West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion

Preview Percy has a look at the visit of West Brom. Possibly the only preview you'll read to contain the words "metaphysical quandary". Not that that improves anything really...

Next up we take a few days off from the ever-deepening nightmare that is the League to take on West Bromwich Albion in the 4th round of the FA Cup which is probably sponsored by someone or other. Kick-off is 3pm on a Saturday, which is as it should be, the tv companies having missed a trick in not realising there is a chance of a former manager getting one over his old club on Saturday.

It having been quiet on the engineering front on the trains of late they seem to have gone for the nuclear option this weekend. There's pretty much nothing from Liverpool Street to, well anywhere really. Greater Anglia. TfL, C2C are all up the swannee this weekend. Oh and for good measure the ginger line is out between Hackney Wick and Stratford. Replacement buses all round then, if you can be bothered.

So West Brom then. A cursory glance at the league table shows that they top whatever we are supposed to call Division 2 these days. They have pretty much been there since October, a few days here and there apart. They have 53 points from their 28 matches played so far, giving them a one point lead over Leeds, who have played the same number of games and have an identical goal-difference of +19. This gives them a lead of four points over third place Fulham.

Despite their lofty position, recent form has been a bit patchy, which is why Fulham, and to a certain extent Forest, Brentford and Preston are all breathing down their necks. In the league they haven't won in six since they beat Birmingham 3-2 at St Andrews. Since then they have drawn four and lost two, the most recent defeat being a surprise 1-0 reverse at the Hawthorns to Stoke City.

They are, of course, managed by our old chum Slaven Bilic, an affable cove for whom there is still a certain amount of affection by many with claret and blue connections. He returned east to take young Grady Diangana on loan. He's had a successful time up there with five goals this season, including a brace on his league debut for the Baggies. He has had a few injury problems of late - his return from a back problem in the Stoke match lasted a matter of a few minutes before his hamstring went.

That injury will not only prevent him from playing in this match but also put paid to any prospects of our exercising whatever recall clauses we had in the contract. I was somewhat perplexed by Moyes's comments on the proposed recall, which suggested that the player would be better off in the Midlands: "playing in a winning team will be good for him". Er, yeah, cheers for that David.

Daisy, the full-time personal assistant with the beautiful smile, informs me that their top scorer this season so far is winger Matt Phillips. Phillips, an alumnus of the Blackpool side we beat in the 2012 play-off final, started off winning age-group caps for England before switching allegiance to the Scotland of his grandmother's birth. He tops the chart with 8 this season, all of which have come in the league.

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One behind Phillips on the league chart is Charlie Austin. He has seven in 20 appearances. I may be wrong but every time I have seen him score on the box this season it has been from the bench. That is entirely possible as eight of those 20 league appearances have come from the bench. A summer arrival, it took Austin a while to open his account, his first goal not coming until October. Austin also has a further goal to his name in the League Cup which puts him level with Phillips over all competitions.

The third entry on the chart is Welsh international Hal Robson-Kanu. He had his 15 mins of fame in Euro 2016, picking up a couple of goals in the tournament, the most famous of which was the one that gave Wales a 2-1 lead against Belgium in a match that the Taffs eventually won 3-1 to qualify for the semi-finals. Robson was lucky to be there, famously discovering almost by accident that the little old dear he used to visit in Tenby on family holidays every year was Welsh. Since the little od dear was his gran, that qualified him for boyo status and the rest as they say is history.

Ok time to talk about us then I suppose. If I have to. The latest suggestion from the press in France is that we have been linked with a return by Dimitri Payet. Recent photos suggest that he has added a few pounds since his departure, only being in France he has done it in kilos.

On the face of it the signing of a overweight player probably past his sell-by date would be pretty much par for the course for a "Sully Special". However, I suspect that the talented but troublesome Payet and his advisors may have naused-off the short one with the stupid hat just enough in their past dealings for Sullivan to want to avoid all contact with them.

Other than that the noises coming from the club are depressingly familiar. "Yeah we'd like to buy a player or two but we can't guarantee that will happen". All of which is trying to buld us up to a position where the signing of, say, Joe Allen, is seen as a positive thing. It's been pretty much like that every January since I can remember since the current owners took over. If only we had a proper director of football. I mean there must be a club somewhere that the Baroness hasn't annoyed with that bloody newspaper column.

Leicester away? That was inept, woeful, poor, disastrous, take your pick. Oh and before the board shakes its head and starts moaning about negative coverage again, as is its wont, I would point out that each of those words was picked at random from mainstream news sources. So if anyone at the club has an issue with that they know where to go. Actually, it does raise an interesting metaphysical quandary - which is worse: negative reporting or reporting negative reporting? Yeah ok maybe "interesting" is overstating it a bit.

Meanwhile, up at Leicester there was a spell, once Antonio had come on for the second half, where, having gotten ourselves back into the game, we were pushing for the equaliser, But once the third had gone in that was it. We didn't actually throw in the towel - the act of throwing suggests a level of energy totally absent for much of the match. It was more a case of - "yeah there's a towel around here somewhere - help yourself".

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The return of Antonio was the bright spot of the evening such as it was, though even he got no change from, David Coote, a referee who seemed to be there by virtue of his entering a competition on the back of a Corn Flakes packet. The bit where Antonio was fouled twice before being penalised for being in the same postcode as a Leicester player who mis-controlled the ball was a particular high spot for the hapless official. It makes you wonder who actually won the Corn Flakes competition.

One thing I have noticed emanating from certain quarters is the suggestion that our defensive woes can be attributed to the former manager. I suppose to a certain degree that is true but I didn't hear the same sort of attribution being afforded to Pellegrini for the wins over the wins against Bournemouth and Gillingham. Funny that, innit.

On the injury front, Yarmalenko, Fabianski, Fredericks and Anderson are all definitely out. Snodgrass aggravated an old knee problem on Wednesday and failed to appear for the second half. Whilst Wilshere has disappeared through a wormhole through the space-time continuum and is currently receiving treatment from the most advanced medical brains that the universe has, or ever will have produced, all of whom are completely baffled.

Prediction? Well both sides now have bigger - if different - fish to fry. Some changes to the usual line-ups are likely. I would not be in the slightest bit surprised to se Sanchez start and maybe some form of runout for Winston Reid, who has either been fit enough for a place on the bench for the last few games, or has been occupying a space there for the sake of appearances despite not being up to coming on.

This match is all about attitude. There was precious little of it on display up at Leicester in midweek and, with an opposition full of players keen to prove that they are the answer to their recent wobble in form as they go for promotion, if we go into this one with the same slapdash approach I can't see us winning. Contrast that with the attitude shown against Gillingham where the words "professional performance" were on everyone's lips. It didn't take long for that to change did it?

So do I back Moyes to get something out of whoever he picks? Well for some reason the answer is "yes". After Wednesday god alone knows why but for some reason I a going to put the ?2.50 that was going on Talksport's dry-cleaning bills (it's not cheap cleaning up when a presenter misses a target that big you know) on a scrappy, dismal home win. Call it 1-0 to us then Mr Winstone.

Enjoy the game!

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When Last We Met At The Olympic: Won 2-1 (Premier League January 2018)

McLean's deflected effort gave the visitors the lead. A second-half brace from Carroll, the second of which came in stoppage time, gave us all three points. We were managed by David Moyes. They were managed by a former Hammers' boss in the shape of Alan Pardew. Spooky or coincidence? Coincidence.

Referee: Stuart Atwell

Ah. I think we've found out who won that Corn Flakes competition.

Danger Man: Charlie Austin

Not sure if he is likely to play but he's the sort of irritant who traditionally can cause damage.

Percy's Poser:

Last time out we asked you to identify the new major attraction in the Leicestershire village of Blaby that featured in the headline from the Leicester Mercury below:

People queue from 5am in freezing weather for opening of new XXXXXXX"

Well done to Mrs Lily Sentient-Being of Laindon who correctly identified Leicestershire's latest tourist attraction as "Iceland", helpfully adding "I mean the shop formerly known as Bejam rather than the North Atlantic island nation of that name. Thanks & well-done Lily!

This week we visit the pages of the Express & Star, the journal of record of that part of the Midlands. The local zoo has hit upon a novel way of keeping the animal rights lobby happy. To find out how they did it simply fill in the missing words from the following headline:

XXXXX XXXXXXXXX set to be installed at Dudley Zoo

Best of luck!

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