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West Ham United v Fulham

Filed: Thursday, 21st February 2019
By: Preview Percy

The club sent the players away for warm weather training so Preview Percy was delighted when we told him we were going to do the same with him. He was less than pleased, however, when he realised that this simply meant sitting outside in the unusually spring-like warmth of the grounds of the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered. Here's his look at Friday's visit of Fulham, which was his first preview of 2019 to be written wearing shorts.....

And so, after a break in which the players went to Spain to sing “Bubbles” and I went to the Swan and Superinjunction with a similar end result we return to action where we will be hosting Fulham this Friday night with an 8pm kick-off for the benefit of space tv. Usual rush hour stuff to contend with though at least you won’t have to worry about the usual weekend engineering works. Unless you take so long to get back to the station it’s Saturday of course.

Fulham then. The work experience girl with the beautiful smile informs me that this will be the clubs’ 103rd meeting, the first taking place way back when in the days of Thames Ironworks days when we beat them 2-1 at the Memorial Grounds in what was our inaugural season in the Southern League. Those were the days. We have, to date won 47, drawn 23 and lost 32. So comfortably ahead in the head to head stakes then.

Even the most optimistic of Cottagers must be beginning to have an inkling of concern over their Premier League future at present. They are, with Huddersfield, beginning to look a little adrift. Fulham are on 17 points from the 26 played so far – that’s 7 points shy of Southampton and 8 short of Cardiff who occupy the places either side of the dotted line. A -33 goal difference will do them few favours either – only Huddersfield on -34 are in the same street on that basis.

A look at their record shows that they have won only four times all season. Only one of those victories, the 4-2 defeat of Brighton, has come since the turn of the year and, although they did win their 29 December fixture that came against the aforementioned Huddersfield, so there are few, if any, psychological crumbs of comfort to be gained from that. Their last outing before the Cup break was a 3-0 defeat to the Salford lot who were to discover that getting all gobby about beating mid to lower level sides would always backfire if you get played off the park as soon as someone half-decent turns up in the form of PSG.

They are on manager no.2 for the season with Claudio Ranieri having arrived in November when Slavisa Jokanovic was put out of his misery following a 6-game losing streak. Ranieri had the Immediate usual dead cat bounce reaction with a 3-2 win over Southampton, and Christmas looked slightly less depressing with draws away at Newcastle (0-0) and at home to Wolves (1-1) when, added to the aforementioned win over Huddersfield, gave them a 3-game unbeaten run. But since then they have lost five of their last six, the one blip being the 4-2 win over Brighton when they came back from 2-0 down at the break, Brighton in general and Murray in particular spurning numerous first-half chances to put the game beyond reach before collapsing completely in the second of the ultimate in games of two halves.

The work experience girl with the beautiful smile tells me that the undisclosed fee paid to Besiktas for the services of former Liverpool winger Ryan Babel is believed to have been €2m or about £1.74m at the rate at Thomas Cook were giving a couple of minutes ago. Though that will have changed by the time I finish this sentence. Babel has come in on a bet-hedging deal until the end of the season after which, presumably, his options will be based on what division they are in.

Their winter transfer dealings had all the hallmarks of a team in trouble. The other “permanent” deal came in the form of free transfer misfit Lazar Markovic who arrived from Liverpool who finally cut their losses on a player who cost them £20m from Benfica back in 2014. Tellingly Markovic hasn’t played a competitive match for the Scousers since 2015 and was sent out on a succession of loans to Fenerbahce, Sporting, Hull and Anderlecht. It seems that he finally took the hint this winter and, with Klopp’s last words to him probably being “are you still here?” he pitched up at the Cottage at the end of the window, though even he wouldn’t commit to anything beyond the end of the season. All a far cry from his last season with Benfica when he was part of the squad that did the domestic treble.

There was a loan signing too in the form of ex-Hammer Havard Nordveit who came in from 1899 Hoffenheim on another deal to the end of the season. I said it was a typical transfer window for a team in trouble.

There was a notable departure in the window as they divested themselves of a player residing in the “more trouble than he is worth” file. Aboubakar Kamara raised eyebrows in the win over Huddersfield when having a heated debate with Aleksander Mitrovic over who was to take a penalty, Mitrovic being the usual penalty taker. Kamara won the debate and eventually side-footed a weak effort that was easily saved. Ranieri was quoted as saying “I wanted to kill him”, seemingly ignorant of the fact that the death penalty in football only applies to clubs who play music after goals. For the time being.

Kamara and Mitrovic later had a further altercation which came to fisticuffs during a yoga session, presumably they couldn’t agree over the correct way to do a lotus position. Things reached a new low when Kamara was arrested at the training ground and charged with ABH and criminal damage. The club suspended him indefinitely and shipped him out on loan to Turkey’s Yeni Malatyaspor. I suspect there isn’t much mileage left in the player’s Fulham career which is a shame as he was providing the rest of the league with much entertainment. I suppose that the clues were there when the player picked the squad number 47 to go with his initials AK.

Meanwhile, when he isn’t engaging in the downward facing dog position, Mitrovic has manoeuvred himself to the top of Fulham’s goalscoring charts his 10 goals have all come in the league and might have been 11 but for the Kamara Penalty Incident. Mitrovic himself has had concerns about his “temperament” – the rest home’s resident Geordie Preview Alastair wouldn’t buy him a pint for example. Mind you we’ve yet to meet the person who Preview Alastair would buy a pint for – I mean Preview Alastair is only on that list himself as a boozer of last resort. He (Mitrovic not Preview Alastair) was in constant disciplinary trouble at Newcastle and only the cameras saw him punished for a cowardly off the ball elbow on Lanzini a few years ago. You may recall that bent 4th official Mike Jones had been getting involved all afternoon but strangely chose to ignore the most serious incident of the afternoon that day. The retrospective three-match ban seemed to be the final straw for Benitez, who went a further two matches before giving the player any further pitch time. Mitrovic departed for Craven Cottage on loan in that winter’s window, helping Fulham to promotion, the deal becoming permanent last summer for £22m rising to £27m with add-ons.

So what’s happened in the week off? Well the FA have messed up big time haven’t they. I mean fancy forgetting the rule that Liverpool can do what the hell they like. Not only did they ask Klopp for an explanation of his frankly bonkers claim that his cheating bunch of divers had been hard done by in being granted a referee-assisted and totally undeserved point against us the other week but they also have gone and charged him as a result. The disciplinary clerk must have been a half-term stand-in to actually process that one. If there is to be any justice the club would ask for 2,154 previous offences to be taken into account. From memory Avram Grant got fined £20k for suggesting that the aforementioned Mike Jones had been trying to even things up in a cup quarter final at Stoke a wile back. And given that Jones was as guilty as sin of the accusation I’d like to see Klopp fined double that if only for the pathetic nature of his attempt to insult our intelligence.

Also, we have seen young Declan decide that his international future lies with the country of his birth rather than that of his forebears. The reaction from across the St George’s Channel has varied from the understandably disappointed but accepting, all the way over to the frankly quite hypocritical. Our former player Joey O’Brien summed up the latter by pointing out the incongruity of moaning by Englishmen not good enough for the country of their birth playing for the next door neighbours thanks to having a grandparent who liked Guinnesss. Good luck to Mr Rice I say – the announcement may have called time on the international careers of Dier and Henderson which would be no bad thing.

As for us, well the Palace game, if you can remember that far back was yet again another game of two halves. Having looked by far the better side in the first 45 we elected to declare against a team desperate for the points, looking as they were over their shoulders at the likes of Cardiff and Fulham. Which was silly. Sitting back invited them on to us and it was only the fact that they aren’t all that good up front that kept them behind for so long. In the end even Zaha’s shot looked for all the world it was heading for the touchline before the deflection took it past Fabianski to give them the equaliser. Moral of the story: don’t sit back too deep when you’ve been on the front foot. By the way, the so called “Ultras” (they saw it on the box once and thought it sounded nice) were their usual selves, silent for 70 minutes then telling everyone how they had got behind the team after the equaliser.

The injury news is improving. Lanzini is said to be ready for a return to the squad after the horror injury that kept him out of the World Cup. Just in time to be elbowed by Mitrovic again then. Nasri is also close to a return though Balbuena may need another week or two.

Which brings us on to the prediction. The last week or so has seen all sorts of sweetness and light coming out of the club. Players bonding in the “nicer than Rush Green” climes of Spain etc and one would hope that that will have had a positive effect on team spirit and camaraderie. The visitors will have earmarked this one as a match from which they will have to emerge with something, so they may not be quite the pushover one might expect. However, if we start on the front foot and get ahead early enough we ought to have enough to get their heads down.

So on with the Winstone Turf Accountancy app then (when the fun stops Klopp’s opened his gob again) and I will place the £2.50 I was going to spend on a copy of Tony Cascarino’s gran’s birth certificate to send to the FAI on a home win Let’s say 3-1 to us.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Boleyn: Won 3-0 (Premier League November 2013)

Diame, Cole C and Cole J were on target as Steklenberg and the woodwork kept the score down in a match that was even more one-sided than the result suggested. Martin Jol was sacked 24 hours later and they went down at the end of the season.

Referee: Lee Mason

Amazingly the powers that be think this idiot is a suitable person to take charge of a top-flight game despite his inability to count to ten when trying to enforce 10 yards.

Danger Man: Aleksander Mitrovic

Top scorer and it might be worth Lanzini borrowing one of those Petr Cech Biggles helmets should he get on at any stage.

Percy’s poser:

Last time out we looked at the Croydon bit of the My London website from which the following “desperate attempt to find a local angle in a non-local story” headline was taken:

Couple who have won £115m Euromillions jackpot were XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXX XX XXXXXXX

Well done to Mrs Dorothea Wilberforce-Hardcheese who correctly identified the missing words as “considering moving to Croydon” adding that the lucky couple came to the decision not to make the move as soon as the second number came up.

This week’s teaser comes courtesy of local website Fulham SW6 who proudly announce:

Fulham firm Pelango crowned XXXXX XXXXXXXX of the year

A copy of the “Wit & Wisdom Of Piers Morgan” to the winners.

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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