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West Bromwich Albion v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 15th September 2017
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy was seen to break into a smile this afternoon on hearing of Essex's County Championship win. Sadly he had prepared his look at this weekend's visit to West Bromwich Albion before receiving that particular piece of news......

And for our next trick we are back on the road where we make a schlep up the M1 & M6 or, should you prefer, the M40, whatever is the more convenient for you, I’m easy either way, where we will be hosted by West Bromwich Albion. Kick off is 3pm Saturday. Hallelujah.

Although there were no engineering works planned for the West Coast Main Line out of Euston, a fire next to the line has caused no end of aggro over the last 24 hours or so, so be prepared if that’s your chosen route. Also, coming into London you may find Greater Anglia and TfL services into Liverpool Street messed about by engineering works. They usually are. Check as ever before you leave.

So the club that were known as West Bromwich Strollers when I was a lad (much better name) became one of the ever–increasing number of clubs owned by Chinese interests in the summer of 2016. One can only presume that owner Guochuan Lai hasn’t been shown a DVD of the infamous documentary made of their 1970’s tour to his home country. Professional footballers have gained a not entirely undeserved reputation for not being the sharpest tools in the box. Back then, when anyone who had scraped so much as a single O-level in woodwork was given the nickname “Prof” that reputation was even more deserved than it is now and, let’s just say the documentary did little to dispel that reputation, no matter how “ironic” certain players now claim to have been.

It’s been a mixed start to the season so far for the “Gentlemen In Ill-Fitting Trousers” (as “Baggies” was alleged to have been translated into Chinese on welcome banners during the aforementioned trip). They opened up with a brace of 1-0 wins, at home to Bournemouth and away at Burnley. This was followed up with a 1-1 home draw with Stoke in the “Berahino grudge derby” as nobody is calling it. Last weekend saw them go down to their first defeat, a 3-1 reverse at the hands of that other Albion, those of Brighton and Hove.

Letting in three goals is not something that will have pleased their ever-likeable (not) manager Tony Pulis. Thanks to his little financial spat with Crystal Palace I can quite legally refer to Pulis as “dishonest” without fear of getting earache from the Kumb lawyers who butcher this column every week and take out all the really good stuff. You will recall that Pulis asked for and got his bonus from Palace a few days earlier than it was due, ostensibly so that he could buy some land for his daughters. No sooner had the cheque cleared than he was off. And he’d have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that pesky judge who made him pay back the full £2m plus another £1.7m on top for “fraudulent misrepresentation”. His legal fees would have been a bit tasty too I’d guess. Shame.

The work-experience kid of as yet-to-be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises tells me that Pulis brought in six players on permanent deals this summer. Striker Zhang Yuning came in for an undisclosed fee from Vitesse. Thoughts that the player’s arrival (3 goals in 24 league matches for the Arnhem side last term) might have had more to do with the nationality of the Throstles’ owners were not exactly dispelled by the announcement a nano-second after his transfer that the player had been loaned to Werder Bremen.

Staying slightly longer than his fellow striker did is the exotically-named Lancastrian Jay Rodriguez who arrived for an undisclosed (£12m) fee from Southampton. Rodriguez made his name at home-town club Burnley before earning a £7m move to Southampton. However, his time on the south coast was blighted by injury and the anterior cruciate knee ligament injury that kept him out of the team for the whole of 2014-15 did him few favours. He never quite got back to within sniffing distance of being first choice on the team list and so the move to the Midlands represents an attempt at a fresh start for the player.

Another undisclosed fee (£1m) went on veteran midfielder and the Premier League’s most-cautioned player Gareth Barry. He’s arrived on a one year deal reflecting his age (36). Barry has 53 England caps. Fifty-three!!! Blimey. Proof, if proof were needed that the “X-Factorisation” of the England football team is not a recent phenomenon. Yes I do mean you Henderson.

One of the more interesting deals of the summer was the transfer that saw winger Oliver Burke return to the UK, £15m being enough to secure his move from Red Bull Leipzig. Burke has been capped five times at full level by the Sweaties, though he has been selected for the U21 squad in more recent times. Although born north of the border he was brought up in Melton Mowbray where he managed to avoid over-sampling of the local food product to the extent that he attracted attention from Forest. With whom he made his name. He became the most expensive Scotsman of all time when making the rather surprising switch to Leipzig for £13m. He scored just the once in 25 league appearances out there with most of those appearances coming off the bench, With things not quite working out as expected in Germany the Baggies stepped in in the summer with the fee breaking his own Scotsman record.

One of the funnier transfers of the summer was the move of Kieran Gibbs from Arsenal. The player was originally on the market for 15m, a figure that had clubs ringing up to ask whether Arsenal were aware that the Zimbabwean Dollar was no longer in existence as a functioning currency. It is said that several agents laughed so much they had to be hospitalised when the club confirmed it was sterling that they had in mind. Both Watford and West Brom made bids and, for a while with Gibbs reported £60,000 a week wages allegedly proving to be a sticking point, it looked for all the world as if Arsenal were holding out for the lowest offer. Eventually Gibbs went to the Midlands for a fee believed to be £6.75m – less than half the original sticker price. Maybe if West Brom had kept their nerve just a little longer Arsenal might have paid them to take the player off their hands “you’ll have to collect mind – we don’t deliver”.

Talking of daft fees one player who didn’t move was defender Johnny Evans who was the subject of a reported 18m bid from Man City. Yes sterling. I mean solid enough player and all that but £18m? Man City were prepared to go higher but the failure of one of their fringe players to move to Palace for £20m+ scuppered the move.

Then there was the late arrival on loan of Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak on loan from PSG. You will recall that in the transfer window just gone there was a statement to the effect that Krychowiak, along with Renato Sanches, had been offered to our manager who had turned the players down. You can just imagine the conversation:

Sullivan: Who do you want to buy
Bilic: Carvalho
Sullivan: OK

(A few days later when Sullivan had seen Carvalho’s sticker price)

Sullivan: Who was that player you wanted again?
Bilic: Carvalho:
Sullivan: I can get you Sanches and Krychowiak. On loan.
Bilic: Carvalho
Sullivan: They‘re cheap…
Bilic: Carvalho

And so on.

Talking of us, well that was better wasn’t it? Maybe it takes four away trips on the trot to make the place feel like home but for whatever reason we were much improved. Carroll’s shot across the face of goal in the first minute was more than we had shown in the whole of the previous 90 (what seems like) all those years ago up in Geordieland. We have to work on the finishing though.

Huddersfield got a lot of 1-0 wins last season and it wouldn’t have surprised me had they sat back and pinched them late on. I found them rather disappointing for a team that had supposedly had a bright start. The nadir of this was the point in the first half – the first half mind – where they won a free-kick in our half. Half the team went up for it whereupon the taker turned around and played it back into his centre back who was sitting 20 yards into his own half. Still I suppose that we should be grateful they didn’t go the whole 1970’s Liverpool and give it to the ‘keeper.

Obiang’s goal when it came did have a huge slice of luck of course but here again we had any number of efforts where goal-bound deflections went safely for a corner when they could have gone anywhere so I’ll take that one. And it’s hardly our fault if a defender chooses to break golden defensive rule no.1 by turning his back, is it? Carroll’s return was more than welcome. Was it me or has he lost a bit of weight? Either way, the visitors had no idea how to handle him. He got about one in three of the decisions from the officials that were due his way, the daftest one being when he was penalised for having a defender’s arms around his neck.

In truth there were good performances all over the pitch and, if any of the rumours about the manager’s job being at risk have even homeopathic levels of truth about them, Mr Bilic could have no complaints about the efforts expended by his team on Monday night.

As is my wont I decided to read the BBC’s review online on the way home. This involved reading the “wisdom” of Jermain Jenas. Jermain bloody Jenas. I know his Spurs connections mean that he is likely to be thicker than your average player but for some unknown reason he seems to have a chip on his shoulder about us. Earlier this season he took great delight in saying that Mark Noble should have been sent off against Southampton whilst totally ignoring the elbow on Arnautovic that led to the incident, Rather suspiciously he was also quite happy to ignore the red card challenge by Tadic on Hernandez which the BBC had conveniently edited out as it didn’t fit the agenda. Now given Huddersfield was a match that even the visiting manager conceded came in with the right result, do you think the plastic-faced narcissistic oxygen thief could bring himself to concede that we might just have been the better team? Nah. Not a hope. “I’d be worried if I were a West Ham supporter” he opined. Don’t worry Jenas. You have no chance of developing the balls. In the past Jenas stole a living as a professional footballer claiming that he would have been 10-20% better a player but for injury. So that would have made him a 1% player then, The 21 caps he nicked for England now make Barry’s 53 all the more believable and, having somehow earned a living from football despite little discernible taleny, he has now moved on to sponging off the licence fee, which of course we all pay religiously, to shoehorn his pre-judgements into commentary. He is so awful that he makes Carragher look knowledgeable. Yup, that bad.

Injury news is that we are down to three on the official list. Noble (knee) and Frenandes (ankle) are bith listed as being a “slight doubt” whilst this weekend is probably a bit early for Lanzini. Arnautovic will also be available for selection after his suspension for “using the elbow whilst not in a Southampton shirt”.

Ok prediction time. It’s easy to get carried away by three points and a half-decent performance and start making wild predictions but, having been watching us for many a year now I tend to err on the side of caution. West Brom won’t be as disappointing as Huddersfield and will probably line up with a bit more ambition than playing 70-yard back-passes. For that reason I will be placing the £2.50 I was going to place in the Tony Pulis “spare some cash for a cuppa guv” pot on a draw when I get to Winstone the Turf Accountant’s place of business.. 1-1 this weekend I think.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Hawthorns: Lost 4-2 (League September 2016)

Well we won the second half 2-1 I suppose. Antonio and a Lanzini penalty within a few minutes of each-other gave us a wee bit of hope Unfortunately by the time we scored we had already shipped four. Which was not so nice. 70% possession in our favour just shows what a meaningless stat that can be.

Referee: Paul Tierney

Last time we saw him, his inaction resulted in Payet getting a continued kicking by Everton, culminating in an absolute disgrace of a challenge from McCarthy that resulted in Payet missing three months. It was one of a dozen challenges that day that didn’t get the punishment they deserved. So they promoted Tierney to the select group. Obviously.

Danger Man: Nacer Chadli

Was the inspiration for the Baggies behind last season’s win – though there is a slight fitness doubt about him.

Percy’s Poser:

Last time out we asked you who was the better Star Trek Captain: Kirk or Picard. Our first prize of a Klingon dictionary goes to Mrs Ada Metatarsal of Holland-On-Sea whose answer of “I don’t care as I am not a sad anorak with no life” was the first correct answer out of the digital hat.

For this week’s poser we keep it rather simple as we ask you: “What, exactly, is Jermain Jenas’s problem?” The correct answer out of the digital hat will win a Crackerjack (“Crack-er-jack!”) pencil. Please note, for obvious reasons this week’s competition is not open to any members of the psychiatric profession.

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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