy’s signing was a club record £16m, a record that was itself only a few days old having previously been held by the signing of Nampalys Mendy for £13m. Mendy was a former charge of Ranieri down at Monaco and was presumably signed with a view to replacing Kante. Both players have been lauded as “the new Makelele”. That’s a phrase that’s been bandied about so often now that you rather suspect that the old Makelele may have punched the attending doctor at the birth of his kids for using it.

They picked up cover in the ‘keeping department in the form of German custodian Ron-Robert Zieler for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £2.6m. Zieler started as a kid in Cologne and went into goalkeeping because he didn’t have to cover as much ground between the sticks, having gotten fed up with constant calls from the coaching team of “Ron-Robert run”. I expect. This is not the first spell in England for Zieler. He had three years on the books at Old Trafford but his only senior appearances came on loan for Northampton Town. At Moan Utd he shared reserve team duties with what became Burnley’s Tom Heaton but with first XI opportunities limited he elected to go back home, signing for Hannover where he stayed for the next ten years, making over appearances in the process. Since his arrival in the East Midlands he has normally played second fiddle to Kaspar Schmeichel. However he did get an extended run in the first XI a month or two ago when Schmeichel broke his arm, making 9 appearances in the league before Schmeichel returned.

This match will see a return to the starting line-up of the thuggish Robert Huth who has been warned as to his future conduct by the FA so many times the phrase has become even more meaningless than most of the stuff the FA says. Which, as you can imagine, takes some doing. His battles with Andy Carroll should be interesting and, as we have seen in the past, Carroll will need eyes in the back of his head, the cowardly punch from the blind-side being Huth’s stock-in-trade. However, there’s a world of difference between decking a delicate wallflower like Matthew Upson then trying the same thing with someone actually capable of inflicting worse damage back at you like Carroll. One to watch that particular tussle.

They will be missing Jamie Vardy though. Vardy got away with murder at the Boleyn last season but wasn’t so fortunate in the corresponding fixture to this one, picking up a second yellow for one of his trademark dives. He’s suspended following his nasty two-footed lunge at Stoke. He was also in hot water a while back after racially abusing a Japanese gambler in a casino. It was only a year or two after three players had been sacked for racial comments made to some women during a sex-orgy in Thailand. The message seems clear then: if you play for Leicester racial abuse is ok as long as you don’t upset the club owners’ home country.

That’s enough about them. And what of us? Well there was a bit of a kerfuffle when it was suggested that someone called Red Bull (apparently he is the manufacturer of some sugary caffeine-based drink that we’re not allowed to have here in the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered lest we get all shaky) was interested in buying the club. This turned out to be either: a) rubbish; b) correct or c) partially correct but nowhere near the right figure. Then, just to confuse matters, whilst Dave S suggested that the correct answer was c), Dave G said that all of this was news to him and could he phone a friend or ask the audience. Meanwhile, Red himself (I presume) said he had no interest whilst Dave S muttered something about the King of Saudi could have a piece if he liked. In similar vein if TV’s Victoria Coren Mitchell happens to be reading this and fancies a pint in the Swan and Superinjunction sometime…..

Elsewhere our erstwhile manager Mr Allardyce took exception to the Watford mascot diving in front of one of his players and suggested that the FA should look at things. Well that’s all well and good but if the FA are going to (very) belatedly do something about diving could I respectfully suggest that they perhaps start with players, like Zaha maybe, and work their way up to the likes of Harry the bloody Hornet at some later date?

As for us on the pitch, well a 4-1 win abroad is never to be sniffed at of course, even if the opposition is as woeful as Swansea were. And does anyone else feel slightly insulted by the sacking of Bradley? It’s almost as if the Swansea board were saying that losing to West Ham is about as bad as it gets. Surely letting in 5 to Spurs must trump that?! I was pleased for Ayew to finally get off the mark. He had a decent game too, finally played in a suitable position. It was a difficult one to judge really. How much was down to us playing well and how much was down to the abysmal home side is a matter of conjecture I suppose. However, it’s fair to say we never really had to get out of first gear.

Injury news is that Lanzini’s Ribs has turned out to be a medical condition rather than the name of a restaurant. He’s listed as “no return date” as are Tore and Oxford. Collins and Byram are listed as possible availables “slight doubt” being the order of the day. Zaza is similarly listed, though I think I could have saved the usual injury websites the bother on that one . It seems that the stroll in the park on Boxing Day was so simple we didn’t pick up any further injuries.

Ok and so on to the thorny question of a prediction. Despite their indifferent season to date – only 4 wins all term – they will be a different prospect to Swansea. It’s not that long ago that they went 3-0 up in the space of a few minutes before prevailing over (an admittedly stuttering) Man City 4-2 so they can still have their moments and, whilst this season is one where they are finding their true level there are probably enough worse teams in the league to keep them safe. As for us the confidence that was so lacking in recent weeks is slowly beginning to return. I’m therefore going to plump for an entertaining draw. So bring forth the local urchin and have him make haste to Winstone’s The Turf Accountants with instruction to place the £2.50 I was going to place on the identity of the next celebrity to peg it on a 2-2 draw.

Enjoy the game – oh and the boss has instructed me to wish you all a happy new year. But we all know I don’t mean it.

When last we met at the “King Power” Stadium: Drew 2-2 (Premier League April 2016) Leicester took four points out of six off us last season and not one of those points would have been gained but for some diabolical refereeing. In this one Jonathon Moss – the referee that even other referees are embarrassed about – sent off Vardy (second yellow) for diving then, with Leicester losing 2-1 with not long left, Moss decided to even things up, the most embarrassing dive een outside Anfield giving them a penalty and an undeserved point.

Referee: Anthony Taylor Incompetent pompous buffoon.

Danger Man: Shinji Okazaki Tricky Japanese chappy who presents a more subtle threat than that provided by Ratboy Vardy.

Percy’s Poser: Last time out we asked you why an otherwise unremarkable house in Fabian Way, Port Tenant, Swansea made the headlines a couple of years ago? The first correct answer out of the digital hat this week came from Mrs Constance Hypermetropia of Coggeshall who told us: “I believe that that was the house that bore a remarkable resemblance to Adolf Hitler” It was indeed Mrs Hypermetropia. Well done Constance! Unfortunately, following a letter from representatives of Her Majesty The Queen we were unable to provide the proposed prize of a whole swan. Something about ownership apparently. So we will send you half a bottle of White Horse Linament instead – something to keep those creaking joints warm on those cold nights in Coggeshall.

For this week’s poser we ask you: In 1967 the Beatles’ double A side single “Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane” peaked at no.2 in what I still like to refer to as “The Hit Parade”. It was kept off the top slot in the charts by a bloody awful song performed by which Indian-born singer, who spent many of his formative years in Leicester.

The first correct answer out of the digital hat will win a packet of Walker’s Crisps (flavour and “use by” date to be confirmed.

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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