West Ham United v Sheffield United

Preview Percy was cheesed off enough after last weekend's defeat at Everton. It's fair to say that his mood didn't improve much when we reminded him of the identity of this weekend's opponents. And let's face it, he's grumpy at the best of times.....

And it's to home turf we return where we will play host to Sheffield United. It's a 3pm kick off though you may want to get the maps out and plan an early start.

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The District and Hammersmith & City Lines are closed between Barking and Tower Hill which will mean seeking alternative routes or braving the replacement buses. And, of course, the great engineering works between Shenfield and Southminster and Southend Victoria are now beginning to enter their 25th glorious year. Winstone The Turf Accountant will give you evens on the works being finished before Brexit. Check before you leave.

So Sheffield United then. You know the ones who let slip a 10-point difference to get themselves relegated but blamed us. The ones who got two journalists, one of whom had an indirect financial interest in the outcome, to lie before an arbitration committee and then avoided the appeal to the CAS that would have laughed their claim out of court. And, above all, the ones who broke the same rule that we did but got away with it. Ten out of ten for playing the system but minus several million for rank hypocrisy.

After 11 years out of the top flight they finally got promoted last season finishing five points behind a coasting Norwich and six points clear of a stuttering Leeds. Since their return they have won, drawn and lost in groups of three. Their latest three comprised of a defeat to Liverpool, a draw at Watford and Monday night's 1-0 win over Arsenal, all of which has left them in 9th spot, two places above us on goal difference, with both teams having 12 points along with Bournemouth, Burnley and, somehow, Spurs.

It's been an interesting few weeks for them. Serial dodgy merchant Kevin McCabe was keen to play the "local boy wants his local club to do well" card from that well-known Yorkshire town of Brussels back in the day. He was playing the local boy angle again recently when fighting over ownership of the club with Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The prince bought 50% of the club for a quid in return for ?10m of investment into the club.

McCabe took the money but side-lined the prince from any meaningful say in the running of the club. This, as you can imagine, was not something that went down too well with the prince, whose investment agreement allowed him to purchase the rest of the club for ?5m on the provision that he also bought the (McCabe-owned) club properties once he owned 75% of the shares. Please keep up - there will be questions afterwards.

The prince didn't fancy having to stump up millions for real estate in Sheffield so he transferred his club shares into another company to avoid breaking the 75% threshold. McCabe refused to sell claiming this invalidated the deal whereupon the prince lost patience and took McCabe to court. A proper court where they tend to put emphasis on the truth, as opposed to a tinpot arbitration where you can spout any old rubbish in the hope that a senile old git won't have a clue what's going on. In particular, McCabe discovered that it's not the greatest of ideas to accuse members of the Saudi Royal Family of being party to bribery and corruption without providing evidence of the fact.

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The judge ruled that McCabe would have to sell the club to the prince who would also have to stump up for the ground and other properties as per the original arrangement. Interestingly one of the things that came out of the whole mess was that the Bin Laden family bailed out the club a year or so ago when they needed a few bob to pay the wages. So you have McCabe, and the Bin Laden family involved. They only need Piers Morgan to get involved for the full set.

The shenanigans didn't stop them spending a few bob in the close season. When clubs come up they either spend a bundle on established players with Premier League experience or they keep their cheque book under lock and key in the hope of weathering a season or picking up the parachute payments on the way back. Sheffield United have been a bit odd in that respect. Daisy, the permanent assistant with the beautiful smile, tells me that they broke their transfer record a number of times this season.

The biggest fee paid was the ?17.5m paid to Swansea for Scottish striker Ollie McBurnie. The fee could go up as far as ?20m with add-ons which, one would guess, would be linked to them staying up. For a few days until Arsenal went shopping at Celtic, the fee was the highest ever involving a Scottish player which, talented as McBurnie undoubtedly is, says one hellova lot about the state of the game north of the border. Good.

McBurnie appears to have recently joined the ever lengthening - and increasingly depressing - list of professional footballers who suddenly find themselves short of ?20 from their thousands a week salaries to pay for a cab home after a few sherberts. The player was arrested last week and is up before the beak on Guy Fawkes Day.

They welcomed the return of Phil Jagielka whose baffling handball in their final match of the season all those years ago apparently had absolutely nothing to do with their relegation. Or anything to do with the move he had lined up to Everton in the event of that relegation. Glad we got that cleared up then.

They have ex-Hammer Ravel Morrison in the fold. I believe I am legally obliged to use the words "what a waste of talent" at this point. Since leaving us for Lazio he has drifted about a bit having - predictably - failed to settle in Rome, ending up on loan at QPR and Atlas, who Daisy informs me are a top flight side in Mexico. He spent much of 2019 in Sweden with Oestersund but they didn't renew his contract due to frequent injuries and the high (for Sweden) salary that he was after. He has made just the two appearances since arriving at Bramall Lane - both in the League Cup. He wasn't on the bench against Arsenal though the press chatter has all been about making changes from that side so who knows. As long as he doesn't replicate THAT goal v Spurs...

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Another free transfer was that of 'keeper Michael Verrips. Verrips (who has Dutch caps at youth level) ripped up his contract with Mechelen when the Belgian club was found guilty of involvement in match fixing. Mechelen have complained to FIFA over the deal claiming that Sheffield United had made a concrete bid for the player before he came to the no doubt totally unprompted conclusion that he was a free agent. They have shied away from picking the player lest they are forced to cough up a fee, with Simon Moore taking the custodian seat in the racing car seats while the on-loan from Man Utd Dean Henderson is the preferred choice place between the sticks.

The goalscorer in the win against Arsenal was Lys Mousset, who was a ?10m signing from Bournemouth during the summer. Mousset scored three goals in his 58 appearances for the Cherries in his three year spell at Dean Court. He's already on two since turning up in Yorkshire.

You know what, I'm tired of them. Let's move on to our weekly look at the wild and wacky world of Association Football. Spit for brains pundit Jamie Carragher has come out and apologised to Patrice Evra for wearing a t-shirt in support of Luis Suarez after the racism row when the latter used an offensive racial term to the former. 11 years ago. One has to ask "why the rush Jamie?". As far as I can work out, Liverpool's last official comment on the matter was to maintain Suarez's innocence even after the verdict. Still they acted a bit quicker to remove an racially offensive banner shown by their fans in Belgium this week, so they can act when they want to it seems. Anytime you want to apologise for El Hadji Diouf spitting at us guys, go right ahead.

Still on the subject of everyone's third favourite team on Merseyside and history was made when a VAR decision went against them, though this was tempered by the fact that Man Utd were the opponents. There was a definite kick on Origi in the build-up but - oh the irony - his theatricals made the contact look less like a foul every time it got replayed - especially given the half second delay between contact and reaction. What contact there was certainly wasn't enough for the somersault with pike that followed and was even less likely to have caused the prolonged lie-down for a nap that followed.

More VAR shenanigans at the Toilet Bowl where the officials took pity on Spurs and ignored precisely the sort of handball offence they have been giving all season elsewhere. This enabled the home side to gain a point against the mighty Watford, who also suffered from the non-awarding of a blatant penalty thanks to VAR.

I have said it before - VAR isn't the problem. The competency of those who have to use it is though and this will continue to be the case. The only bright side of all this is that PGMOL are having to come up with excuses other than "the ref only saw it once". If only they had to share those explanations with the poor sods who have to suffer their performances every week. I'm sure we would soon see VAR correcting things properly if Mike Riley had to stand up each week and explain why, after ten viewings, an official didn't give the decision that was obvious to all at full speed first time around.

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I can put this off no longer. And so to last weekend. Well I was thoroughly entertained by the tight outfit that were playing at the top of their game, their performance receiving a standing ovation from all sides. Yes, I can certainly recommend going to see the wonderful Nine Below Zero should their current tour take them to your neck of the woods. The new album's a corker too. That took care of Friday night in Liverpool. Unfortunately, what followed the following day was less than fun.

If we strung two passes together at all during the first half it must have happened behind one of the pillars that still block some views of the pitch at Goodison. (That's not a complaint by the way - there were spells when I was grateful for not being able to see what was happening). I'm not sure about that selection really. Fornals, Anderson and Lanzini are all of a certain type and when you are up against the likes of Everton I think it's fair to say that you might need at least one player of a different certain type in there somewhere to at least try and fight fire with fire.

As it was Gomes, aided by the sort of lenient refereeing that saw Payet put out of the game by the same opponents for months, was able to kick lumps out of everything to his heart's content allowing them to boss the midfield. As it was we had chances to level the scores - Fornals ought to have done better when screwing that shot wide and Pickford had to be awake to keep out Oggy's effort after a corner but frankly had we gotten anything out of that game it would have been daylight robbery. The nice goal from Sigurdsson at the end only served to give the scoreline a more reasonable colouring.

The thing is that we are likely to face something similar this weekend. The visiting midfield won't be noted for its abundance of silky skills and we need to be more streetwise in that department. Maybe it's time for Snodgrass to get in and amongst them for a start? We're not blessed with too many players who can stop liberties being taken and I guess that he would get that role almost by default. Meanwhile, Cresswell is likely to be available, whilst Fabianski, Antonio and Reid are all out as usual. Reid is improving after the depressing setback a few weeks ago and he is due to turn out for the Under 23s sooner rather than later.

Prediction then. Again it's a case of who turns up. The problem I have with predictions is that I usually base them at least in part on how I saw us play the previous week. If we play like that again this week I will be tempted to sell on my season tickets in the hope of getting a ban.

Of course, over the years I've lost count of the number of times I saw us turn in a steaming pile of Mrs Brown's Boys one week, making me predict a defeat the following week only to see us put in a Monty Python's Life Of Brian of a display the week after. So, based on the debatable premise that we will have learnt valuable lessons from the past few weeks, I will go for a tight home win. Let's use the Winstone Turf Accountancy App (when the fun stops Sean Bean is whining again) and put the whole ?2.50 that would have been spent on a Tevez mask on a 2-1 home win.

Enjoy the game!

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When Last We Met At The Boleyn: Drew 1-1 (lost 4-5 on pens) (League Cup 2nd Round August 2014)

Sakho opened the scoring in the first half. Reid's freak og levelled. We missed chance after chance and Valencia's miss in the shoot out proved to make all the difference.


Referee: David Coote

Has been sitting in the bunker cocking things up for VAR for much of this season. Was unique amongst the PGMOL party pictured cavorting with local women on a charity trip to Indonesia this summer in that he was the only one that wasn't married.


Danger Man: Lys Mousset

We'll give it to the poacher who gave them the points earlier this week.



Percy's Poser:

Last week's missing words came from the Liverpool Echo and read thusly:

Tourist thought he had found XXXXX XXXXX worth thousands

This week's winner of an around the world luxury cruise plus three tins of supermarket "own brand" baked beans is Mrs Helen Handcart of North Weald who correctly identified the missing words as "whale vomit". Well done Helen - and enjoy the beans!

This week we look at the Sheffield Star which provides the following rather dreadful pun for which someone ought to have been beaten to death with a shoe:

"XXXXXXX in Sheffield Library leave students in a XXXX"
Good luck with that one every one!

Good luck everyone!

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