Crystal Palace v West Ham United

A rather subdued Preview Percy takes a look at the Boxing Day trip to Selhurst Park...

Next up we drag our turkey-filled carcasses south of the river to the land that taste forgot (Croydon) where, on Boxing Day at 3pm we will be hosted by Crystal Palace.

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Getting there may be an issue for some. There's nothing on either C2C or Greater Anglia that day although, if you can get into central London the Overground has four trains an hour running through Norwood Junction and what Southern calls a "special" service will be running through Selhurst from Victoria. Check before you leave and best of British with that.

So Palace then. Bless them. A bit like Piers Morgan in a job or Tottenham in the so-called Champions League, nobody is quite sure how they are where they are really. A team which appears first on the list when you Google the word "journeymen" have somehow manage to amass 23 points which is good enough to get you 12th spot. That's four points ahead of us though we do have an easy three pointer game in hand of course.

Their last outing at the weekend saw them go down 1-0 up at Newcastle, the winner coming from Almeiron who, after taking as much time as it takes the average VAR official to work out where the remote control is, finally opened his account in the sort of sequence-busting moment that clubs and players invariably reserve for playing against us.

Unusually we are playing them for a second time this season which means that Daisy, the personal assistant with the beautiful smile was able to tell me to "jog on" when I asked her for details of the new intake last summer, her excuse being that she had "nearly died of boredom doing Palace the last time" and she would be "damned if she was going to miss out on a day's pampering at the spa to go through all that again".

Having had a quick look myself I couldn't blame her in all honesty. They got a massive fee in for Wan-Bissaka and spent a few shirt buttons, the rest presumably going towards the stadium redevelopment that seems to have been starting "any day now" for the last 96 years. One hopes that some sort of improvement has been made with regard to access and egress to the away section of the ground which is an accident waiting to happen.

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It may be that the rest of the ground has areas that are cramped and poorly lit and the whole thing is designed to make the residents of New Addington feel at home but in this day and age where safety ought to be a priority there is no excuse for those sort of conditions. It may be of course that the away section has had some sort of improvements made since we were last there but it's not something that I would be busting a gut down at Winstone's to stick a bet on.

Looking at their current squad their perceived jewel is Wilfried Zaha of whom there continues to be gossip of a move elsewhere in January. Chelsea are the latest team said to be interested, though that may just be a consequence of their transfer ban being lifted. Palace are maintaining that ?80m would have to be on show before they would be interested in selling. Well we are told that everyone loves a trier but I think that if I were a Premier League chairman that theory might be sorely tested at that price.

He does have a load of pace of course, but his notoriety for going to ground the moment a defender enters the same postcode as him does seem to have been picked up by referees, to the extent that he now occasionally gets pulled up for diving even when there has been a foul, at which point the cabaret starts - you may wish to save yourself a few bob on late Christmas presents for the kids by picking up a few of the toys he will throw out of the pram at some perceived injustice or another.

Up at Newcastle Zaha was seen "exchanging words" with team-mate Patrick Van Arnholt. Manager Roy Hodgason was keen to play the "incident" down, explaining that the players were merely discussing how they might better have defended the cross from which Newcastle scored their winner. So that's ok then. It was a little bit like that time that Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer had that discussion over the merits of playing five at the back against a flat back four up at Newcastle that time.

They have a fair few injuries at the moment. Gary Cahill appears to have spent more time in the treatment room than on the pitch since arriving on a freebie from Chelsea in the summer. Scott Dann picked up a muscle injury in training that will keep him out over what everyone insists on calling the "festive" season. Jeffery Schlupp, the player named after a sound effect used in the broadcast of radio dramas, is another whose muscles are playing up, whilst Andros Townsend (groin) and Joel Ward (knee) will also be absent.

Before I move on to other matters I would like to add my tuppence-worth to the lengthy list of tributes paid to the late Martin Peters who sadly left us this week after a long battle with illness. As a youngster I was gutted when he signed for Spurs. He was the first player to move for ?200,000 - and frankly if it had been ?300,000 nobody could have complained. Famously, he played in every position - including in goal - for us over his career and he would have been quite capable of doing so at international level. No "utility" player, he.

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I recall bumping into the man a few years back not half an hour after watching one of those re-runs of "The Big Match" that they put on all too infrequently. The match was Norwich v Leeds (or vice versa) so we were very much talking about Peters towards the end of his career.

He scored - and it was a goal that had Martin Peters written all over it - arriving in the box late and unnoticed like a fighter plane coming in below enemy radar to power home a header whilst defenders were asking "where did he come from"? I mentioned this to Martin who simply smiled and thanked me for not mentioning the sloppy back pass he had made later on in the match that gifted Leeds the equaliser!

Those who had far more interaction than I ever had with the player would always smile whenever I mentioned the conversation. The general tone of memories has been how he remained totally unchanged by everything. His modesty was genuine despite having a World Cup winners medal in the bank - let's not forget that, having discovered that management was probably not for him, he happily worked in the insurance industry for many years before redundancy struck in the early 2000s. You won't see too many ex-Premier League stars doing that.

Sadly, his recall of past matches became less and less reliable over the years. I understand that Alzheimer's disease was the particularly nasty form of dementia from which he suffered, something that is all too common with players from an era where wet leather footballs came in with a weight that made heading the equivalent of headbutting an oncoming elephant. The powers that be are researching such matters but sadly this was too late for Martin - and others lest we forget.

Our thoughts go out to Kath, Leeann, Grant, Hannah and Meg - and one hopes that the tributes to be paid when we meet Leicester later this week will strike an appropriate tone. In view of Martin's passing I shall eschew my usual look at the weird stuff going on in the game this time around - I'm not sure it seems appropriate.

And so to us then. Well the Jekyll and Hyde thing continues apace. The two up front thing has probably been debated to death by now but what can't be denied is that it worked. Heller looked twice the player he has been of late, assisted by the fact that Antonio was in "beast" mode throughout.

Antonio deserved a goal for his efforts and, whilst the decision to disallow the thumping effort he stuck away was correct as the current interpretation of the law stands, it does highlight the absurdity of having a law of the game that applies only in one direction. Had Antonio kicked the ball against the defender's hand the defender would not have been punished as the revised interpretation only applies when the incident results in a goal being scored. Of course, this type of two tier thing is nothing new. The laws relating to simulation have long since ceased to apply to teams from Merseyside wearing red for example.

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If VAR got that one right (albeit thanks to a particularly dumb piece of legislation) the decision to not award either of the two penalties that ought to have been given in the first half showed exactly what is wrong with the system as it stands. I did have one of my lengthy rants on the subject prepared but those can wait for a less sad occasion.

Team news and there were a few hearts in mouths during stoppage time at St Mary's as Martin went down at the end with is what is believed to be a similar muscular injury to that which has kept Fabianski out since Bournemouth away. At the time of writing there hasn't been much of an update - no doubt the pre-match presser will make things clearer but the indications are that they would prefer to give Fabianski another week or so just to make sure. Indications are that Martin may be fit enough to start so expect that to be the case. Lanzini may be about in January 2020 - a run out against Bournemouth perhaps or maybe Gillingham.

Anderson ought to have recovered from whatever dodgy pie it was he ate that kept him off the pitch at Southampton, so his place may be dependent upon whether MP goes with a similar two up front line-up rather than fitness. Winston Reid is fit but probably requires a few more games with whatever they call the reserves these days to be sure. Oh and some guy called Wilshere has a groin/hip/pelvic injury. No me neither. Ryan Fredericks picked up a yellow last time out which means he will have to sit this one out.

So prediction time. Throw me a bone here, guys. The only consistent thing about us is how darned inconsistent we were. One minute, worthy winners against Chelsea and Southampton, somewhat, er, ahem, less impressive against Wolves and a god-awful Arsenal side the next. It's almost as if they have no consideration for the geriatric purveyor of preview prognoses.

On the whole I think that the teams are much of a muchness at the moment. With that in mind I think I will be justified in electing for a wager on honours ending up even. For once I won't stick a bet on - the ?2.50 I would normally be donating to Winstone The Turf Accountant's retirement fund will instead be quietly making its way to a charity specialising in dementia. Which means that my prediction of a 1-1 draw will inevitably come in now that I haven't got any money on the result.

Enjoy the game!

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When last we met at the Death Trap: Drew 1-1 (Premier League February 2019).
We bossed the first half and should have scored more than the single goal lead gained from the spot. Second half it was the other way round. I wouldn't be surprised if Selhurst Park has a slope to add to it's other list of shortcomings, the main one of which is that it is in Croydon of course.

Referee: Andre Marriner
....or Andre ****ing Marriner to give him his full name. Got knocked over by a ball in the face at Chelsea earlier this year. Unfortunately there was no improvement to his refereeing.

Danger Man: Wilfried Zaha
Although even the dimmest of referees seem to have sussed out his, er, "balance issues" he still has pace to burn on a side where we will be a bit lacking in that department, unless Zabaleta has been fitted with an outboard motor.

Percy's Poser:
Last week we Took a gander at the Southampton Daily Echo for the annual traditional a "Christmas Is Ruined" story and asked you to find the missing words from the following:

"'It's ruining our Christmas'. 2,000 Southampton homes banned from XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX"

Well done to Mrs Caroline Marsupial of Walton On The Naze for spotting that the missing words were "hanging Christmas wreaths". Well done Mrs Marsupial!

This week we look to some news site or other pretending to cover London which, sadly, technically includes Croydon unless we can persuade Scotland to take it as a going away present. Anyway, they have a reporter called Angie Quinn who they stuck on the biggest story to hit that part of the world prompting the following headline from which we have cunningly removed some words as follows:


Good luck with that!

Good luck everyone!

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