Newcastle United v West Ham United

This week we're spoiling you as Preview Percy brings you mention of not one but TWO footballers who aren't quite as dead as some people think. And maybe if there's time something about this weekend's trip to Newcastle...

Next up Newcastle away. Kick-off is 3pm on Saturday. You are advised that Sherpa guides will be assembling outside turnstiles 91-94 at 2pm for the ascent to foothills of the away section. However oxygen will not be provided and those of you prone to altitude sickness are advised to take suitable precautions and, possibly, one of those St Bernard dogs, though you will have to try and convince the local constabulary that the little barrel round the mutt's neck hasn't got a restorative brandy in it.

You'll be pleased to know that Stratford is clear of all the engineering work that messed everyone up so much last weekend. What a shame we are not at home then. Although trains are running twixt Kings Cross & Newcastle they are on a bit of a diversion, adding about an hour to 90 minutes to the journey. If you ever wanted to see Lincoln from a slow-moving train now's your chance. Me? I've been there so I spend the train journey emptying the St Bernard's barrel to evade confiscation on arrival at St James' Park.

So the Geordies then. Current position (after Monday night) 13th place with 12 points from the 13 played thus far. That's a place above us on goal difference following Monday's defeat of Burnley, a match that they dominated for long spells - yet still nearly came unstuck in stoppage time as a last-second header went wide. The match featured an extraordinary miss from Matt Ritchie from a few feet out that I was, at first convinced I'd gone in. In fact so convinced was I of the fact that Ritchie had made it 1-3 that I went to the kitchen to top up my restorative brandy (for medicinal purposes only of course) whilst the no doubt interminable goal celebrations went on for a bit. So I was confused as hell (no change there then - ed) by the fact that the score thing in the top left hand corner of my tv set still said 1-2 when I returned to my viewing position.

Regular readers will remember that one of my fellow resident/inmates here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered is my Geordie acquaintance Preview Alastair. I say Geordie, his insistence that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley's High Wycombe origins makes him a cockney means that I will have to start calling Preview Alastair a Mackem, his Gosforth birthplace being a lot closer to Sunderland (15.5miles) than High Wycombe is to London (32.3 miles).

Ashley has been all over the financial pages of late, his purchase of House Of Fraser being likely to take that formerly respected chain even further downmarket than before. It's now getting to the stage that one is running out of stores that one can safely visit without encountering the lower orders whilst browsing for a new ivory back-scratcher.

Every irony alarm in the world went off the other week when Ashley demanded an audience with Members of Parliament after the recent budget to ask why nothing had been done to help High Street retailers. This was the same Mike Ashley who had refused to attend a Parliamentary select committee a few years ago when they asked to have a word about working practices at the Tottenham and Millwall fans' tailor of choice, Sports Direct.

The dislike for Ashley amongst the club's support these days contrasts sharply with his initial honeymoon period with the fans when he bought the club - Ashley was frequently to be seen watching matches from the stands with supporters and, on one famous occasion, was caught necking a pint away at Arsenal. His original claim that the pint was non-alcoholic was quickly disproved by Arsenal who pointed out that they did not sell non-alcoholic beer. Mind you, as anyone who had had a drink there will attest, they come bloody close. In the meantime, as we while away our twilight years here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered, Ashley is often the subject of some light-hearted debate as to whose club has the worst owners, a debate that I usually win by pointing out that we have two of them and their employee to contend with at our place.

Daisy, the work experience girl with the beautiful smile, informs me that five players arrived on Tyneside over the summer, though one of those was really already there. The already there person was 'keeper Martin Dubravka who actually arrived on the closing day of the January 2018 window on a loan deal from Sparta Prague. The loan had an option to buy clause and his spell at SJP was successful enough for about ?4m give or take a few decimal points on the exchange rate to end up in Prague in exchange for his services on a permanent basis.

Dubravka was involved in an incident last month that led to the resignation of Slovakian manager Jan Kozak, who older readers will remember being played on the box some memorably by Telly Savalas (wardrobe by Botany 500). Along with five others Dubravka went walkabout from the hotel after the UEFA "What's This In Aid Of " league defeat to the Czech Republic and missed the official team bedtime. Kozak pointed out that the six players who, presumably, weren't spending time at local art galleries, represented the core of his team and that he couldn't be expected to do his job with so many of his team out on the lash. Dubravka, for his part, was fairly contrite pointing out that he had felt the need to go out that night due to "difficulties at Newcastle United". By staggering coincidence that is precisely the excuse that Preview Alastair uses every time he fancies a few liveners.

They nipped down to Wales to pick up midfielder Ki Sung-yueng from relegated Swansea on a free. Back in 2001 he was enrolled at an Australian college to take part in something called the Brain Soccer Program. Rather disappointingly this doesn't involve using human brains for a kickabout - let's face it they'd have trouble finding enough for a Brain Cricket Program in Tottenham let alone something big enough to play football with. In typical "Trigger" style, whilst in Oz he was known as "Dave". It would of course be totally mischievous of me to mention that he played a significant role in keeping Sunderland up in 2013-14 during a loan spell there. So I will. He has three figures in full international caps for South Korea

The biggest fee of the summer was the ?9.5m paid to Mainz for Japanese striker Yoshinori Muto. He has one goal in 7 at the moment but he has been out since the start of the month with a calf problem. This rates him at 50-50 to take some part on Saturday. He's a full international for the men from the Land of the Rising Sun (which is also a pub team I once turned out for as a favour to a mate) though two in 25 appearances at that level suggests that the translation of "Muto" may not be "prolific".

If you wanted to make up a name for "Roy Of The Rovers" for a South American or Spanish player, Frederico Fernandez is the sort of name you would make up if you were being lazy. Fernandez was the second arrival to cross the Severn Bridge (assuming that he came by car and wanted to stick to motorways) from Swansea this summer though Newcastle did pay a fee for this one - the ?6m fee quadrupling the size of the Welsh economy in an instant. Although born in the Argentinian town of Tres Algarrobos (note to Daisy - are you sure you aren't getting these off "Roy Of The Rovers"?) as with many players from that part of the world he can lay claim to a granddad from Italy, thus making him employable in this country as an EU citizen, For the time being. Although a full international for Argentina it's been four years since his last appearance in the blue & white stripes, suggesting that it would possibly be unwise for him to consider spending the income from the image rights from the Qatar 2022 sticker album just yet.

In addition to the five permanent signings, they also brought in Salomon Rondon on a season loan from West Brom, with Dwight Gale going in the opposite direction on the same terms. Rondon's main claim to fame is that he was the first Venezuelan to score at Wembley in a 1-1 draw against Spurs last season. I'm guessing that the list of Venezuelans to have played at Wembley is on a par with the number of Spurs fans capable of tying their own shoelaces without help from Mummy but I suppose it's a nice stat to tell the grandkids.

Oddly, according to Daisy the work experience girl with the beautiful smile, the Wikipedia entry for Swiss midfielder Fabian Schar shows him as being a 42 year old who actually passed away in 2015, when, having apparently been born in 1975, he would have been 40. Neither his age nor his demise seem to have hindered his career too much - many of his 46 Swiss caps have come since his "passing" and the straight line on his monitor didn't put off Hoffenheim or latterly Deportivo La Coruna signing the player. He arrived at Newcastle this summer with the Magpies having activated a ?3m buyout clause in his contract, the salary negotiations presumably involving dodgy scouse "medium" Derek Acorah (ne Johnson) and a Ouija board. He's appeared 5 times in a Newcastle shirt this season - four of those in the league, but he was in the starting XI against Burnley the other night. Of course, there are all sorts of jokes one could make about a lack of pace or presence or about him "ghosting" into midfield but I expect someone will have amended his Wikipedia entry by the time this appears so the gag won't be quite as relevant.

Amazingly, Schar is not the only player the reports of whose death this week were an exaggeration. Over in Ireland a chap called Fernando Nuno La-Fuente (either another Roy of the Rovers name or perhaps one of the Co. Longford La-Fuentes ) was a bit miffed to find out that his death had been announced by his club Ballybreck who subsequently postponed a Leinster Senior League match against Arklow Town. Cue lots of teams holding a minute's silence. It subsequently transpired that the poor bloke was alive and well and had actually gone back to Spain a few weeks ago. The announcement was attributed to a club official who was going through a number of "personal difficulties" one of which, presumably, was being unable to tell the difference between "being dead" and "being in Spain". The best word on the whole sorry affair came from the player himself who admitted: "I find it all quite funny because, basically, I'm not dead".

And so to us. Well last weekend was a bit depressing. I mean yeah it's Man City and all that and the "anything would be a bonus" approach is realistic I suppose. However, there were occasions in both halves where we got at them, harried a bit and produced opportunities. The trouble was that those moment were all too few and far between and there was a feeling that we could have done a bit more of that sort of thing. Or at very least not look quite so reluctant while we did so. There again I suppose if we had converted one of the opportunities we did manage to create that might only have served to get them to put down their newspapers, get off their deckchairs and come out to play.

On the bright side, their owner country decided to celebrate the win by releasing Matthew Hedges from his life sentence for signing a document without a translation (or "spying" as it is referred to in those parts). Maybe if they win next week they might stop torturing people (or at least in "Life Of Brian" fashion start hanging one or two of them the right way up for a bit).

Worryingly we finished with just the ten men as Arnie hobbled off having then whacked on the hip. At (as it was) 3-0 and only a few minutes to go he was clearly in no little discomfort and it would be galling in the extreme were those extra few minutes of hobbling about to end up precluding his participation this weekend. He's had intensive treatment and has trained but it's been a bit of a worry all week.

Jack Wilshere didn't make the squad last week but is up to "75%" likely to be available. Other than that it's the usual suspects: Lanzini, Reid, Fredericks, Sanchez and Yarmalenko all being out. I say "usual suspects" - Andy Carroll is fit and avoided injury last weekend through the simple expedient of not actually getting on the pitch. If Arnie does prove to be hors de combat at some stage this weekend would be a good time for the "law of the ex" to work in our favour just for once.

I suppose I'd better move on to a prediction then. Well they will be all cock-a-hoop having won three in a row though wiser heads might seek to temper such exuberance on the grounds that Burnley appear to be about as much use as the Greater Anglia Area Planning Department at Network Rail - I mean even we stuck four past them. Burnley that is rather than the Greater Anglia Area Planning Dept at Network Rail.

Our last defeat was against Abu Dhabi who beat everyone 4-0 when they are not hitting 5 or 6 so psychologically we need to discount that one from the list of hang-ups. Unlike last week this is one that has probably an even chance of all three results happening. With that in mind I shall be placing the ?2.50 I was going to spend on flowers for that Spanish lad's funeral on a 1-1 draw using the Winstone Turf Accountancy App (when the fun stops you've just discovered that the BBC have commissioned yet another Christmas special of Mrs Brown's bloody boys).

Enjoy the game!

When Last we met at SJP: Lost 3-0 (Premier League August 2017)

Dreadful performance, though one can't help but thinking what might have been had 4th official Mike Jones been as ready to bring to the main official's attention Mitrovic's forearm smash into Hernandez's face as he had done all afternoon for other minor transgressions that went in favour of the home side.

Referee: Paul Tierney

Infamous for allowing Everton to inflict a series of career threatening assaults on Payet a few seasons back, one of which put him out for three months. Apparently doing "rock, scissors, paper" will get you suspended for not acting in the best interests of the game, whilst allowing players to kick lumps out of more talented individuals is. Also seemed confused in a Spurs cup-tie last year by the potential use of the vanishing spray on a snow-covered Wembley pitch. Known to his fellow refs as "Trigger" probably.

Danger Man: Matt Ritchie

Nominated by Preview Alastair on the grounds that he couldn't possibly miss another chance as easy as the one he did the other night.

Percy's Poser
Last time out we asked you to complete the following headline from the Manchester Evening News website:

Customer claims staff at Herm?s snatched XXX out of his hand and told him he wasn't allowed to touch it. "I found it completely out of order. It's not like I'm some XXXX"

Well done to Mrs Myrtle Kebab of Foulness who correctly identified the missing words as "bag" and "chav". Well done Myrtle!

For this week we visit the Geordie's fish-wrapper-to-be of choice, The Chronicle, from which the following two-parter header to a piece of video has been lifted:

Watch as 'Tyneside's finest' XXXXX bus driver after he tells her to get off
The woman was kicking off with another Stagecoach passenger and asking questions about her 'XXXXXX'

Good luck everyone!

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