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West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion

Filed: Friday, 10th February 2017
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy on this weekend's visit of West Brom. Warning: contains mentions of illegal substances, fish fingers.......and Babylon Zoo

Next up it’s West Brom at home. 3pm kick off is the order of the day. Trains? Usual rubbish between Liverpool Street and points east. Rail replacement buses and trips to Central Line stations are the order of the day in that part of the world. And to the person who asked on my twitter account (apparently I have one) for travel news from Southeastern I would point out that this isn’t a request show and I am not Tony Blackburn.

So the Throstles then. Or Baggies if you prefer. Whatever. Having not a bad season as it happens. They’re in 8th place on 36 points from their 24 played so far. That’s one place and 5 points above our good selves. Something to aim at then. They’ve won four drawn one and lost one of their last six, the defeat coming in mid-January at White Hart Lane whilst they arguably dropped two points in the 1-1 up at Boro’.

Their latest outing was what you might call “interesting” from a political point of view. They finally managed to off Berahino who had been trying to escape from the Hawthorns since Bruce Forsyth was a lad. After being the first name mentioned in Sky’s increasingly hyperbolic coverage of the transfer windows of the last three years, Berahino finally found a club willing to shell out for his services. Stoke were the ones to enrich the Albion coffers by what the work experience girl wearing a Babylon Zoo t-shirt without knowing who they were tells me was £12m. So far so good.

However, a few weeks after the transfer it suddenly came out that Berahino had served one of those anonymous drugs bans that the authorities dish out for positive results from tests taken outside competition. He’s not the biggest name in football to have served such a ban by the way (*cough hello Liverpool cough*). Stoke thought it odd that a ban that had been kept quiet for months should suddenly become public just before the two clubs were due to play, and the weekend was spent in something of a tense atmosphere, with managers going out of their way to not shake each other’s hand much in the same way as a sane human being might want to avoid Piers Morgan. Pulis, for his part, was keen to let everyone know that Berahino was “not his problem”.

Of course Pulis does have one tiny problem, that being the problem of having to stump up £3.77m to Crystal Palace. The story goes that he was due a bonus of £2m back in 2014 for keeping them up, the proviso being that he would have to remain manager until 31 August that year. All well and good but a few weeks before the bonus was due he popped into the chairman’s office and asked if it would be ok if he got his bonus a few weeks early.

His excuse was that he needed the cash as he was buying some land for his children. And I thought I was lucky if I got a new pair of laces for my football boots as a birthday present when I was a kid. Palace agreed to the early payment but the cheque had barely cleared before Pulis quit – August 14 being the date. Now regular readers will be aware that I tend not to have any sympathy with Palace – anyone who willingly bases themselves in Croydon (the town that spawned the horror that is the former Mrs Percy) usually deserves anything that they get as far as I and most rational sane human beings are concerned. However even I am willing to concede that they might have had a point this time around.

The parties ended up at an arbitration tribunal where the High Court Judge in charge of proceedings was a wee bit scathing about Pulis. He described the aforementioned land transaction as “non-existent”, said that Pulis had “deliberately sought to deceive” and had indulged in “disgraceful conduct”, though it’s not clear whether that particular comment referred to the litigation or to the way he sets his sides up to play football. The final score was that Pulis would have to repay the £2m bonus, plus another £1.77m in damages and costs to Palace. When his own costs are factored in his total bill could approach £6m. Ouch!

Back at Pulis's current club, having finally managed to get rid of Berahino they weren’t too busy in the transfer market during the last window, despite Pulis’s comments to the effect that he was “desperate” to sign new players. There was some irony in the fact that most of the money received from Stoke for Berahino went on Jake Livermore, a player who has had his own problems in the recreational pharmaceutical department in the past. With a career that has included having to spend large amounts of time in Harringay, Hull and now West Bromwich I suppose you would need a little something to blot out one’s surroundings. God alone knows what he would have taken had he been transferred to Palace. The most unbelievable story about Livermore though is the fact that he actually has an England cap. A real one, awarded to him for playing for England and not one that he bought at a sporting memorabilia shop. Which just goes to show that they would probably pick Steven Hawking if he wore a Spurs shirt.

They were looking for cover in central defence where injury had left them short. They missed out on a couple of targets. Schneiderlin went to Everton whilst there was an element of sour grapes in the Birmingham Mail about Fonte whose decision to join us was attributed to the player “clearly [having] designs on living in London”. Perhaps "he clearly had designs on not living in Smethwick" might have been a bit more accurate guys.

In the end they picked up Marc Wilson on loan until the end of the season. Wilson was a former charge of Pulis at Stoke but had not made a league appearance at Bournemouth all season. Wilson caused a little controversy at international level a while back. Born and raised in Lisburn he was capped by both Northern Ireland and the Republic at age level, eventually taking advantage of the Republic’s policy of treating anyone born anywhere on the island as a citizen of the Republic. He was offered the chance to switch allegiance to the north before it was too late at full international level but he threw in his lot with the FAI rather than the IFA with the Popular Front of Judea keeping a close eye on proceedings. Splitters.

Despite the lengthy search for central defenders without designs on living anywhere nice, it may be that the answer to their problems, such as they were, were staring them in the face all along. The move of Craig Dawson from the right side of defence into the centre has earned the player rave reviews and, in the three games since he made the switch, they have conceded just the one goal. Frugal even by the standards of a Pulis-managed team. Shades, perhaps, of the famous Pardew promotion season where the Anton & Elliot combination did so well despite being the last pairing available.

The services of Allan Nyom will also be available to them. Nyom must be having a few mixed feelings at the moment, having decided to not bother with the recent African Cuppasoup despite being called up by Cameroon for whom he has been capped 16 times. Cameroon went on to win the tournament, possibly prompting a Homer Simpson-style “D-oh!” to emanate from the Nyom household as the late winner against Egypt went in. Still never mind Allan – unlike the Euros or World Cup there’ll be another tournament along soon. It would be interesting to hear a good reason why they hold the damn thing every other year rather than every four years but, as with everything to do with the administration of world football I suspect that too much money is being made somewhere for them to change things.

The departure of Berahino (not that he was ever selected in recent times) does leave them a little short up front numerically speaking. Their main man in that role is Venezuelan international striker Salamon Rondon. He’s currently their top scorer with seven this season. However, as we all know, there are dangers in relying on one main striker – particularly when you have to keep them fit.

They did bring in Hal Robson-Kanu at the start of the season. He had his fifteen minute flurry of fame in the Euros last summer whilst actually playing as a free agent, Reading having decided he was surplus to requirements. His exploits as one of the Englishmen who took the Welsh to the semi-finals earned him a contract with the Throstles but he seems to have reverted to his pre-Euro journeyman status. He was given three minutes plus stoppage in last weekend’s victory over Stoke for example which suggested that his usefulness was seen more as a method of running the clock down at 1-0 up than as a goal threat. Which, of course, means he will score against us should he come on.

The other option up front is youngster Jonathan Leko. Leko made some sort of history against us at the back end of last season when he became the first player born in 1999 to play in the Premier League. Just as I was getting used to seeing players born in the 1980s playing as well. I presume by now some toddler born in the year 2000 has made their debut having just moved off rusks and on to those bizarre baby food mixtures (stewed prune and herring anyone?). If they have don’t tell me – I don’t want to know.

Well what’s been happening elsewhere in the world of football. Hasn’t the air turned blue around the Beckham household lately. Apparently a CBE isn’t enough for him. No, he thinks he deserves a knighthood for services to leading England from one tournament disaster to the next. It’d be interesting to hear what he thinks Bobby Moore should have been given for actually winning the thing. The Lordship of a small galaxy perhaps? Thankfully the leaked emails should put paid to Beckham’s ever getting anywhere near such an honour again. Which will go down well with the missus.

Us? Good win on Saturday I thought. Yeah I thought “here we go again” when the somewhat offside Gabbiadini thumped them into the lead. However I barely had a minute to formulate my next moan when the splendid Obiang put through Carroll to level the scores. At which point the cretin who set off a smoke canister joined Piers Morgan and Mike Dean on my list of people I’d like to shake warmly by the throat. I had nearly stopped coughing by the time we took the lead but the walk back to the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered’s Happy Bus must have sounded like an outing from one of those old sanatoriums they used to dump people with tuberculosis in to any passer-by, such was the state of our lungs.

Apart from that the afternoon turned into one of those days when you feel sorry for anyone trying to work out what on earth was going on based purely on the audio. Quite what those of you stuck with the wireless made of the chants of “we love you big tits we do” I shudder to think. But I’m not going to spoil the surprise by telling you.

The only potential dark spot of an otherwise rather satisfactory afternoon was the exit of Andy “goal of the month so up yours Wenger” Carroll slightly earlier than one might have hoped. A slight groin niggle was the cited reason for the premature departure and the player is listed as a “slight doubt” for Saturday. As is Byram whose tight hamstring might be less problematic than was originally thought. The rest of the absentees are the usual suspects of course. I shan’t bother you by going through the list as you’ll be as fed up with reading the same old names as I am with writing them quite frankly.

And so to the thorny question of the prediction. They are a tough team to beat obviously. Pulis sends his teams out with that as a priority obviously. Not everybody will be as accommodating as Southampton were – let’s face it that would be difficult. We’re also a bit Jekyll and Hyde at the moment. However I think that we will have enough of a spring in the step to add the Baggies to the small number of scalps taken at the Olympic. So the £2.50 I was going to put towards the cost of a bra for a certain Southampton supporter will therefore be placed on a home win when I get down to Winstones The Turf Accountants. A narrow win but a win nevertheless. 1-0 to us then.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn: Drew 1-1 (League - November 2015)
A Payet-esque free kick from Zarate gave us the lead in a first half we dominated. A Lambert equaliser in the second period which they dominated squared things up. Right result then.

Referee Michael Oliver Gullible enough to fall for every dive perpetrated by Man City the other week irrespective of level of authenticity.

Danger Man: Salomon Rondon – top scorer. Big chap. Puts himself about a bit. Can be a handful.

Percy’s Poser: Last week we asked you why is Southampton to blame for the bland tastelessness of what food companies like to refer to as “fish fingers”. The first correct answer out of the digital hat came from Mrs Portia Twisted-Flax from Rayleigh who tells us: “when the Birds Eye company first tested out fish fingers they chose the city of Southampton as their testing ground. The original fish fingers were quite tasty being made, as they were, of haddock. As a control to the experiment they tried some made with some rather ordinary cod. The numpties actually preferred this version to the infinitely more preferable haddock version, which is why most fish fingers today have all the taste of an episode of Mrs Brown’s boys” Quite Mrs T-F – to whom a box of our local “Valu-Save Almost Cod Own-label Fish-Style Fingers” is on its way. Well done Portia!

For this week’s poser we see how many of you have been paying attention to this column over the years it has been written. In the past I managed to uncover what may possibly the dullest fact about anywhere ever. So all you have to do is scour back through the archives and answer me this: West Bromwich is the largest town in the United Kingdom not to have its own what? The first prize out of the digital hat will win a Blu-ray box set of Adrian Chiles' greatest tv moments (there may be some delay while they gather together enough to make up a box set).

Good luck everyone!

* Graphics kindly supplied by kickoff.co.uk.

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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