Sheffield United v West Ham United

Preview Percy is now nearly two weeks into 'dry January'. It's hell - for everyone else. Here is his look at Friday's trip to Sheffield United...



Next up we take a trip up the M1 where we will be hosted by Sheffield United. Kick off is at 8pm. No trains back but in a fit of goodwill to supporters seldom shown by the current owners to the Club will be spending some of the money it will rake in from playing a match hundreds of miles away on a Friday night on free coaches to get ticket holders there and back.

Of course, in a sane and ordered world where supporters actually counted for something TV companies would be banned from rearranging matches to dates or times that make it impossible for away supporters to get back by train.

So Sheffield United then. Currently sitting in eighth place with 29 points from the 21 played so far, a point behind Spurs and Wolves and two points behind Man Utd in the race for the not quite as good as you thought when you get there Thursday Night League slot.


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It's positively delightful up north


Despite their solid return to the top flight they haven't won in three and a defeat this weekend would see them losing three on the spin, though admittedly the other two were away defeats to Diverpool and Man City. The third game in their unproductive streak was a 1-1 draw at home to Watford. In amongst all that they made eleven changes for the Cup beating AFC Fylde to draw an away trip to Millwall in the "We Hate West Ham More Than You" derby.

Daisy, the full time personal assistant with the beautiful smile, is now talking to me again after I made a tweet that was less than complimentary about Kent, the county of her origin, last week informs me that quiet as the transfer window has been they have made one signing so far in the form of Jack Rodwell. Rodwell was seen as something of a wonderkid when he came through the ranks at Everton, impressing Man City enough for them to shell out ?12m back in 2012. However, he failed to make much of a mark there and after a handful of games left for Sunderland.

Sunderland were daft enough to sign up for one of those fly on the wall documentaries around that time and Rodwell unwittingly became the star/villain (delete depending on your point of view) of the piece as Sunderland descended through the leagues. With Rodwell on a rumoured ?70k a week in the Championship the club asked him if he wouldn't awfully mind tearing up said contract on account of them not being in the Premier League anymore.

Rodwell, understandably perhaps, declined the club's kind offer of a 100% pay cut and told them that, on reflection, he would prefer it if they could stick to the original arrangement whereby he turned up on time for training every day and the club paid him. This annoyed the club to the extent that they unleashed the ultimate sanction possible. Which was making Rodwell train with the Under 23 squad. Something that I am sure really stung Rodwell as he looked at his pay slip with the figure ?70,000 displayed at the top. Rodwell arrives as a free agent having been released by Blackburn at the end of last season.

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Jack the Rod


Rodwell made his debut in the Cup match at the weekend, a match which also saw a rare first team outing for Ravel Morrison. Described by Allardyce as the biggest waste of talent he had ever worked with, it's a sobering thought to consider that the player who was capable of THAT goal at Spurs is currently making up the numbers for cup matches in Yorkshire - at the grand old age of 26.

Top scorer at present is French Under 21 international Lys Mousset. Moussset has six goals from his 17 league appearances this season, a stat made slightly more interesting when you consider that he hasn't been an automatic first choice. Ten of those 17 appearances have come from the bench, including the equaliser he scored at the Olympic back in October, a goal scored only a few minutes after he had entered the pitch.

Second top scorer is Scotsman Ollie McBurnie. McBurnie has three this season so far. When last we met he had just been arrested for drink driving, with his case due before the magistrates early in November. The case was heard and, despite the police stating that McBurnie had registered something like one and a half times the legal limit for alcohol in his bloodstream he pleaded not guilty. His defence appears to be that he only had one drink so his blood alcohol level couldn't possibly have been that high, a disappointingly unoriginal (and usually unsuccessful) line of defence.

They have a fairly full squad to pick from, though there may be a few storm clouds gathering on the goalkeeping front. First choice custodian Dean Henderson is fit but they may be struggling to find someone to cover for him on the bench. Michael Verrips (who has Dutch Caps at youth level) managed to bump into a teammate in the Fylde cup tie and was later found claiming on social media that he had been concussed.

If that is confirmed by a proper doctor the rules on such matters will prevent him from taking any part in the match. Their usual number two number one is Simon Moore but he has been struggling with a hip injury. The thing is that now with Fabianski back and fit for us, and with the possible return of Randolph to the fold we are likely to have a spare 'keeper floating about if they want one. Just a thought.

And so we move on to our look at the wild and wacky world of Association Football. Sunderland's owners have said that they will listen to offers for the club, citing supporter pressure for the move. Which is a nice thought, though I suspect it will only work with club owners with skins slightly less thin than the average rhino.



No fine, but wrists slapped


Meanwhile a video showing Declan Rice's car getting wheel-clamped has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority on the grounds that betting adverts aren't supposed to feature anyone under 25 years old. The club sponsors argued that it wasn't an advert and that it was pure coincidence that their logo was all over the place, a line of argument even less convincing than McBurnie's "I only had one drink" defence.

Meanwhile, Stuart Pearce has said that his possible return to our coaching staff was blocked by the owners because of criticism he made the last time he left. You're in good company Stuart!

And on to us. The trip to Gillingham was a classic game of two halves. Moyes used the match to experiment with his favoured three at the back formation. However, for the first 45 our wing backs in the form of Fredericks and Masuaku seemed reluctant to occupy the space forward of where they have been used to playing. In effect we appeared to be playing with a back five something that gave the numbers and hence the initiative in midfield to the home side. Presumably assisted by a rocket in the second half we pushed on out wide and eventually the numbers and class told.

The win was not without its cost mind. Fredericks has succumbed to the hamstring epidemic that is affecting Antonio and Yarmolenko. Zabaleta's a wily old fox - and he will have loved his goal on Sunday. However, he isn't the ideal wing-back by any stretch of the imagination. We are looking at the end of February before we will see Fredericks again, with Wilshere - remember him? - slated for a potential return at the same time. Martin and Yarmolenko are both definitely out, Noble and Cresswell both have a 75% chance of being involved whilst the aforementioned Antonio is 50-50.

With respect to Bournemouth - who are on a particularly steep downward slide - and Gillingham, who are two divisions below us, this weekend represents the first proper test for the Moyes regime. The two wins will have helped steady morale of course but there should be few illusions that this will be much tougher.

However, on the (small amount of) evidence so far there are positives that can be carried forward into this one. I would say that on Sunday my suspicion is that had Pellegrini been in charge the second half would have been left to meander in much the same way as the first half had drifted. My gut tells me that we will graft a lot harder in this one so I reckon that a share of the points will be in order.

So the ?2.50 that I am not being allowed to spend on drink at the moment will instead be placed on a wager that the game will end in a 2-2 draw.

Enjoy the game!


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When last we met at Brammall Lane: Lost 3-0 (Premier League April 2007)

Tevez played in this match. They don't like you to mention that obviously. Neil "Colin" Warnock said "we looked like a Premier League team out there today". Wrong.


Referee: Michael Oliver

I nearly crashed the rest home's "Happy Bus" the other week when that most irritating of commentators Alan Green came on the wireless and suggested that Oliver was the best referee in the league. A comment so laughable that it tells you everything you need to know about both Oliver and Green.


Danger Man: Ollie McBurnie

Best not cadge a lift with him post-match


Percy's Poser:

Last time out we asked you what world first Walter Arnold achieved on 28 January 1886? Congratulations to Mrs Cordelia Korfball of Purfleet who knew that Mr Arnold was the recipient of the world's first speeding ticket! There was Walter driving down the road at 8mph in his "horseless carriage". The problem was that the speed limit in those days was 2mph. The local bobby on his bike caught up with him a few miles later and eventually the beak issued a one shilling fine. It just so happened that Mr Arnold was one of the first car dealers so the publicity probably did him no harm.

This week we look at the 1984 film "Threads", a look at the effects of a nuclear attack on Sheffield (not much as it happens). For this week's poser we ask you what was the part played by actress Ann Sellors in the movie?

Best of British!


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