West Ham United v Newcastle United

It's been a busy week in politics where MPs voted against having an election on 12 December so that they could vote for having an election on 12 December. We'd like to say that Preview Percy's look at this weekend's visit of Newcastle is less confusing but, as usual we can't...

It's two home games on the trot as we play host to Newcastle United. Kick-off is 3pm. The proper time. The engineering works that have plagued passengers between Shenfield and Southend Victoria have been suspended specifically to allow easy access to this match. Don't be stupid. Of course they haven't. You'd be mad to think they'd do anything that sensible. Check before you leave and all that.

So the Magpies then. The definitely not cockney Ashley has had the club up for sale for two years now. Despite this, and despite rumoured interest from the US, Mexico and Dubai nothing has happened. The US interests are being fronted by Peter Kenyon who is keen to have a deal done by the end of the year, though which particular year he has in mind doesn't seem to be specified. Meanwhile, those responsible for delivering Brexit have urged Ashley to get on with it.

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They enjoyed, if that's the word, and it probably isn't, a managerial change in the summer when Benitez left at the end of his contract. Ashley cited Benitez's "unreasonable demands" in negotiating a new deal as the reason for the patting of the ways, those demands presumably including the provision of some sort of transfer budget commensurate with the ambition of remaining in the Premier League. Whatever the content of the discussions there came a point where Benitez elected to say "sod this for a game of soldiers", only in Spanish, and upped (chop)sticks to take charge of Dalian Yifang in China.

So, in his search for a replacement, Ashley elected to spare no expense in his search for top managerial talent. After an extensive worldwide search for the brightest coaching talent in the world, with names such as Viera, Martinez, Ranieri and Van Bronckhorst all being floated at one stage or another.

How close any of those got to thinking about it is not known but it looks like the transfer budget of "whatever you can find down the back of the sofa in your office" and the promise of "all the oversized Sports Direct coffee mugs you can carry" wasn't tempting enough for all but Steve Bruce, who agreed to sign on if he could make two trips for the coffee mugs. So far Bruce has guided them to 17th place, the point gained from last weekend's home 1-1 draw against Wolves augmenting the rise of one place that they gained from the dent to Southampton's goal difference that resulted from their 9-0 mauling by Leicester. They've won just the once on the road, hilariously at the Toilet Bowl where they beat Spurs - meh it's been done.

They did bring in a number of players. Daisy, the full-time personal assistant with the beautiful smile, tells me that they added ?10m to the ?30m received from Leicester for Ayoze Perez and sent it to 1899 Hoffenheim in return for Joelinton. ?40m seemed a lot of cash for a player whose record in five years is 26 league goals. Especially since that transfer fee represented a club record. He has scored just the once in 10 matches thus far.

A further ?16.5m went on nice winger Allan Saint-Maximin. Sorry, that should read Nice winger. I have no idea how nice he is. We haven't been formally introduced so I have no evidence on which to base an opinion one way or another. He has been famous for sporting a bonkers hairstyle finished off with a Gucci headband, something that one finds strangely depressing, even if the offending "accessory" does have the logo covered up by a sticker to avoid upsetting sponsors and stuff. He has a bit of pace about him so will need an eye keeping on him.

There was much debate between myself and the rest home's resident Geordie Preview Alastair over the signing on a free transfer of Andy Carroll. For most of his time with us he looked passably good on occasion in those spells between injury. However, those last two injuries seemed to have taken more of a toll on his general fitness than before and it seemed that his legs had gone during those last few appearances in claret and blue.

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Preview Alastair seemed more upbeat about the signing, suggesting that the loss of whatever little pace the player might have had would be of no consequence given that Newcastle's wingers would simply be teeing up headers on a plate for the player. The few appearances he has managed so far have done little to support Preview Alastair's theory and it will have come as no surprise that there were doubts as to the player's availability, him having had a groin problem that precluded his involvement in recent weeks. However, he has been declared fit and the "law of the ex" takes no account of such things as fitness or form. Be warned.

A fee of about ?5m went to Amiens for the services of Swedish right-back Emil Krafth. Daisy started giggling when she was researching the player. When I enquired as to why she showed me the player's Wikipedia page which informs us that he is "a Swedish footballer who plays as a right-back for Premier League club Newcastle United and the Sweden national team". And that's it. Imagine being potentially so dull that even as a professional footballer your Wiki page has nothing on it. Daisy, to be fair, did scrape up some more info, such as the fact that he only signed for Amiens permanently this summer having been on loan from Bologna for the previous season so Amiens made an instant profit. He is also credited with the invention of the tasteless processed cheese slice and the Dairylea triangle.

They have a suspension to contend with, Sean Longstaff picking up a red against Wolves. It wasn't a malicious challenge and there wasn't an awful lot of power behind the tackle but the studs were up enough for it to be deemed dangerous so it's three weeks off for the player. At the time of writing there are injury doubts over Schar (arguably their best player), the aforementioned Carroll, Ritchie and Lejeune

And so to the wild and wacky world of association football then. Liverpool supporters were up in arms at Harry Kane's face clutching exploits when barely touched, one commenting that had Kane been foreign rather than English the media would have been all over him. A bit like Gerrard then. Had Kane been more intelligent he might have channelled Mike Atherton's famous riposte to the Aussies when accused of not walking in an Ashes match down under: "When in Rome....". Of course the odds on Kane ever coming out with something that clever are so remote that they would probably have drug tested him on the spot (insert your own Gerrard comparison here).

The Scousers, meanwhile have been in court, winning a case that allows them to swap kit manufacturer next season. The big surprise around here was that their current suppliers are New Balance - watching Mane and Salah going to ground every week around here we always presumed the correct name was "No Balance".

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UEFA's response to the Bulgaria v England match was predictably depressing: a two-match stadium ban and a fine which was less than Bendtner's ban for displaying sponsored underwear a few years ago. No wonder Saint-Maximin covers up the logo on his headband (I'm ruling out embarrassment as the reason for now). Even one of the stadium match bans has been suspended. Oh let's not forget that the Bulgarians will have to display a suitably anti-racist banner. The "punishment" (if we can call it that) sends out a powerful message to the world and that message is "UEFA is run by a bunch of complete twats." Hey guys, we kinda guessed that already.

And so to us. Stop me if you've heard this before but there was a match that we dominated for ages but, once we had taken the lead we sat back and defended deep, instead of carrying on with more of the same. With predictable results. They had come for a point - the first spot of timewasting came on 11 minutes for crying out loud - and that's what they got. The substitution of Snodgrass was one I found a bit baffling, both in its essence and in its execution. You might make a case for the change I suppose - though he had a decent game, but for the life of me I can't see the logic of doing so just as one of our better deliverers is about to send over a corner. Odd to say the least.

Injury news is that Wilshere is out. His groin is on the mend but these days they give him loads of extra time to recover. Antonio looks set fair to return from the international break. The most heartening news of the week was the return to action of Reid in the U23s. He's still a long way from a return to the first team squad but at least there's a glimmer of light at the end of that particular tunnel. Fabianski completes the absent quartet.

Prediction? Well our last two home matches have seen our efforts founder against teams whose principal strengths are based on being well organised defensively. Newcastle don't come over like, say, Palace whose whole game plan is built upon keeping people behind the ball. I mean whilst that might be a plan for them - as it seemed to be against Chelsea - from what I have seen of them they lack an awful lot of quality at the back - especially in the absence of Schar. I would suggest therefore that if we can get on the front foot early on - as we did last week - we should be able to prevail, the caveat being that we don't take our foot off the pedal should we score - as we did last week.

So, with that in mind, I shall be cautiously optimistic this week. So the ?2.50 that was going to go on crowdfunding the Bulgarian UEFA fine will, instead be going on a home win. Fire up the Winstone Turf Accountancy App (When The Fun Stops UEFA are almost certainly involved) and stick the lot on a 2-1 to us!

Enjoy the game!

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When Last We Met At The Olympic: Won 2-0 (Premier League March 2019)

An emotional day as the Billy Bonds stand was formally named and "opened" by the great man himself. Rice's 7th minute header and Noble's 42nd minute spot-kick after Lejeune had taken Chicharito's legs from under him were enough to seal the points and give the day the result it deserved.


Referee: Stuart Atwell

Referee for whom the backside/elbow identification process has always been something of an issue. VAR would be useful for his matches if only the idiot in the bunker weren't equally as incompetent.

Danger Man: Allan Saint-Maximin

Despite there being a number of players in need of a goal (a need that is usually rectified by playing us), and the presence of Carroll in the opposition squad, I have this week plumped for the player described by Preview Alastair as "greased lightning", though that just may have been him placing his drinks order.


Percy's Poser:

Last week the Sheffield Star which provided the following poser

"XXXXXXX in Sheffield Library leave students in a XXXX"

Depressingly, the missing words were "pigeons" and (sigh) "flap". The winner of this week's round the world cruise goes to Mrs Kimberley Boland of Stifford Clays who both correctly identified the missing words and offered to take the person responsible for the dreadful pun with her on the cruise with a view to recreating the death of Robert Maxwell. Well done Kimberley!

For this week's poser we visit that redoubtable organ "The Chronicle" who have a headline detailing a job vacancy in a well-known Newcastle hostelry. All you have to do is ascertain the missing words from the following:

The Botanist is hiring a paid XXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX

Good luck everyone!


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