West Ham United v Burnley

Last weekend it was too cold for Preview Percy. This weekend it's too wet. Thankfully the fixture list means we won't whatever the next around to hear him moan about whatever the next few weeks bring us. But before we - and you - take a much-deserved break from his inane ramblings here's his look at this weekend's visit of Burnley. Forecast: light rain and drizzle.....

Next up it's a home game. Remember those? Stratford. The big stadium next to the helter-skelter that everyone loves or hates depending on whether ypu listen to the club or your mates. That's the place. Burnley. 3pm kick-off. Trains? Hey, guess what. Yes, that's right. There are engineering works on the lines out of Liverpool Street through Stratford. Yes, really. I know it really is surprising isn't it. Do the usual and check before you leave there's good chaps and ladies.

So Burney then. They currently reside in 7th place having hit the mythical 40 point mark with last weekend's 2-1 win over Everton. Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that the 40 point mark is slightly less mythical this season than it used to be? It's almost as if the world has finally realised that the 40 point mark is not the true messiah and it is the 37 point mark that we should all be talking about after all. Which makes the fact that we managed to go down with 42 points that season all the more bloody annoying.

Back to Burnley and their exalted position in the top ten owes much to their early season form. Their last 12 matches in the league have brought them just the one win that being last weekend's victory against an Allardyce side clearly instructed to defend their 1-0 lead at Turf Moor, an instruction that left them unable to turn the tables when they found themselves 2-1 down. Sound familiar? Prior to that they had seen defeats and draws all the way since their last-minute 1-0 defeat of Stoke way back in early December.

Last weekend's victory will have pleased Aaron Lennon who, I am reliably informed by work experience kid of as yet to be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises, was their one permanent signing during the last transfer window. It was one of those "sssh undisclosed" transfer fees that everyone agrees was ?1.5m.

His career has been a bit up and down over the past couple of years. His initial departure from Spurs to Everton was on a loan basis at the end of 2015. On returning to Spurs that summer he found himself training with the kids and without a squad number, football's way of sending you to Coventry without making you wear a sky-blue shirt. (Unless of course you are sent to train with the kids at Coventry).

However, his form dipped and even the departure of Roberto Martinez and the arrival of Ronald Koeman didn't improve things. In April 2017 he was detained under the Mental Health Act with observers calling the police expressing concern for his well-being. Everton announced that he was suffering from a stress-related illness. Whether his absence from regular first team football had anything to do with his condition was not revealed but the cumulative effect of it all couldn't have helped him any.

Thankfully, the lad seems to have recovered from whatever personal demons were ailing him for the time being. And being out of favour with Allardyce is probably a plus point in the grand scheme of things, hence the player's arrival at Turf Moor back in January. Still don't think he was worth 21 England caps mind.

In addition to Lennon, Burnley dipped into the loan market to bring in Georges-Kevin N'Koudou from Spurs until the end of the season. An ?11m signing from Marseilles in the summer of 2016, G-KN (as I will call him) failed to make much of an impression at White Hart Lane. A mere 8 league matches in 2016-17 was followed up by just the one this term, a lack of action precipitating his move to Burnley.

On the scoresheet last week was Ashley Barnes who we here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered have in the past poked some light-hearted fun at the player over his international "career". About 10 years ago thanks to an Austrian grandfather he picked up an Austrian U20 cap, coming on for the last 17 minutes plus stoppage of a summer friendly against Switzerland. Since then the international phonelines have been a bit quiet though the player himself has dropped hints from time to time that he is rather keen to represent "Austria or is it Australia, you know the one with all the mountains and no kangaroos".

Oddly the current manager in charge of the Austrian grown-ups has indicated that he is monitoring Barnes who might pick up a friendly this summer if more experienced players decide that that niggly little calf strain is best treated by watching the World Cup from a beach bar somewhere nice and warm.

Barnes' goal against the Tofeemen was his 16th top flight effort for Burnley, making him their all time top scorer in the top flight if you don't count the 104 years before the Premier League existed which, obviously, most sane people do.

Likeliest starter in the custodian slot is Nick Pope who has, by all accounts, performed admirably in the long-term absence of Tom Heaton. Heaton is said to be "getting there" and will be hoping for some game time sooner rather than later given his pre-injury status as an England squad member what with that World Cup thing happening this summer. Especially as that particular position is up for grabs at the moment (eh Joe?). Meanwhile Pope (that's the Burnley 'keeper rather than the Vatican-based religious chap in the white robes) has done well enough this term to earn himself a contract extension, though his abilities at giving blessings to an assembled flock in St Peter's Square have yet to be tested.

Winston's absence through injury (more of which later) means that he will not be facing his international deputy armband-wearer Chris Woods this weekend. Woods was a summer deadline day import from Leeds. It was Woods' header with ten left on the clock that gave Burnley the three points against Everton last week, which had Allardyce bemoaning the fact that if his side had scored more they wouldn't have lost. So that's how it works.

Ok so what of the wild and wacky world of Association Football then. Well thanks Spurs for giving us all a laugh in what has been a trying week in these parts. The Facebook user who posted a photo of the half-time scoreboard in midweek and captioned it "We Are Tottenham" has clearly never learned lesson no.1 of supporting a football club which is "never mock the football Gods". So they only have themselves to blame for the hundreds of full time scoreboard photos they got back captioned "They Are Juventus". As any fule kno, if you happen to be 5-0 up with 30 seconds of stoppage time left then - and only then- are you permitted to cautiously suggest that you might (MIGHT - note) just get a draw out of the game.

Then there's the march. I've deliberately steered clear of commenting on here up to now as a) I've always thought it to be a matter of individual conscience and b) I struggle to believe that anyone would give a monkey's as to what I think on the matter anyway. Suffice to say that irrespective of your viewpoint this week has been somewhat depressing. It's probably for the best that it's not happening this weekend, though it would have been interesting to see someone try and stop Matron from marching - think of a cross between Hattie Jacques, Peggy Mount and Prunella Scales in full Sybil Fawlty mode - only much scarier.

Ok back to football and us. Well that shortcut whereby I only have to press one key to write still works: Unacceptable, Disgraceful, spineless, useless. Again. Ok yes so everything that could go wrong on the injury front did so and that's unfortunate but that's still no excuse for such a dismal performance. We didn't learn our own lessons. How many goals have we let in from backing off players or from set pieces this season. Lots I bet. So much for tightening up the defence then.

And of course there's the overall management of the club that has seen us sell on a defender who, prior to injury, was showing some decent (ish) form. Whereupon we lose loads of defenders. Hindsight is a wonderful thing I guess but the only reason I can think of for selling Fonte would be that he wasn't fit enough for the Premier League and we thought we would make a few bob on the player while we could (though his contract still had another 18 months left). So as it is we will be rushing back a veteran with a hamstring problem to partner a central defender who's been a bit poorly on the grounds that they are the only two fit senior central defenders on the manor. It's almost as if whoever was responsible for transfers had no idea that players could get injured. If that's the case he is at the wrong bloody club.

Talking of injuries it looks like this at the moment

1) Andy Carroll - broken foot - estimated return Arsenal away.

2) James Collins - hamstring strain - rated 50-50 for this whereupon he will last 20 minutes before the damn thing goes ping and rules him out for the season.

3) Angelo Ogbonna - "illness" - rated 75% likely to start though it's not clear whether that's because he is 75% fit or because we have no other options.

4) Winston Reid - knee ligament damage - out for the season sadly.

5) Sam Byram - ankle ligament damage - possibly out for the season as well despite - or maybe because of - lasting to the end at Swansea

6) Pedro Obiang - knee ligaments - out for the season following tackle that the ref decided was in no way dangerous. Shame that the ref isn't sidelined for a similar time.

7) Edmilson Fernandes - ankle - out for season.

To those we can add Arthur Masuaku whose ban still has one game to run I think.

So it's time for a prediction. They will be quite chipper at the moment. We won't be. We will be playing a patched-up defence. They won't be. In the past when we have been on the end of a bad result and come home we have often performed surprisingly well, usually with me having predicted Armageddon. Nice as that would be and lord knows how much I would love to be wrong I can't see that happening again.

So with heavy heart and soul I will be sticking the ?2.50 I was going to spend on a "Geriatric Power" banner to take on the march on a 2-0 away win which is just what we won't want with a 3 week break in fixtures coming up.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Olympic: Won 1-0 (Premier League December 2016

File under "Unconvincing". We had a decent first half and got a penalty as stoppage time ran out. Heaton saved from the usually reliable Noble who made amends by putting the rebound away. They missed a number of good chances in the second half but we hung on to record what was our first win in seven.

Referee: Lee Mason

An inspiration to youngsters up and down the country. "Why so?" I hear you ask. Well imagine you're a struggling schoolkid with no aptitude for any of the subjects forced down your throat. You may feel that there is no future for you. But consider this: Lee Mason is almost certainly thicker than you. He has no aptitude for the job he has to do. And by the end of this season he will have been paid ?100,000. Now just think what you might achieve with a little effort. Owes us after his disgraceful efforts at Southampton this season.

Danger Man: Ashley Barnes

His goal last week was the sort of goal that scares me with what little we have available in defence

Percy's Poser:

Last week we asked why, during WWII, an Australian sergeant particularly ill-advised to start taking the mickey out of a US serviceman for not drinking during a night out on Swansea's notorious Wind Street. The first correct answer out of the hat came from Mrs Sonja Liston of Southchurch who informs us: "The American serviceman stationed in Swansea was a certain Private Rocco Francis Marchegiano. Or, as he later became known, Rocky Marciano. Total number of pro fights 49. Total number of wins 49. Number of knockouts:43. History does not recall the result of Rocky v Gobby Aussie but it is not believed that the bout put a dent in the Brockton Blockbuster's undefeated record"

Thank you Sonja - and well done!

For this week's poser we ask you this: You and I are heartily sick of hearing the word "Brexit" but why are the good people of Burnley mulling over the possibility of something called "Pexit"?

First correct answer out of the digital hat wins an unopened (obviously) packet of Fisherman's Friends personally signed by Sean Dyche.


Good luck everyone!

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