West Ham United v Stoke City

The BBC website is currently carrying a story about an American teacher who claims that he was a teacher for 17 years without ever having learned to read or write. Preview Percy has 7 years to go to catch up then. Here's this week's ramblings which may or may not feature Monday night's visit of Stoke City...

Next we play host to Stoke City. Having had a break from tv games we now face the second of four in a row that will appear live on the box, this one kicking off at 8pm on Monday. No weekend engineering work to worry about then only the usual trials and tribulations of the joys of rush hour travel. And the prospect of having to climb over the walls here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered to get back in after Matron locks all the gates after sundown.

When last we met up at their place they were managed by Mark Hughes and, it's fair to say, the 3-0 win we got up there, if not the final nail in the coffin, was definitely one of the later bits of carpentry that saw his dismissal. After that Hughes tried to be a bit cute in his team selection, resting players for the Chelsea match prior to them playing Newcastle. Which might have been a plan but for the fact that they lost both games - 5-0 to Chelsea and 1-0 to the Geordies. Going down 2-1 to Coventry in the 3rd round of the Cup was enough to see Hughes depart, his arrival at Southampton and subsequent form down there leaving him with every chance of ending the season having helped to relegate two clubs, instead of the more traditional one.

Paul Lambert replaced Hughes, with Quique Sanchez Florez and Martin O'Neill both having allegedly turned down approaches from the club. They did win Lambert's first game in charge 2-0 at home to Huddersfield, but in the subsequent 9 games they have picked up 4 draws and 5 defeats, suggesting that the win against Huddersfield may have been more indicative of the Terriers' form than it was of the Potters.

Tellingly, those four draws came against Watford (0-0), Brighton, Leicester (both 1-1) and Southampton (0-0). Southampton are well in trouble and, whilst safe now, both Brighton and Watford were on the fringes of the drop zone. Only Leicester were really clear and you'd still file them in the folder marked "matches we might get something from". As the old joke goes, if you are being chased by a wild animal you don't have to outrun the animal. You only have to outrun one of your mates. Such zoological analogy sees them in 19th place with 27 points from the 33 played so far. They are six points adrift of Swansea who are currently in the final safe zone spot. After us their run-in comprises Burnley (h), Liverpool (a), Palace (h) and Swansea (a). If you have a few bob to spare I'd invest it in pharmaceuticals if I were you. Prescriptions of blood pressure medications are about to rocket in Staffordshire.

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 informs me that three players arrived in January. A reported ?14m went on Senegalese midfielder Badou Ndiaye, who arrived from Galatasaray on deadline day. It's been a somewhat circuitous route from Senegal to Stoke. The player's first European club was Norwegian outfit Bodo/Glimt. It took a bit of time for the player to adapt to the sub-Arctic conditions up there ("I had only seen snow on tv before") but having done so he won the Norwegian equivalent of the Championship/Division 2's player of the season as Bodo/Glimt (not many clubs with a forward slash in their name) got promotion to the top flight. His experience of cold desolation will no doubt come in quite handy in the Potteries.

The fee paid to in no way dodgy Russian outfit (no nerve agents here please) Rubin Kazan for right back Moritz Bauer was undisclosed. Or ?5m as everyone seems to know. Though Swiss-born he qualifies for Austria through his dad and is therefore a team-mate of Arnie's at international level. Quite an interesting chap by all accounts he speaks five languages, which is five more than Harry Kane, and is a fully qualified pilot which is probably the next thing on the list that Kane will be claiming after that "goal" he never scored last weekend. He can also play the piano, though not quite as well as Harry Kane who regularly appears as a featured soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra according to his official biography. Bauer signed a four and a half year deal when arriving from Russia but the Cessna may well be warming up already in the event that they go down.

The loan signing was a Greek international with the reassuringly Greek name of Kostas Stafylidis. He's primarily a left-back but he can apparently turn himself to more advanced positions down the left hand side. Stafylidis has come in on a deal to the end of the season from Augsburg, having spent much of his career to date in the Bundesliga where his previous employer was Bayer Leverkusen. This isn't the player's first spell on loan in England. He made 38 appearances in the Championship for Fulham in 2015-15. The Cottagers apparently had an option to buy at the end of the season but didn't exercise that option. He has a tattoo on his leg depicting a footballer going into a slide tackle. The tattoo was designed and installed by Harry Kane. Sadly we won't see the player or his artwork this weekend as he is recovering from a rib fracture.

Also missing will be Charlie Adam who is currently suspended as a result of his straight red after a late challenge on Wayne Rooney a couple of weeks back. The spud-faced granny-botherer is expected to say "ouch" as the pain signals reach his brain some time during the early hours of next Tuesday.

There will be a number of absentees due to "internal disciplinary reasons". Ex-Barca midfielder Ibrahim Affelay was told to stay away from the club for the rest of the season foe unspecified reasons. He hasn't played for the Potters since the turn of the new year and you'll get long odds on him ever pulling on a Stoke shirt ever again.

Then there was striker Jese. On loan from PSG he was given compassionate leave to tend for a poorly infant, which is fair enough. He was then due back last week but failed to turn up and the club haven't heard from him since. One hopes that his sprog is ok. On the basis that he is the player will be looking at a hefty fine and probably a P45 on his return.

Then there is Berahino. Remember when Spurs wanted him? For ?20m? Well he has problems with timekeeping and has been banished to train with the kids.It is said that there was a file on Lambert's desk that suggested that the player had a "possible attitude problem". It didn't take Lambert much time to delete the first of those three words.

In amongst those who do turn up for training, another international team-mate of Arnie's, Kevin Wimmer, is struggling to make this one. He is said to be "lacking match fitness" and has only a 50-50 chance of making the squad. Having arrived from Spurs last summer and one can't help but feeling that it would have been more apt for him to have stayed there, what with his surname also being not quite "Winner". (I'm here all week you know).

Enough of them. What about the wild and wacky world of Association Football. In the so-called Champions League we saw a Spanish ref in Manchester doing his damnedest to hand the trophy over to Real Madrid. It was clear from a very early stage in the match that the ref had no intention of letting Man City side progress if he could help it. Amazingly, the presence of Glenn Hoddle in the commentary box meant that the ref was only the second most ignorant person in the ground that night when it came to the laws of the game.

Talking of referees I see Mike Dean altered the outcome of another match at the weekend. You'd think that an organisation such as PGMOL which has supposedly got the protection of refereeing standards amongst its aims might want to have a look at someone who continually and deliberately ignores the laws of the game he is supposed to uphold. Of course you'd need someone more honest than Dean in charge of things. Instead we have Mike Riley.

Elsewhere, Spurs have put in a bid for Harry Kane to take credit for Dixie Dean's record 60 goals for Everton in 1927-28 on the grounds that "the players' names nearly rhyme don't they?"(I might have put in some sort of one liner about Dixie and Mike being related but since Dean is an insult to everyone who has ever played the game honestly I wouldn't wish to sully the good name of Everton's finest).

And as I write this West Brom have just beaten Moan Utd to give the league to Moan City, whose owners have agreed to suspend the torturing of political opponents. For a bit.

And what of us? That was a welcome point then. Yeah we rode our luck a bit at times and Mr Head & Shoulders had to have the sort of game that we have seen all too little of from him this season but, to counter that, we stuck in there and Arnie's hard work to set up Chicharito merited a goal in itself. Good finish too. Ogbonna and Rice were given a torrid time as one might have expected from the embarrassment of riches that constitutes the Chelsea squad. However, they stuck in there and did not look overwhelmed. It must have been particularly pleasing for Rice who was shown the door by Chelsea as a kid.

Talking of youth, it was interesting to hear the Chelsea announcer at half time boasting of how the youth team (dunno what age group) had been unbeaten for something like 3 years. Now given that each year there will be a group of players who cease to qualify for that team for age reasons you'd expect there to be more of them making the breakthrough to the first XI. I guess that's what happen when you have a bottomless pit of cash to play with, you can buy trophies at all levels.

There was one down side to Sunday's match - inevitably we suffered an injury with Cresswell hobbling off after damaging his knee. The full list at the time of writing:

1. Andy Carroll (foot) - There are suggestions that he might actually be available to play some sort of part in this one, which would be a return about a week earlier than previously thought. Rated 50-50.

2. Manuel Lanzini (knee) - Has missed the last two games after picking up a knee injury on international duty. Rated 75% likely to be involved.

3. James Collins (hamstring) - Pretty sure he would have loved a runout against this lot. Rated no better than 75% likely to be involved - like Lanzini he will have a late fitness test.

4. Aaron Cresswell (knee) - Tried to play on with a knee injury at the weekend. Gamely, but /possibly unwisely. However, the extra day off will have helped and he is given a 75% chance of being involved.

5. Michail Antonio (hamstring) - In tears when he hobbled off early on against Southampton. It transpires that this is the same injury that he got last year which never healed. Will have an operation shortly Which will give him a nice long pre-season in which to recover.

6. Pedro Obiang - see you next season

7. Winston Reid - ditto.

8. Sam Byram - ditto.

And so to the thorny question of a prediction. If anyone from Winstone's the turf accountants is reading this could you pop over a few betting slips. Normally one sends the Avram Rest Home's resident Geordie Preview Alastair out to run such errands. However, he's in the sick bay at the moment. I asked the silly sod to pick up a Chinese takeaway on his way back from the Swan & Superinjunction the other night. Unfortunately the daft fool had a nasty trip as he arrived back, which was especially annoying as I had asked for barbecue spare ribs, not broken ones. I know some of you will be concerned so I should point out that everything was ok in the end. I was able to telephone the takeaway and have a replacement meal delivered.

I think that the results since Burnley have boosted the confidence levels as well as the points. On the other hand, Stoke will mention that they have been playing better than their results suggest. Yeah well I'm in a good mood - the sight of a drunken Geordie covered in chow mein is enough to make anyone laugh - so I'm going to plump for a home win. Call it 2-1 Mr Winstone and I'll send Matron over once she has finished Preview Alastair's bed bath.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Olympic: Drew 1-1 (Premier League November 2016)

A game that will live long in the memory of only the most anal of supporters of either side. Antonio's header was credited to Whelan as an o.g. having hit the back of the defender's nut on it's way in, though Harry Kane is putting in a late bid for it. Bojan equalised after Adrian had one of his "moments".

Referee: Michael Oliver

Spotted a two handed push that was right in front of him in the Real Madrid v Juventus match the other night. Missed an even worse push that he was even better placed to see in our home match against Spurs. Some praised him for the Juve decision. For what it's worth it was correct. Just a shame that he allowed Juve to get away with murder throughout the rest of the game.

Danger Man: Peter Crouch

Possibly not the most dangerous of players in their squad and is more likely to be a visitor from the bench. However, this may be the last time we see him and we always loved the "virgin" story (look it up if you don't know) so he gets the accolade for old time's sake.

Percy's Poser:

Last week we asked you for the odd one out from a list of clubs including: Partizan, Woking, Vitesse. Swansea, Huddersfield, Groeningen, Rostov, Forest Green, Hull, Crystal Palace, PSV Eindhoven, Barnsley, Charlton Stoke, Chelsea, Chippenham Town, Birmingham City and Stevenage.
Congratulations to Mrs Sharon Fine-Fare of Flamsted for being the first out of the digital hat to point out that Chelsea were the odd ones out as, of all those clubs, they were the only club not to have had a player on loan from Chelsea this season. A stale bit of the short chubby one's birthday cake is on its way to you.

For this week's preview we ask you: Stoke is famous for its ceramics injury, the most famous exponent of which was possibly Josiah Wedgewood. However, what major problem did Wedgewood have to overcome to get his business off the ground?

A cracked tea mug from the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's dishwasher goes to the first correct answer out of the digital hat.

Good luck everyone!

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