Manchester City v West Ham United

It seems that Sky's spineless apology to the club last weekend has roused the gentlemen of the press who are lining up to question how the club is run. Preview Percy would like to welcome them to the party at last. Once he's had a look at this weekend's trip to Manchester City...

Manchester City away next. Sunday at 4:30 is kick-off time. Trains between London and up North look ok but you may like to check stuff closer to home - trains to/from Liverpool Street are their usual chaotic mess and C2C also have alterations so if you are on an early one to Euston bear that in mind.

Percy's preview in technicolor, for those who can't be arsed to read

So Man City then. Second place, a million points behind PGMOLiverpool who appear to be this season's favourites with the officials. It doesn't help of course when you are prone to little glitches like playing Spurs off the park and still losing 2-0. Still with the league to all intents and purposes sorted out they can concentrate on the so-called Champions League, which, if they win it, they may not be able to defend.

An earlier attempt by UEFA to punish them under Financial Fair Play regulations ended up in a slap on the wrist as UEFA did a Sky Sports and backed down in the face of bullying from City's lawyers. For some reason UEFA appear to have grown a pair and this time around have refused to back down.

There's been lots of bluster from Sue Grabbit and Runne, none of which impressed the Court For Arbitration For Sport who put the block on any further delaying tactics from m'learneds. Having found the City of Manchester easy to buy City's owners are having problems with football authorities - whose members would normally do anything for a new Rolex and an expense account. I guess we will find out just how serious UEFA are in a couple of weeks.

Daisy, the full time personal assistant with the beautiful smile informs me that the sum total of zero first XI players were signed during the winter window. A few academy prospects came in but that was that. I guess that they didn't really need to really. When you have a squad worth quite literally the value of an oil well, where are you going to go to improve?

Well they have missed Aymeric Laporte of course. Laporte did his meniscus in early in the season. He made his comeback a few weeks back against Sheffield United but hasn't featured since as they nurse him back to full fitness. He is rated as 50/50 but may possibly be given the extra week of the break to get him back on track.

Raheem Sterling incurred the wrath of some by kicking Dele Ali up in the air last weekend, though that's something for which awards are often granted. Under normal circumstances one might plump for him as this week's "Danger Man" given that he's not been that prolific of late. However a tweaked hamstring will keep him out so someone else will have to act as sequence busters for that one for a change.

Benjamin Mendy has also been hors de combat of late. He was considered for Spurs but wasn't risked and, like Laporte, is rated at evens to be involved. Again the fact that there is a week off may be a factor in the selection process . Other absentees will include Leroy Sane (knee) and Olek Zinchenko (suspended for being on the pitch at the same time as Mike Dean). However, let's face it their squad is so chocca with expensively assembled talent one could easily spend the next dozen paragraphs depressing ourselves even more.

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So let's move on to the wild and wacky world of Association Football. Well the running of our club continues to astound. Just when you think the owners and their employees can't do anything more stupid they go and prove you wrong. What have they done this week? Well let's start with the grovelling apology they managed to get out of Sky last week.

"They did spend money on St Andrew's - it got awarded "Asset Of Community Value status as a result" went the apology. A couple of things to point out: ACV status has absolutely nothing to do with the state of a building or asset. ACV is, in fact a recognition of the value of a facility to its local community for what it is. It's most commonly used to try and stem the flow of pubs being closed down and turned into flats. Presenting ACV status as if it is somehow an award is therefore wrong.

The other thing to note is that St Andrew's was awarded ACV status in 2013 - some four years or so after our current owners sold up. A bit rich to claim credit for the status then, which was granted after an application from the Blues Supporters' Trust.

The lengthy apology covered numerous issues - scouting, training facilities, quality of signings and the like - all of which are worthy of scrutiny by any meaningful measure. However, the club seem to be adopting a Soviet Union style approach to dissent. Anything that challenges the internal orthodoxy that is the club is a paragon of business efficiency is to be stamped on at all costs. Sky ought to have had a quiet word with their legal team and then responded along the lines put forward in the legendary case of Arkell v Pressdram

The Pravda-like approach has now seen the spectacular PR own goal of a supporter getting banned for wearing a t-shirt that expresses the view that the current owners and their most senior employee should leave the club. Their laughable covering letter was embarrassing in the extreme: "In the operator's reasonable view the provocative messaging was deliberately designed to incite the crowd". The ground regulation refers to danger, nuisance or annoyance. It will be interesting to see the trying to defend that one when the appeal goes in.

I'm willing to guess that the number of people within the (supposedly) 59,000+ crowd only became aware of the t-shirt when the photos came out in public. How on earth can you incite someone by wearing a t-shirt that nobody can see? And incitement to what exactly? I'm willing to bet that t-shirt changed nobody's view. Danger? Where? Nuisance? How? Annoyance?
Well yeah, three people might have been annoyed I suppose and, as Sky have found out, they appear to be three of the thinnest-skinned people in business. However, I didn't see anyone busting a gut to remove Liverpool supporters wearing colours in home sections, something that caused infinitely more nuisance and annoyance than anything our T-shirt wearer did. There was danger too - though that would admittedly to themselves.

The club's attitude to its supporters can be gauged by David Gold's response to a recent tweet. Remember, the club has lost over ?20m in its last financial year and on its own admission, faces "serious financial repercussions" in the event of relegation. The tweet in question suggested that anyone who might have legitimate concerns about such a state of affairs is a "moron" or a "Neanderthal", a description apparently endorsed by Mr Gold in his "liking" of the offending tweet. So there you have it. "Disagree with us you are a Neanderthal and a moron". I wonder what the FA's attitude would be to a club owner endorsing such views?

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Still, in the interest of even handedness I should give up a few column inches to the Baroness who said in her last column We are committed to continuing to improve aspects of our club off the field, including, importantly, our relationship with supporters.

I believe our American cousins might use the expression "way to go Baronness". Because nothing works better to improve supporter relations than banning them or agreeing that they are morons and Neanderthals does it?

We can but hope that owners don't swap notes on dissent with the Citizens' owners - they have a habit of treating political opponents to an extended holiday. It can be torture watching West Ham but back in the UAE they take a more literal view of things.

Last week? What can you say about defending like that? The odd substitutions and change of system didn't help matters - I can understand bringing a clearly knackered Antonio ashore but the switch to a five at the back was asking for trouble and it could have been so much worse. Throw a typically invertebrate performance from the match officials - Murray's tug on Fabianski for their first was mysteriously ignored by VAR for example - into the mix and you end up with a thoroughly unsatisfactory performance of the type that might well see a run on sales of GSB Out t-shirts being bought by supporters in the hope of getting banned.

Talking of VAR (inevitably) the replay showed in the ground looked a lot more like handball at the time and (again inevitably) we find ourselves asking would the decision have been the same had we been Liverpool. One look of Saturday night's highlights from Anfield gives the answer to that. Whilst it seems clear that the PGMOL pension pot has gone on a Liverpool title win, there must also be a suspicion that they kept enough back for a cheeky side wager on us to go down - probably placed all those months ago when we had a chance to go top four.

So on to this week. We are down to three on the injury front, those being Yarmalenko and Anderson (both looking at end February) and (yet again inevitably) Wilshere for whom there is no return date. Soucek, whose debut showed promise will be available and of course Jarrod Bowen, whose signing came too late for inclusion last weekend, will also be available.

Prediction? Three words spring to mind: "Hiding To Nothing" . Whilst in the past there would have been a tiny iota of hope based on the odd habit we have had in the past of playing badly against nobody in particular only to turn it on the following week against whoever was top of the league at the time I cannot see that happening this time around. Our defending has been too abject in recent weeks for that. I hope to hell I am wrong but I fear yet another average result against them. Stick the ?2.50 that would have gone on an GSB T-shirt on a 5-0 home win then Mr Winstone.

Enjoy the game!

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When Last We Met At The City Of Manchester Stadium: Lost 1-0 (Premier League February 2019)

Bernardo Silva's dive gave them an undeserved penalty. The FA strangely went all silent on the subject of "deliberately misleading a referee" - when asked about the retrospective ban came there answer none. Which was a slight improvement on the statement they came out with over Salah I suppose which quoted a rule that doesn't exist and which, if it did, would run contrary to the laws of the game. They had 80% possession but the corrupt penalty was their only reward. I expect they'd have ignored it with VAR too.

Referee: Graham Scott

So poor that PGMOL actually tried to demote him a while back. That's right the organisation that has continually failed to deal with Mike Dean thought this official was not up to standard. Of course being PGMOL they failed to succeed in the demotion. Missed a Chelsea match earlier this season because he got stuck in traffic. You get the picture.

Danger Man: Sergio Aguero

We were all lined up to get Sterling back on track until he got injured. They'll have to make do with Aguero then..

Percy's Poser:

Last time out we looked at the Brighton Argus from which we nicked the attached headline:

XXX-XXXX as heritage group want milk company's advert on historic church taken down

Well done to Mrs Johanna Pinhole-Camera of Roydon for spotting the missing words as "Oat-rage". Feel free to groan.

The Manchester Evening News is the source for this week's conundrum, which has a meteorological mystery as its basis. Pick out the missing words from this one:

The XXXX has turned XXXX in Stockport - and nobody knows why"

Good luck!

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