Filed: Friday, 2nd November 2012
By: Preview Percy
Next up we entertain the current champions as Manchester City are the visitors to the Boleyn.
Kick-off is at 5.30 and the eastern fringes of the District Line and the parallel main line services appear to be free of engineering works this weekend. Presumably someone at TfL looked at the fixture list and, not seeing our name alongside the 3pm kick-offs, assumed that we weren’t playing and cancelled any planned disruption. There is, of course, work going on elsewhere – that bit of the Central Line out by Hainault that nobody uses is being messed around with for example. So, as ever, check before you leave.
The visitors are currently in third spot with 21 points from their nine matches thus far. That’s a point behind the current leaders Chelsea and level on points with their neighbours from Salford. Unlike those two teams, however, the Citizens are unbeaten in the league this season.
Despite their unbeaten run the one word that peppers their match reports this season is “unconvincing”. Their opening game saw them go 2-1 down to Southampton at home before rallying to win 3-2. They required a late defensive cock-up from Liverpool to pick up a 2-2 draw at Anfield, and the following 3-1 home win over QPR wasn’t as comfortable as it sounds. They were behind to Stoke at the Britannia (flavour of the month Mark Clattenburg missing Crouch’s handball) before drawing 1-1, a result they equalled at home to Arsenal in their following match, the visitors netting in the last 10 minutes to earn a point.
They were then behind at Fulham (admittedly to a penalty from a Gerrard-like dive from Riise) before nicking all three points with three minutes to spare. The following 3-0 win over Sunderland was, for once, as easy as it sounds but West Brom were unlucky to succumb to a late late winner at the Hawthorns and last weekend their performance against Swansea stuttered more than the Rest Home’s minibus does when it’s been refuelled with that dodgy diesel that the local farm flogs to us.
Not that it’s strictly relevant but whilst they’ve ridden their fortune in the league, their European results have been awful. Both Ajax and Real Madrid have taken all three points against them and Borussia Dortmund took a point home to Germany after a 1-1 draw in Manchester. So for the so-called Champions’ League they have the proverbial mountain to climb, a task that they’ll be undertaking wearing that diving suit with the lead boots that that bloke used to “run” the marathon in.
Saturday’s match against Swansea was marred by a serious injury to defender Micah Richards. It’s an odd thing that, for all the talk about dangerous/reckless tackling the worst injuries to players seem to occur when there is nobody near them. Richards twisted awkwardly making a clearance last weekend, something that resulted in a torn meniscus in his knee. Thankfully for the player the tear was repairable though it looks like he’ll be out for about four months.
A muscle tear for Swans’ keeper Michel Vorm meant that the match had a Premier League record 12 minutes of added time at the end. We hope to bring you the result by the end of this preview. As for a replacement for Richards, Pablo Zabaleta has missed recent weeks with a hamstring injury but the murmurings from the blue half of Manchester suggest that the injury will have healed sufficiently for the player to make a timely return at the Boleyn.
Obviously Joe Hart is well known to all from his exploits with both club and country. I’d suggest that, fine ‘keeper though he undoubtedly is, he isn’t quite the finished article that the TV pundit chappies might have you believe. Will take some beating though. However, much more interesting from a “writing-a-preview-that-likes-to-look-at-stuff-other-previews-can’t-be-bothered-with (with-good-reason)” point of view, is their third choice custodian.
Richard Wright, apart from being the late keyboard player with Pink Floyd, is also an ex-Hammer, though it is to Ipswich Town that he has perennially returned with all the regularity of matron to a drinks cabinet. His third spell with the Tractor Boys ended last season and he signed for Preston North End. It took Wright a whole seven days of pre-season training to decide that he was homesick and he negotiated himself a release. After a few days flirting with Colchester United he signed for Man City. That extra 35 miles or so that Manchester is closer to Ipswich has done wonders for his homesickness, though I doubt Preston are over-impressed.
Meanwhile, the Citizens’ early exit from the League Cup will restrict the number of matches that Wright will watch from the bench with a wistful air.
Many observers have noted that skipper Vincent Kompany doesn’t seem to be quite the player this season that he has been over the past few years. Maybe he’s still recovering from Joey Barton’s attempts to head butt him in the match that decided the title last season but he seems to have lost something in the “decision-making” section of his brain, witness his dithering in the West Brom match that ended up with Milner picking up a red for denial of goalscoring opportunity. He’s still a decent player mind but maybe one to target for putting under pressure if, as reports suggest, he’s not been at his best this term.
It’s in midfield and attack that the embarrassment of riches becomes a little scary. David Silva (of course we knew him when he was plain old Dave Silver – who sounds like he’s a mate of our chairmen) is a particularly tricky cove. To this old fool the manner with which he seems to create space is little short of witchcraft. A creative midfielder whose efforts are most pleasing on the eye, though in that respect I’ll obviously be hoping for some disappointment this weekend.
It’s not all overseas talent in there either. Scott Sinclair is no mean player; he arrived from Swansea in the opening weeks of the season. The big question is whether he can successfully make the transition from big fish in a small pond to small fish in a big pond. It shouldn’t have escaped his notice that he had to make the leap from Chelsea to Swansea (via various loan spells) in order to make an impression so he’ll be aware of the potential to find himself overlooked amongst a mass of expensive overseas talent.
Of course no mention of the visitors should go without a mention of a certain Carlos Tevez. His spell on the pitch with us, once Alan Curbishley had finally remembered that he was there, was often a joy to behold. He does have that slightly irritating habit of scoring against us and, muted though his celebrations usually are, just for once I’d settle for him doing the 'Hammer' signal pre-match and having bugger all to smile about for the rest of the evening. He seems to have been rehabilitated after the hissy fit last season that saw him sat on the naughty step for a few months.
Of course Tevez’s travails last season pale into insignificance compared to those of resident nut-job Mario Balotelli. There’s a touch of the Inces about some of Balotelli’s earlier antics. Whilst an Internazionale player he turned up on an Italian TV programme wearing a Milan shirt, though unlike Ince he wasn’t actually taking instructions from a future manager at the time. However Ince is not the only possible influence. He turned up being photographed alongside some noted Mafiosi a couple of years ago prompting comparisons with Steve Gerrard (though he doesn’t dive nearly as much).
Some of his behaviour might be traced back to a difficult childhood – his biological parents had him fostered at the age of three returning to claim him back just as he started to make a name for himself in football. Balotelli (the Italian surname is that of his foster parents) was unimpressed. Whatever the reason for all the fun and games, nobody can deny that they’re a wee bit different from the usual footballer shenanigans. After all, which one of us hasn’t at one stage or another driven into a women’s prison “for a look round” or decided to hold an impromptu fireworks party in our own bathroom?
Inevitably some of the stories attached to the player have turned out to have been complete tosh – nice though it would have been to have seen him confront a school bully or give away £1,000 to a homeless person. Still Mario, if you have a spare grand, the Avram Grant Rest Home Bathroom Firework Party fund could do with a boost.
Crimewatch this week is combined with our occasional 'Splendid Name' feature, though it is more in sadness than in humour that one has to report the recent arrest of young midfielder Courtney Meppen-Walter on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. We’ll leave it at that, shall we?
Us? Well last weekend was a bit duff wasn’t it. Sure there were some extenuating circumstances, most of which centred around the fact that James Tomkins is a much better striker than he is a right back. However, even allowing for the paucity of resources in that particular area, the performances on the rest of the pitch weren’t up to the standards set this season – a fact acknowledged by the manager in his post-match interviews.
As Mr A. is so fond of pointing out, you need to maintain a constant level of performance in this league as just about every lapse in concentration will be punished. Still the fact that displays such as last week’s and the defeat at Swansea have stood out like sore thumbs against the background of the overall decent start to the season that we’ve enjoyed, shows how much things have improved since we were last here. We’re certainly not going into matches each week expecting to lose anymore – as was the case all too often in the relegation season. The problem with that, I suppose, is managing expectations.
Injury news isn’t great I’m afraid. Guy Demel’s presence at right back has been missed and, although he was said to have been close to a return at Wigan, the latest news is that he’s done a groin which will keep him out for another couple of weeks. Joey O’Brien ought to be available and, to be honest, I’d feel more comfortable with him in that role than I do with Tomkins there. Other than that the usual suspects are all out for the foreseeable.
The run of fixtures we have coming up now of course will be a different kettle of fish to those we’ve played so far. In what I suspect the 'kids' will be calling 'Tuffvember' we’ll be playing some very strong teams. And Tottenham. Thankfully, amongst the support, there seems to be a new realism in the air – it’s sometimes easy to forget that we’re a newly promoted team, especially when you compare our start to that endured by Southampton and Reading.
Few will be expecting a victory in this one and, optimistic as the unidentified medication that matron sticks in our night-time cocoa makes me feel, even I can’t see us picking up all three points from this one. However, it has been a feature of our season thus far that poor performances have not been allowed to develop past the 'blip' stage. If we can sort out the right side and if we can get amongst them and turn in a performance of the like we saw for much of the match against Arsenal, the fact that they aren’t firing on all cylinders will work in our favour.
So, and admittedly this is more in hope than expectation, I shall be taking the Avram Grant Rest Home For The Bewildered Firework Party fund (which, in the absence of a contribution from Mr Balotelli, still stands at £2.50) along to Winstones Turf Accountants and placing it on an optimistic 2-2 draw, in the hope that the increased odds will allow us to have some decent rockets to launch and do justice to the John Terry guy that we’ll be burning on Monday night.
Enjoy the game!
NB. Late result: Manchester City 1 Swansea City 0
When Last We Met: Lost 3-1 (December 2010). Not quite the one-sided affair the result suggests. Although we were spared the statutory Tevez goal due to suspension, Yaya Toure put the visitors ahead. We had our chances though. The turning point came when Toure got away with a rather blatant handball that Phil Dowd was too puffed out to see. Rob Green was unluckily credited with an OG when the ball came back off the post and rebounded off him into the net whilst Adam Johnson made it three. Tomkins added a late consolation. We lost the return fixture up there 2-1 later that season.
Danger Man: Carlos Tevez. In all honesty it could have been any one of a number of players such is the strength of their squad. Tevez gets the nod due to that annoying habit he has.
Referee: Howard Webb. Once a fine referee he has gone off the boil over the past few years. Even before his rather disastrous showing in the 2010 World Cup Final (“controlled with all the air of a six-year-old charged with taking ten Alsatians for a simultaneous constitutional through a park full of cats” © P. Percy) he was showing signs of being past his peak. Still, if you’re after a good omen, we won his last match in charge of us. At Wembley.
Daft Fact of The Week: Before they moved to whatever they are calling the City of Manchester Stadium these days, Man City played at good old-fashioned Maine Road. It is a sobering thought (in more ways than one) that Maine Road could easily have ended up being called “The Dog Kennel” ground. Back in the 1870’s there was a strong temperance movement in Manchester and they owned a lot of the properties on Dog Kennel Lane. They successfully got the council to change the name to Maine Road in honour of the US state that had banned sales of alcohol a few years previously. There’s a nice bit of poetic justice in the fact that millions of pints must have been consumed by football supporters visiting that bit of Moss Side over the years that followed City’s move from Hyde Road in the 1920s.
Stat man John: Northcutt's corner
Head to Head
Pld 92; West Ham Utd 35, Man City 42, Draws 15.
26th April 1924: West Ham Utd 1-2 Man City (Boleyn Ground, Division One)
1st May 2011: Man City 2-1 (City of Manchester Stadium, Premier League)
18th May 1963: West Ham Utd 6-1 Man City (Boleyn Ground, Division One)
8th September 1962: Man City 1-6 West Ham Utd (Maine Road, Division One)
17th August 1974: Man City 4-0 West Ham Utd (Maine Road, Division One)
6th December 1969: West Ham Utd 0-4 Man City (Boleyn Ground, Division One)
24th March 1962: West Ham Utd 0-4 Man City (Boleyn Ground, Division One)
They Played For Both
Craig Bellamy; Tal Ben Haim; Ian Bishop; James Cumming; Kevin Horlock; David James; Steve Lomas; Trevor Morley; John Payne; Stuart Pearce; Trevor Sinclair; Paulo Wanchope; Mark Ward; Michael Hughes; Phil Woosnam; Carlos Tevez; Marc Vivien Foe.
Former West Ham United players John Bond, Malcolm Allison and Stuart Pearce have all been managers of Manchester City.
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.
02:31PM 2nd Nov 2012
''A great read, I really enjoy coming to a proper ground and Saturday won't be any different. All the best for this season to the best club down south (but not this weekend eh!).
by Rob H
11:27AM 2nd Nov 2012
''Coming down tomorrow for this, hopefully to watch the rags get beat as well in the Denmark pre-game. Love coming to West Ham - proper club - proper fans, hopefully the only thing to put a spoiler on the day will be the hour long queue at Upton Park!''
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