Shrewsbury Town v West Ham United

The FA Cup. Full of romance and tradition, it's the oldest cup competition in the world. So it's quite apt that we have Preview Percy, the oldest preview writer in the world on board. You will probably need to look elsewhere for romance & tradition though....

Next up we take a break from our league travails to travel up the Ms 1,6 and 54 to Shrewsbury Town. Kick-off at the "Montgomery Waters" Meadow is 2.30pm.Trains look ok but there are roadworks at a number of spots on your potential route to the West Midlands so bear that in mind and check before you leave.

Shrewsbury Town then. It's been a while. So long ago that we have both managed to move grounds since our last meeting. Shrewsbury's old manor was the riverside Gay Meadow (stop the sniggering at the back) where, famously, they used to employ a bloke to spend Saturday afternoons sat in a coracle whose main job in life was to row out into the Severn and retrieve any errant footballs that had achieved the stadium's escape velocity. Since then they have moved to one of those new places stationed next door to a retail park type of thing which, though it does have the advantage of not turning into the lost kingdom of Atlantis as happened at the old place every time there was a spit of rain on the Severn, is still a bit of a shame for us old sods who actually like the idea of a club having to park a bloke on the river in an oversized soup bowl to save a few bob on footballs. The stadium holds a hundred or so shy of 10,000 and will be sold out so well done if you have a ticket from the unavoidable but understandably small allocation we have.

It's been a decent first half of the season for them so far. Pundits were tipping them to struggle at the start of the season. Pundits being what they are, the Shrews are currently in 2nd place in League 1 (or "Division 3" as it used to be - and still should be - called) with 54 points. That's two points behind leaders Wigan and 5 points clear of Blackburn, who occupy the uppermost of the dreaded play-off spots. Their progress to this stage of the Cup was gained by reasonably comfortable wins over Aldershot Town (5-0) and Morecambe (2-0). This match therefore represents their third consecutive home tie in the competition.

The chairman/owner is a chap called Roland Wycherley, a name which those of you as old as I am will have done a double take on reading. Had he swapped a couple of letters around and been christened "Ronald" he would have been Billy Fury, a 1960's pop star and old pal of Sir Ringo Starr. He wasn't and so it's a bit pointless my mentioning it really. Sorry.

The match represents a return to Shropshire for Joe Hart who started his career there and, less obviously, for David Moyes who played for the club between 1987-1990. It was there that Moyes first started coaching at local schools, apparently as a way of boosting his lower league salary. Moyes will have slightly less happy memories of the club, having been on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat at Gay Meadow in his very first FA Cup tie as Everton boss back in 2003.

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 is now back in harness and informs me that their top scorer this season is striker Stefan Payne, 8 of whose 10 goals this season have come in the league. At the age of 26 he is now on his 13th club (if you count Sutton United twice thanks to two separate spells down there. Which I do.) The sequence goes: Croydon (spit), Sutton United, Fulham, Gillingham, Braintree (loan), Aldershot, Sutton United, Macclesfield, Ebbsfleet, AFC Hornchurch, Dover Athletic, Barnsley and Shrewsbury. Payne originally arrived at Shrewsbury on loan from Barnsley last season, with the deal being made permanent during the summer. Well as permanent as it can get for someone who has had 13 clubs in 8 years anyway. Here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered we are always pleased to encounter a player who has been capped at "C" level for England so we are delighted to say that the player has a single cap at "non-league" level, that being gained a couple of years ago. The C-Team only play 3 or 4 matches a year so caps aren't easy to come by.

Payne has been assisted in his efforts by 30 year-old Shaun Whalley. Whalley has 8 this term, 4 of which have been in the league. Nominally a winger, Whalley can also act in support of a main striker and his effort on New Year's Day was enough to dispatch Oldham in their last outing.

Like us, they will have a change between the sticks. Their usual first-choice custodian is Dean Henderson. He's on loan from Moan United who, having spent Christmas watching one of the 347 versions of "A Christmas Carol" that the tv companies feel passes for proper entertainment over the festive period, have come over all Scrooge and refused permission for the player to appear in the cup. He'll be replaced by Craig McGillivray who arrived from Walsall on a free during the summer. McGillivray has made two league appearances this season, his other 6 outings having come in the cups. On a one-year contract he will presumably be trying to earn himself an extension.

They will have one loan signing available in the form of Derby left-back Max Lowe who arrived just the other day. Lowe has come in following a cruciate ligament injury to Junior Brown who usually occupies that slot. That injury ended Brown's season back in October and they have been making do with Omar Beckles on that side. However, the arrival of Lowe will give a bit more peace of mind on that side given that Beckles' normal territory is in the centre of defence. Still it doesn't seem to have done them too much harm, especially at home where boss Paul Hurst has them so well-organised they have conceded a mere four goals all season - a record as good as any in the top 4 decisions.

Beckles has an interesting history having spent time in Spain playing for an outfit called Jerez Industrial, a lower league team that were connected to the Glenn Hoddle academy. The agreement between the academy and the club was terminated midway through Beckles' time out there - presumably the good people of Jerez got fed up with having listen to Hoddle spouting the bleedin' obvious in the dullest manner possible. The Leytonstone-born defender and Hammers fan pottered about the non-league scene (including a spell with AFC Hornchurch) for a few years before breaking through to the League with Accrington Stanley, for whom he played against us in the League Cup. He signed for Shrewsbury last summer.

And so to us. Listening to Spurs supporters whining all the way home on the train from Wembley was one of the genuinely funniest things I have heard in a long time. Apparently a squad missing 9 players were supposed to roll over. Even Mike Dean - without whom they'd have lost 1-0 - came in for stick for not giving penalties. When someone pointed out that to allow the so-called "penaltes" would have required the repeal of the offside law (Note Bobby Madley it still exists despite your single-handed attempts to have it outlawed) one of the Spurs intelligentsia announced to a packed Metropolitan Line train that "penalties overrule the offside rule (sic) - everyone knows that". Even for a Spurs supporter that's dim. It does make you wonder whether PGMOL spends a lot of time recruiting from the ranks of the Spurs support. It's hard to imagine that there are two groups with such stupidity amongst their number - but there you go; the evidence is all there to see. And the next time you hear a whiny Spurs supporter mention the words "park the bus" you might well remind them that it was Jose Mourinho who popularised that saying - after watching Spurs play at Chelsea.

The youngster Rice was outstanding alongside Ogbonna - despite the obvious difficulty that he must have had running around with Harry Kane in his pocket. Another thing you might want to mention to Spurs supporters who now seem to think that things are awarded for calendar years rather than for seasons - Andy Carroll now has more goals than Kane this calendar year.

The one miserable point of the evening (apart from getting drenched on the way home) was the form of Hernandez. Now I don't think anyone considers him to be a lone striker but needs must when the devil vomits in your kettle as they say and, having been selected, Chicharito really ought to have held the ball up better than he did. It was notable that the much-maligned Ayew kept possession so much better and it was no coincidence that our goal came as a result of some hard work from the Ghanaian. As for Obiang's strike - yeah not bad.

I can almost hear the hand-wringing over team selection for this. Let's start with the injuries. We have Fonte, Fernandez and Byram who have been out forever. Arnautovic's hamstring is unlikely to be risked - and rightly so. Reece Oxford had originally been pencilled in for some involvement following his return from Monchengladbach but a sprained ankle might put paid to that. Similarly, this might just be a week too soon for Cresswell, whose back went into spasm in the win over West Brom. Sakho has a cyst on his knee - though frankly if we ever see him play in a West Ham shirt I will be very surprised. Ginge is out, which leaves Antonio, who faces a late fitness test on his groin. That makes 9 if you include Antonio.

That pretty much leaves us with the squad who went to Wembley the other night. The bench included Haskabanovic, Martinez, Quina and Makasi and it would be no surprise to see one or more of them starting this one. There are also a number of other youngsters travelling to the Midlands this weekend. That wouldn't be disrespectful of our opponents, more a raise of a single digit in the general direction of the tv companies and authorities that saw us play twice in 48 hours during the week. God knows the two late nights put paid to my doing anything useful on Friday - though Southeastern Railway's idea of using rail replacement buses that don't actually exist and hiding their staff at key stations also contributed to the late night. And think - I was knackered only watching the two games. The players must be feeling slightly exhausted one would have thought.

So to the thorny question of the prediction. Difficult one. They are in decent form and, of course, our traditional frailty against opposition from the lower leagues is the reason that the tv companies broke the habit of generations and picked us out for tv coverage rather than Man Utd. The three games in ten minutes thing will be a great leveller (a phrase that the law demands I include in any preview about the Cup). I will counter that with the hope that the team will contain enough players who have been involved in the better recent results to be able to transmit the improved confidence on to those who weren't involved.

So, in the spirit of new year's optimism, the ?2.50 I was going to spend on a dictionary to present to Southeastern Railway so they can look up the meaning of the words "Rail Replacement Bus" will be going on us to win a tight game 2-1 when I get down to Winstones the Turf Accountants. But don't be surprised if a replay is required.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We met at their place: Won 2-0 (February 1981 Football League Div 2)

Parkes, Stewart, Lampard (snr), Martin, Bonds, Brooking, Devonshire, Neighbour, Pike, Cross, Goddard. Not a bad team that. Cross & Devonshire were on target as we ran away with the league.

Referee: Paul Tierney

Did the 0-0 draw up at the Hawthorns earlier this season. Prior to that achieved notoriety for doing nothing about the continued and prolonged series of assaults on Payet against Everton that ended up with the player missing 3 months through injury.

Danger Man: Stefan Payne

We'll prompt for the top scorer this time round. He'll be up for it.

Percy's Poser

Last time out we asked you "Why does the Spurs badge feature a pigeon standing on a beach ball". Congratulations to Mrs Ada Glenryck-Pilchard who was first out of the digital hat with the only possible correct answer which was "who cares". Mrs Glenryck-Pilchard wins all the lasagne she can eat.

For this week's poser we ask you what connects Shrewsbury (the town) with Neasden FC. First correct answer out of the digital hat wins some leftover lasagne, generously donated by Mrs Glenryck-Pilchard.

Good luck everyone!

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