Filed: Friday, 5th November 2010
By: Preview Percy
BBC journalists have been out on strike today. We were hoping that Preview Percy was going to join them even though he doesn't work for the BBC. We were disappointed. Again......
Next we have a trip to the West Midlands we visit Birmingham City for a travel-friendly 3pm Saturday kick-off.
Our hosts currently sit in 14th place, six places and five points above ourselves. Their current form over the past six matches has been similar to ours – won 1 drawn 2 and lost 3 (as opposed to our own won 1 drawn 3 and lost 2). The win came courtesy of a 2-0 home win over Blackpool (who we meet next week). The two draws were both goalless – against Liverpool at home and away at Villa last weekend. The defeats came away at Arsenal and West Brom and at home to Everton. In amongst all that they, again like ourselves, qualified for the quarter-finals of the League Cup, though they were mighty close to going out at the hands of Brentford. A stoppage-time Kevin Phillips (bong) equaliser levelled the scores at 1-1 and, after an unproductive extra 30 minutes, the Blues finally prevailed 4-3 on penalties. They are at home to their good friends from up the road at Villa in the next round.
The back four ought to know each other fairly well. Messrs Carr, Johnson, Dann and former Hammer's trainee Ridgewell have started every league match this season, lining up in front of another league ever-present in the form of 'keeper Ben Foster. This may well be unique in the Premier League so far this season – however, if you think I'm going through every club's line-ups for the season to verify that you are very much mistaken. Johnson is listed on the usual injury lists as a “slight doubt” for the match with an ankle injury but given the settled line-up thus far it'd take something serious for him to miss this one.
Whilst the back four has been a constant so far this term, boss Alex McLeish has tinkered with the more forward positions. Against Villa last week they employed a 4-4-1-1 which had Alexander Hleb playing behind Nikola Zigic. Zigic is of course one of the few people who can call Peter Crouch “shorty” towering as he does a whole centimetre (whatever that is) above the lanky spud. However they played with Gary O'Connor up alongside Zigic in the previous league match at home to Blackpool. However O'Connor may not be available for selection this weekend. Barnsley took the striker on loan for a spell back in September and have had talks this week with a view to taking him back for another loan period. O'Connor may well be the only player of that name ever to have turned out for Lokomotiv Moscow (I lost track of Des's playing career once he left Northampton Town). Cameron Jerome has been another forward option – he last started in the 2-0 defeat at home to Everton.
Also on the books is Matt Derbyshire. I recall he looked highly promising as a youngster with Blackburn. However, his career seemed to fade and, from being an integral part of the England U21 set-up, he seemed to disappear off the radar. In a bizarre turn of events to rival O'Connor's 16 month sojourn to Moscow (that's Gary not Des), Derbyshire ended up on loan to Olympiakos, the deal finally being made permanent in June 2009. The deal was signed a month after he won the MOTM award in the Greek Cup Final in which he scored twice in a 3-3 AET draw. His second of the game came as a bit of a surprise to him. You'd think that if you equalise with the last touch of the game in a Cup final you'd remember it. Unfortunately for Derbyshire he'd picked up a bang on the head and the concussion meant that he only realised that he'd scored when the crowd cheered. Olympiakos went on to win the shoot-out 15-14, so a nice relaxing time for the fans at that one then. Derbyshire is currently on loan from the bubbles for the season, with a view to a permanent deal at the end of the loan. He's been used mainly from the bench thus far.
Apart from Ridgewell, whose Irons career was over before most of us had realised he was ever on the books, the other ex-Hammer at St Andrews is Lee Bowyer. Bowyer joined Birmingham in January 2009 on loan, the deal becoming permanent on the expiry of his Irons' contract at the end of that season. This was despite a vociferous campaign by some of the Blues support four years previously in which a petition was raised demanding that the club abandon all plans to sign the player as a result of his somewhat “colourful” past.
Assuming that he reappears from wherever he has been hiding for the past few weeks, Kieron Dyer will be meeting up with Bowyer with whom he had a “frank exchange of views” when the players were at Newcastle. This turned out to be a full-scale scrap that saw both players red carded and banned for three matches. Bowyer, as the perceived instigator, also copped a £30k fine plus another three matches from the FA plus another £600 fine and £1,000 in costs courtesy of charges brought by Northumbria Police over the incident. Dyer escaped further punishment – the FA were considering a further ban but, let's face it, if you give Dyer a ban who is going to notice?
Of course off the pitch there will also be a number of renewed, well friendships is probably not the word. I'm sure the welcome mat will be rolled out for SuBra when they arrive – their departure having been conducted on the most cordial of terms and all those abandoned law suits merely that result of some silly misunderstanding. However, Gold has been declared persona non grata over claims that Birmingham went back on a deal to offer him some sort of honorary role at the club Or because he rejected some sort of honorary role with a different title. Or something. It's all a bit petty really and I'm sure you care about as much as I do.
Back on the pitch, in defence Matthew Upson is set to return from his hamstring problem to face his old club, in which case I'd expect Ilunga to be the one to drop out, with Gabbidon reverting to left back to accommodate the returning skipper. Faubert, who was much reviled for his part in the late goal at the library last week, will not be available as he starts a 3 match ban following a sending-off in a reserve match a few weeks back.
The big absence in midfield will be that of Mark Noble who is currently recovering from having his appendix out – an injury that appears to be lacking on Kieron Dyer's CV (give it time). Dyer is in contention for a return to the squad. Other than the only other absentees seem to be the usual long-term suspects (though there is plenty of time for late training ground disasters to change that).
Last week's defeat showed that (one defensive lapse apart) we can keep a tight ship. However, it's now getting to the stage where results will start to become paramount. Noble's absence – coming as it does as he was having a fine season – will be the big worry and it'll be interesting to see how Grant shuffles the pack in the midfield with Dyer, Behrami, Boa Morte and Kovac all in line to join Parker in the midfield. I'd hope for a return to the Piquionne/Obinna partnership up front.
Prediction? Well there was much from which to take heart last week and I genuinely reckon that we can come away from the Midlands with 3 points. So I'll go for 2-1 – a score which, because of goal difference, may not actually be enough to see us get off the bottom but, if other results are favourable, it'll make things very cosy!
Enjoy the game!
Last season: Lost 0-1 - An eventful match. Diamanti went close a few times, ripping his own shirt off in frustration at one particular miss. Noble got a soft red, picking up two yellows for minor indiscretions. Bowyer got the winner but didn't celebrate. Apart from that, not much happened.
Danger man: Nikola Zigic – not all players that tall can be as bad as Peter Crouch.
Referee: Michael Oliver – The youngest Premier League referee, this is his first term on the so-called “Select Group”. Hopefully he is young enough for the traditional curse (that all referees called “Mike” are useless) not to have taken hold.
Daft fact of the week: - St Andrews is the only Premier League ground to have staged the Open Golf Championship. In fact matches are often halted to allow caddies to remove the corner flags whilst players sink putts. I expect.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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