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West Ham United v Birmingham City

Filed: Thursday, 3rd January 2019
By: Preview Percy

He was up late for New Year's Eve. He was up late for the Brighton game. He will have to get up early for the Birmingham game. So if Preview Percy is grumpier than usual just for once he has an excuse. Sort of......

The games come thick and fast as we return to action in the FA Cup which probably has a sponsor whose name I wouldn’t mention even if I were vaguely aware of who they were. Birmingham City are our opponents. Kick-off is at the ludicrous hour of 12:30. No engineering works in the immediate vicinity of Stratford but if you come in from Clacton/Walton or thereabouts be prepared for a bus trip.

So Birmingham then. Daisy, the work experience girl with the beautiful smile, informs me that we first met in 1919 (ah those were the days) in the old Division 2. Over the years we have met 94 times> We have won 32 to their 40 with 22 draws. This will, however be our first meeting in 6 years.

It’s been a much better season for the Blues this term than it was the previous two – well on the pitch anyway.. Previously, a pattern had emerged whereby they would employ three managers then avoid relegation on the final day. The slightly unfortunately-named Gary Monk took over in March 2018 and kept them up. This term he has guided them to 8th place in the Championship – two places and five points off a playoff spot. However, there are dark clouds on the horizon.

Pre-season was a little bit chaotic by any standards. They tried to sign Danish left back Kristian Pedersen only to find that when the paperwork was sent to ratify the deal the gentlemen at EFLHQ were having none of it. It seems that Birmingham were falling foul of the Financial Fair Play regs and the undisclosed fee which, according to Daisy the work experience girl with the beautiful smile, was £2.5m or thereabouts, would only make things worse. The club was therefore under a transfer embargo. The fact that all this was happening a mere 12 months after the departure of one Henry Redknapp from the managerial seat was, of course, purely coincidental.

One of the problems seemed to be that the owners were trying the old trick of disguising cash inputs into the club by disguising them as sponsorship through naming rights. Which is apparently fine if you are owned by a human-rights abusing Middle Eastern royal family, not so much if you’re a Hong Kong-based company that does little else but own Birmingham. The Football League were having none of it.

Lots of to-ing and fro-ing ensued and an agreement was struck hat the club could sign a maximum of five players on condition that they adhered to a salary cap of tuppence ha’penny. In the end they brought in one further permanent player in the form of ‘keeper Lee Camp and a clutch of loan signings.
The signing of Camp leaves them with no fewer than three experienced ‘keepers on the books. Camp’s arrival was presumably spent with a view to one or both of David Stockdale and Tomas Kuscsczak leaving. The problem with that has been the issue of high wages, which is what has landed them in the FFP cart in the first place. There are a number of “guestimates” for example as to the sort of wage that Stockdale is on which, if some sources are to be believed, could be as high as £40k per week. Given that the natural purchaser for Stockdale would be a fellow-Championship club those wages are going to be prohibitive to all but the richest clubs in that league – mainly those still picking up a parachute payment or two.

Stockdale himself is said to be something of a Leeds fan but with their internal individual wage cap coming in at something like £15k a week you can see why the player might be reluctant to take a 66% wage cut. Meanwhile the club are still awaiting, nervously, for a date for an EFL Commission hearing that would determine any punishment for breaching the rules. A 12-point deduction has been suggested that would leave them only five points off the drop zone. Previous Football League sanctions have been based on fines rather than points but it seems odd to me that a club should be punished for making a loss by making that loss worse. After all that it’s fair to say that any transfers over the next few weeks are likely to be outward rather than inbound. Certainly when a Google search is undertaken for the words “Birmingham City Transfers” the instructions from the local authority regarding how to relocate from one council property to another were much higher up the results list than one might imagine.

As regards the ‘keeper situation, both Stockdale and Kuscsczak have been told they can find other clubs but both are technically still on the books. Trueman started the season as no.1 choice but Camp got his debut in the 2-0 away defeat to Reading in the League Cup and has kept the place ever since – my money would be on Trueman to start this one. Unless, of course there’s some new tactical plot to line up with four ‘keepers.

Up the other end top scorer at the moment is Che Adams who arrived for c£2m Sheffield United in 2014, a deal that inadvertently caused the demise of the player’s former club, Ilkeston. It seems that once it was realised that Ilkeston had a sell-on clause inserted into the deal that took him to Brammall Lane, everybody wanted their money back from the club. All at once. Adams has 12 in 23 league appearances this term which pips his strike partner, the widely-travelled Lukas Jutkiewitcz who has 10 in 26, with a further 15 goals in the league being spread amongst the rest of the squad.

And so to us. Odd game on Wednesday, wasn’t it? The first half was as poor a half of football as I’ve seen, enlivened only by the continued failure of our referees to apply the laws of the game. Can somebody explain to me how Mo Salah managed to get two penalties with infinitely less combined contact than the shove to the floor that sent Arnautovic to the floor the other night? I guess we ought to be grateful that, on returning to the pitch Carroll didn’t pick up a yellow for headbutting the deliberate elbow that left him requiring stitches. Is it too much to ask that a) the FA applies its own regulations rather than changing them to suit Liverpool and b) referees start to behave honestly?

The second half started brightly so, obviously we went two down in two minutes. The defending from the corners was dreadful in the extreme. Looking through the twitter feeds there was some hilarious backtracking going on after the double substitution that introduced Noble (set up the first) and Antonio (the equaliser). Antonio in particular terrified the Brighton’s left side he got the ball. One particular run showcased the best and worst of Antonio in a few seconds. Having turned his markers so inside out you could see their internal organs he found himself bursting into dangerous position in the box, whereupon he blasted his shot high and wide.

Overall we still looked a bit leggy and one might expect to see some changes to be made – though these might be tempered by the injury list – the elbow he copped to his noggin means that Carroll is now a doubt to add to all the others. I guess it’s a matter of see who turns up who can walk and stick them on. Expect a few of the youngsters to be there or thereabouts – I suspect that Diangana for one will get a start but they may need a booster seat or two to add to the racing car seats.

Prediction? Always tricky coves these ties but overall I would expect us to have too much for them. We are unlikely to see a “youth team at Forest” scenario this time around and I think the starting XI should have enough experience to do the job. If not there will probably be one or two on the bench capable of changing things.

So with that in mind I will be placing the £2.50 that I was going to send to NASA to buy a packet of Percy Dalton’s finest (4 billion miles to take a blurry photo of a peanut????) on a home win this time around. Fire up the Winstone Turf Accountancy App once more my woman and place the whole bally lot on a 3-1 to us.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn: Drew 3-3 (Championship April 2012)

2-0 down when Vaz Te pulled it back to 2-1. Unfortunately we contrived to let in another before the interval. We played better in the second half and Carlton Cole added a second before Vaz Te rescued a point with a late spot kick. The match was our sixth draw in 10 leading to suggestions that our manager was not so much “respecting” the point as going all out to worship it.

Referee: Roger East

Apparently missed loads of red-card elbows at the weekend, presumably attributing the stream of bloody noses to some form of altitude sickness. We have VAR for this one which means that Lee Probert will be sat in a nice warm studio somewhere ready at the drop of a hat to lie and cover up for any cock-ups that his mate might make.

Danger Man: Che Adams

Top scorer with a goal every other game or thereabouts.

Percy’s Poser

Last week we visited the Brighton Argus’s review of 2018 from which the following headline was nicked:

A Dedicated football fan based in New York became XX XXXXXX follower after splitting up with his girlfriend...who is a XXX XX XXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXX.

Congratulations to Mrs Moira Ultima-Thule of Thorpe Bay for correctly identifying the missing words as “an Albion” and “fan of arch rivals Crystal Palace”.

Never mind mate in the unlikely event of you getting another girlfriend who dumps you, you can then go support someone else.

This week we look to the Birmingham Mail who have a really helpful article with the following title from which we have cunningly removed some words. As usual:

How living in Birmingham affects your chances of getting XX XXXXXX from XXX XXXXX

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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