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West Ham United v Crystal Palace

Filed: Thursday, 12th January 2017
By: Preview Percy

So how's your 2017 been so far? Yup ours too. And we have to deal with Preview Percy. It's Palace this week. And we all know what he thinks of Croydon....

Next up we return to league action with Crystal Palace (from Croydon – spit) as the visitors in a 3pm kick off. Lots of engineering work on the lines out of Liverpool Street resulting in a much reduced service to and from Brentwood, Check in advance of departure I’d say.

So Palace then. Based in the London Borough Of Croydon which, as regular readers will be aware, was the source of the ex-Mrs Percy and, like Hitler’s birthplace it should be demolished out of the shame at what it produced.

As every paper, website, blog and town crier seemed to pick up on, 2016 was not the greatest of calendar years for Palace. Shots, goals, points, you name it they had the fewest over the 366 days of that particular year. This led to the Yuletide sacking of Alan Pardew from the managerial hot seat, much to the relief of the kumb lawyers who broke into a cold sweat over what I might write about our erstwhile boss every time we played them.

Pardew was of course replaced by one of his successors at the Boleyn in the form of Sam Allardyce who seems to be billing himself as “former England boss”. I think I nodded off that afternoon. If nothing else the appointment should inspire Slaven Bilic to greater things, if only from the fear that he could end up down there if things don’t work out with us. Palace chairman Steve Parish pointed out that the “expansive” football supposedly played under Pardew had failed and that it was time to “turn back the clock”. Although Parish didn't explain how many decades he had in mind I suspect that he probably didn't have the so-called "team of the eighties" in mind.

As I write this it’s been announced that Allardyce has appointed “former England assistant boss” Sammy Lee as his no.2. When they’ve worked together in the past they’ve been known as Big Sam and Little Sam, though having seen a photo of Lee just now perhaps “Fat Sam” and “Even Fatter Sam” might be more appropriate soubriquets. I’ll leave you to fathom out which should be which.

However, I will say one thing for Allardyce for which we do have to be thankful. Well two if you count the promotion (though I think automatic promotion might have been on the cards with a more progressive manager). The other thing is that Allardyce was the manager who spotted that Winston Reid had the potential to be a decent player.

The Danish Kiwi had played a few games prior to Allardyce’s arrival and had done a more than passable imitation of a rabbit caught in headlights – an away match at West Brom leaps to mind. However Allardyce stuck him in the team at Championship level and stuck with him into the Premier League enabling the defender to prove that he has what it takes to play in the top flight so cheers for that.

So with Pardew able to spend more Christmas time with the family Allardyce took over on 23 December, since when his league results have been a 1-1 draw up at Watford, a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal and a 2-1 home defeat to Swansea. That was followed up by a 0-0 draw in the cup at his former club Bolton. The Watford draw saw some classic post-match Allardyce comments.

Having seen Zaha – a serial offender let us not forget – take one of his perennial tumbles in an attempt to gain a penalty Allardyce’s usual analysis was able to point out the single pixel in which there might have been a bit of contact to justify the acrobatics. Watford’s mascot “Harry the Hornet” was less than convinced and did an impersonation of a dying swan in front of Zaha on the final whistle.

This was something that, according to Allardyce, warranted further investigation by the FA, who, in a rare example of them getting something right, located a nanometre of shrift and stuck it in an envelope addressed “Allardyce, Croydon”. As I said at the time, if the FA do have the resources to actually investigate anything surely they would be better employed in an attempt to eradicate diving from the game? You know, like, by the players?

The next defeat at Arsenal was the one containing the Giroud scorpion kick and we were back on familiar territory with Allardyce’s comment to the effect that their results against the top six wouldn’t be relevant to the club’s future, only the results against those teams in the bottom half. That must have gone down well in Croydon given that their next result involved a 2-1 home defeat to the hitherto hapless Swansea. Those who like to play “Allardyce Bingo” with his post-match musings will have been pleased by the appearance of the old favourite comment about “energy levels”.

The continued poor run leaves them hovering around the fringes of the drop zone, their 16 points from 20 matches leaving them a point above Sunderland who are third from bottom. They have the added complication of a Cup replay to factor in over the next couple of weeks or so as well. Many of their problems can be put down to the fact that they have invested in a long succession of strikers who haven’t scored many goals. There was a spell a while back when they went something like half a season without a striker finding the back of the onion bag. A quick look at the quality of signings is a bit of a giveaway in that regard.

The work experience girl wearing a Captain Sensible t-shirt without knowing who he is tells me that amongst those “hot-shots” who left the club last summer were Emmanuel Adebayor and Marouane Chamakh. Between them they managed 8 goals in 67 league appearances, Chamakh’s 7 in 60 being responsible for the bulk of those. Chamakh at least managed to get himself a new club, albeit in the form of Cardiff. Adebayor on the other hand is a free agent and one suspects that the choice hasn’t entirely been his own. They also lost Dwight Gayle to Newcastle for £10m. He has more goals in the league this season (19) than he has managed in the previous three combined (15) which suggests that the Championship might be his natural level rather than the top flight.

They did bring in Loic Remy, whose stock at Chelsea appears to have dropped so low that he has been transferred to their ever expanding loan squad which is now so large it has been given its own parliamentary constituency. However, in an almost West Ham-esque turn of events, Remy managed to pick up an injury before the ink was dry on the loan contract (unconfirmed reports suggest he banged his knee on the table as he got up from signing the deal) so he has only recently made his debut.

Their striking position hasn’t been helped by the absence of Conor Wickham whose knee ligaments are going to keep him out until next season. This had left them heavily reliant on Christian Benteke who would have scored more than the eight with which he has been credited if he were actually any good with the penalties he insists on taking. Or any good full stop.

Another who has chipped in towards the few goals they have got this term has been the aforementioned Zaha. He will be a big miss for them as he has decided that he isn’t English after all and has now departed to play for the Ivory Coast (his birth country) in the African Cuppasoup despite gaining full international recognition for England in the past. As mentioned Zaha has a bit of a reputation for having a touch of the Tom Daleys about him in the box, “earning” the penalties for Benteke to miss.

There’s a possibility of a slight problem in the goalkeeping department for them. Steve “Nelson” (Probably) Mandanda, who played in the reverse fixture last October, is out until the end of the month having undergone knee surgery. Wayne Hennessy is the logical alternative but he is listed as having a “knock” which, judging by its regular appearance on the injury list websites these days, is now a recognised medical term.

He is shown as being likely to return for this fixture but, if not, they will turn to veteran custodian Julian Speroni who made his 389th appearance for the club in Saturday’s stalemate up at whatever Bolton call their stadium these days. Speroni has been able to spend a bit more time running his Purley restaurant in recent years as the pre-eminence of Hennesy, Mandanda and previously Alex McCarthy (now at Southampton) have meant that he has usually been third choice between the sticks.

So what of the world of football then? Well there’s going to be a 48 team World Cup, something that nobody outside the warped world of FIFA seems to actually want. Other than some third rate (in footballing terms) national federations who wouldn’t qualify for a World Cup in a month of Sundays without the expansion. It is said that FIFA are considering the introduction of penalties for drawn group games to avoid a repeat of the infamous West Germany v Austria “anschluss” match of 1982 that knocked Algeria out of the 1982 World Cup.

Surely an easier way of avoiding that sort of thing is not to invite so many damn teams to the finals in the first place. Actually we at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered are thinking of declaring our independence from the UK in order to enter the tournament ourselves. If only for the comedy value of seeing us bunch of arthritic geriatrics qualify for the finals ahead of Scotland.

And so to us? Well last Friday was unacceptable for a variety of reasons. You’d think that after the last ten years or so we’d be used to crap refereeing decisions wouldn’t you. However, one laughable penalty decision and we threw in the towel. The sad thing was watching Man City supporters trying to justify Zabaleta’s cheating – either it was “clever” or in some cases they decided that pushing the ball one way and going over a leg in another is not the cheating all of us know it is.

Their support used to get a lot of credit for their honesty, unlike their neighbours. Sadly all the money pumped into them by the UAE’s Minister For Torture & Human Rights Abuses has changed them into their neighbours only slightly more local and with blue shirts. Any criticism of Zabaleta touched a nerve amongst a support so whiney in the face of criticism one might almost think one was dealing with scousers. Still no doubt they’ll enjoy the trophies bought. Just a shame it cost them their soul.

Equally unacceptable was the capitulation on our part. The writing was on the wall from the start when we picked a second string. We bought badly in the summer and the signings did nothing to actually strengthen the squad so that when we have had to rely on those squad players they have, by and large, not been up to the job. That’s been bad enough when our reliance has been enforced. However the selection this time was self-inflicted.

I understand there have been a lot of games in a short space of time but I’d say squad rotation is only valid if you have a decent squad to rotate with. And, at present, we haven’t. So ok there’s a lack of ability. Fair enough you can only be the best you can be. However the way the heads went down after Zabaleta’s act of fraud was disgraceful. Can you imagine Bonzo or Dicks retreating into their shell after such an injustice? Of course not – they’d have been wound up by it all and if they were wound up everyone would have been wound up. We still might have shipped five but we would at least have made them work for them – and I suspect Zabaleta might have found out what a real tackle was had he gone near Dicks.

Presumably stuff is happening behind the scenes on the transfer front – all the talk so far has been of the lad at Brentford and Snodgrass – who will have to curb some of his “unsteady on his feet within six feet of an opponent” ways if he wants to step up to us. However worryingly there has been little talk of shoring up our right hand side. Last week Feghouli, having gotten over the shock of being the victim of Dean’s latest turn in the spotlight, looked almost ok going forward. However he didn’t have a clue defensively.

This might not have been so bad with someone who knew what they were doing behind them at right back but unfortunately we have Nordveit there at the moment. I’m not sure what Nordveit’s natural position is supposed to be but the kindest thing I can say about him at right back is that it makes one nostalgic for the days when Antonio had the job. It’s nothing personal – he’s probably a lovely chap but he’s being asked to do something as alien to him as buying a round is to Preview Alastair or as staying on his feet is to Zabaleta. So a new right back please.

Injury news is that Masuaku, Tore and Arbeola (yeah right) are all listed as “no return date”. Collins is listed as available (with a “slight doubt” suffix to his name) whilst Sakho is still “March”. Byram and Oxford both played for the reserves (or development sauad if you insist) earlier this week and, whilst it appears that the manager doesn’t rate Byram, I’d suggest that he must be a better bet than Nordveit whose confidence must be shot to pieces at the moment. Kouyate and Ayew are of course away with their respective Cuppasoup squads.

Sadly it seems that Payet has decided to throw his toys out of the pram and has apparently told Bilic he wants away. Bilic is annoyed and history suggests that once a player has annoyed Bilic it does not end well for the player as everyone from Amalfitano to Zarate would attest. Bilic has left Payet out of the squad for this weekend pending an improvement in the player’s attitude and has said that the player won’t be sold. Amusing though it would be to see Payet turning up for training every week until 2021 without getting selected (a-la Winston Bogarde), the player’s cash value is such that I suspect that the need to improve the team in other areas will take priority. Just don’t sell him to another Premier League side is all I ask.

Payet’s absence might actually be a blessing in disguise. Certainly Lanzini tends to come out of his shell a lot more when Payet isn’t there. And Cresswell can take a decent free-kick but has barely had a look-in on that front over the past year or so.

Prediction? Well as we have seen they have had problems in attack in recent years. To that we can add the fact that their focus will very much be on them not losing games rather than going all out to win them – the change of emphasis being prompted by the change of manager. We on the other hand have struggled to break down organised defences, as evidenced by the last hour of Leicester away when the home side laid out 9 deck chairs in front of goal and sat back while we couldn’t get past them.. Whatever we do we must avoid going behind because once that happens I can’t see us getting an equaliser at the moment.

I think therefore that the £2.50 I was going to pay to buy a Man City fan’s soul (I’d have wanted the change mind) will be placed at Winstones The Turf Accountants on a 0-0 draw. And it’s not often I say that!.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn Drew 2-2 (League April 2016) Delaney put then 1-0 up after an Adrian error. Lanzini and Payet gave the score a more accurate look before Clattenburg dished out a straight red to Kouyate that was every bit as bad as Feghouli’s last week. Gayle equalised after an Ogbonna blunder. Kouyate’s red card was thrown out on appeal – like most of the red cards we receive these days. Wouldn’t it be nice if referees at least tried to do a proper job once in a while.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick – I’m past caring to be honest.

Danger Man: Loic Remy – trying to make up for lost time and apparently looked lively in last weekend’s cup tie.

Percy’s Poser. Last week we asked you “Why is Mike Dean still in a job” Sadly, despite many entries, many of which involved his ownership of photographs of senior FA Officials in compromising positions, nobody was able to come up with a plausible answer. So I suppose we’ll never know.

For this week’s poser we ask: How bad does a dive have to be before a match official applies the laws of the game and caution the offender? The first correct answer out of the digital hat wins a leg of lamb courtesy of Dicks The Master Butchers. At least we hope it was a leg of lamb.

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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