Filed: Sunday, 18th November 2012
By: Preview Percy
Next we play host to Stoke City on Monday night. Kick-off for the benefit of space telly is 8pm, meaning the phrase “don’t wait up luv” is one that will be used quite a lot I imagine. As it’s a Monday we’ll be spared the spectre of the usual weekend engineering works, though rush-hour travel on the tubes is painful enough as it is.
Our visitors arrive in 13th place at the time of writing having amassed 12 points from their eleven fixtures so far. They are what you might call draw specialists, having picked up single points from six of the 11 matches. Rather oddly they drew their first four matches of the season, away at Reading (1-1), home to Arsenal (0-0), away at Wigan (2-2) and at home to Man City (1-1). The sequence came to an end at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea prevailed 1-0.
They picked up their first win of the season at home to Swansea (2-0) before returning to drawing ways with 0-0 draws at Liverpool and at home to Sunderland, between which they went down 4-2 at Old Trafford. Their last two matches have both ended up 1-0 – a defeat at Norwich and, most recently a 1-0 home win over QPR. The more observant of you will have noted from all that that they have yet to win on the road, their six matches away from the Britannia providing three draws and three defeats.
They are managed by Tony Pulis. Pulis has been raking up the column inches in recent months, fearlessly speaking out against the evils of diving in the modern game. Those who made the effort to attend the FA Cup quarter final at their place the other year will have been amazed by this apparent Damascene conversion, having seen the sad sight of ex-Hammer Matthew Etherington throwing himself to the floor to win a penalty. Given the few penalties we can recall seeing him given while he was with us, we can only presume such unsteadiness is something he’s picked up in the Potteries. Either that or he did it for a bet.
Meanwhile, since Pulis seems to be such a beacon of fair play we reckon that local charities are doing very well at the moment as they must be collecting thousands each week from player fines. Either that or Pulis is a humbug of the highest order. It certainly seems that he was up to some old tricks again in the match against Norwich, berating referee Marriner at half-time over some perceived injustice in the hope that he would even things up in the second half, a tactic familiar to anyone who witnessed Mike Jones’ disgracefully spineless performance at the Britannia that day.
We have been treated (and I use the word quite wrongly) this week to the sight of central defender Ryan Shawcross playing international football for England. Over the years Shawcross has probably put more people in hospital than the Lamb’s Liver at Raymond Blanc’s restaurant. He’s accompanied in the centre of defence by Robert Huth, whose “skills” include decking opposition players off the ball with snidey punches from the blind side.
Matthew Upson was one victim of such a cowardly approach, an assault that left him dazed and confused. Which meant that, but for the bloodstains, nobody would have ever known that Huth had hit him. This all means that the scene is set for a rather tasty battle between Huth and Shawcross on the one hand and Andy Carroll on the other. Carroll of course is quite capable of looking after himself so ref Foy may require a lot of help from his assistants.
Upson, in the meantime, is unlikely to start. In South Africa 2010 he spent the whole tournament trying to do his own job and that of John Terry, whose contribution as ever involved much shouting, much pointing and much blaming of others for his own shortcomings. In fact it was joked at the time that if he were ever to be pulled over for speeding, John Terry would give Upson’s name to the traffic cops.
Having been Terry’s scapegoat at international level Upson is now perennial bench-warmer for the Potters. He’s not much missed around here, his indifferent form in the Avram Grant “era” making a major contribution to our relegation. So anonymous was he as captain that every single match report outside kumb.com seem to contain the phrase “captain Scott Parker” .
In midfield they have Scotsman Charlie Adam. Adam is another who can put it about a bit – he seems to have some one-man crusade against Gareth Bale for example. Adam first came to prominence at Rangers where a promising start to his career seemed to peter out as he piled on the pounds. The less than spectacular tenure of French manager Paul Le Guen at Ibrox brought forth a number of changes in the background, including the imposing of a stricter dietary regime – a brave move at any football club let alone one based in Glasgow. This brought one of the great football quotes of all time from Adam who remarked “I’d never thought of eating salads before”. The comment caused a major internet failure in Scotland as thousands of Glaswegians went online to look up the meaning of the word “salad”.
Adam was released by Rangers and ended up at Blackpool where an off-the-ball stamp on an opponent saw him red-carded on his debut. Blackpool’s promotion to the top flight saw him gain rave reviews but there were signs that the player was beginning to believe some of the hype about himself. Rather cheekily he took Blackpool to a tribunal as, having trousered a promotion bonus thanks to their 3-2 win over Cardiff, he also argued that he was due another bonus for having avoided relegation. He threw in a “breach of contract” claim at the same time, suggesting that he might be on the lookout for a cheap exit. The tribunal awarded him the relegation avoidance bonus but slung out the “breach” claim.
The victory was somewhat pyrrhic in nature though as the tribunal failed to award the player costs, the total of which all but wiped out his non-relegation bonus. A none-too exciting year at Liverpool followed before Stoke came in for him at the start of this season, the Scousers taking a reported loss of nearly £3m on the player. His winner against QPR last weekend was his first goal for the Potters and, for those of you who love totally meaningless stats, is the only goal scored by Stoke City at home this season not to be scored by Peter Crouch. (I did warn you it was meaningless).
Up front we will be spared the prospect of Michael Owen scoring his statutory goal against us. He may not have scored in every game he’s played against us but it sure feels that way. He’s picked up what must be the least surprising hamstring injury in the history of association football (outside any that Kieron Dyer may have had over the years). However, there is a theory that the player is actually 100% fit and Stoke are just keeping him out of the way due to the embarrassment caused by the ridiculous facial hair he is currently sporting in the name of charity.
Another who will be missing through injuries is Rory Delap. Although there have been more than a few words written about his notorious long throws over the years, the statistics apparently prove that few goals have resulted from his long-range ballistics, especially over the past few seasons as teams have worked out how to counter the tactic. Feel free to look the stats up if you’re that fussed. Delap will be missing with something called an “inguinal hernia”. Something to do with lizards I think.
The line will be led by Peter Crouch. With five goals this season Crouch is their top scorer. It is an oft-repeated statement that he is “much better on the ground than you’d think for such a tall man” but that has to be tempered by the fact that he’s not nearly as good in the air as he ought to be at that height.
I have a theory about this – I may have mentioned it before but I can’t be bothered looking through over 160 previous previews to find out. My theory is this. It may not have escaped your notice that Crouch is taller than your average footballer. Barring a really late growth spurt it’s probably likely that he’s always been much taller than those around him and, while most of us of a less lofty stature as kids practised our heading by learning to jump to meet the ball, Mr Crouch never had to learn such skills. The result is that he often loses out in aerial battles to shorter players.
Ok as theories go it may not have such earth-shattering ramifications as those currently being looked at by CERN relating to the Higgs Field and Boson, but you’ve got to admit that, at a packet of Werthers Originals a column, I’m a hellofalot cheaper. Meanwhile, whilst CERN continues to mess about using the Large Hadron Collider for experiments in particle physics, they continue to dodge the really difficult question of how Crouch has won quite so many caps for England.
Crouch’s usual strike partner is Jonathan Walters. When I was a kid growing up on the Hawley Harvey Crippen estate there was a kid of that name who was the snivelly sort who would start a fight then run home to Mum when you hit him back. Between you and me it’s probably not the same person as the Stoke player is probably some 50 years younger than the person I’m thinking of. Although Walters picked up the “Sir Stanley Matthews Potteries Footballer Of The Year” award for 2011/12 he was none too prolific last season and, of the 9 goals to his name in all competitions, five came from the penalty spot. He did net twice against in a 2-2 draw against Bolton though, a result that confirmed Bolton’s relegation so it’s not all bad news. He has been capped at full level for the Republic of Ireland by virtue of an Irish-born Mum, who is definitely not the one that the kid I knew used to run back to after a scrap.
For Crimewatch corner we’ll gloss over the tragic (and that word is quite properly used for once) affair of the former Stoke academy player who is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his 15-year-old girlfriend and move on to the much funnier record of Jermaine Pennant. Pennant came to fame as the first professional footballer to play wearing an electronic tag. This followed his release from a 90 day prison sentence after he’d wrapped his Merc round an Aylesbury lamppost. He’d been serving a 16 month ban for drink driving at the time and his cause wasn’t helped by his response to the question “what is your name” to which he replied “Ashley Cole”. Perhaps he should have said “John Terry”.
In 2007 he received a fine for a public order offence having had an altercation with the glamour model he was stepping out with at the time. Apparently, she had found CCTV footage that suggested that his interpretation of the phrase “playing away” did not necessarily involve football. For the young lady’s part (no I can’t remember her name) her revenge involved destroying £200,000 worth of the player’s designer clothing. Prices sure have gone up at Marks & Sparks lately.
As if trying not to be outdone by his son, Pennant’s dad copped a 4 stretch for drug dealing before Pennant Jr returned to the headlines as his Porsche Turbo with personalised number plate turned up in
Zaragoza weighed down by five months’ worth of parking tickets. The player claimed that he’d forgotten all about owning the car. We’ve all done it I suppose.
Back on home shores Pennant continues to have difficulty with one or two of the more obscure elements of the Road Traffic Acts. However, you’d have thought he’d have been familiar with the sections dealing with drink driving, driving without insurance and driving whilst disqualified. Apparently not. After an accident last April he was convicted of all three offences leading to a further three-year driving ban and a suspended 8 week jail sentence. Perhaps he thought that leaving the personalised number plate on the car in Spain would somehow render him invisible to traffic police in the UK. In the meantime I’m a bit surprised that nobody has had the idea of suggesting that it might be a good idea to divert some of his clothes budget to shelling out for the occasional minicab.
And what of us. That was a good win up on Tyneside wasn’t it. Preview Alastair of the Joe Kinnear Centre for Tourette’s Research was moaning post-match about the lack of a penalty for a dive so lame that even a ref as useless as Mike Dean wouldn’t give it but, treating Preview Alastair’s comment with the distain it deserves, that doesn’t cover the fact that we saw a fine professional performance up there. Yes our opponents seemed to have developed a strange allergy to putting players into our penalty area but the fact remains that we kept a clean sheet on a ground where fortunes have been mixed.
Injuries were a bit worrying of course. Benayoun’s collision with Gutierrez left both players unable to complete the 90 minutes and knocks to Linda and Jarvis were also cause for concern. On the credit side of that equation we did see the return of Demel and O’Brien – who is having a fine season – proved his versatility by shuffling across to accommodate Demel when McCartney went off. O’Brien has now played on both sides and in the middle of the back four in recent weeks and his performances have gone beyond the merely “not letting anyone down” stage.
Winston Reid is also worthy of mention – he’s had to adapt to a variety of partners over the past few games. Eyebrows were raised – I’ll admit mine were amongst them – when he was preferred to Tomkins in the opening games of the season. In particular the memory of his performance at West Brom away when we were last in the top flight still makes me shudder. However, his performances last season in the 2nd division (or whatever it’s called) were superb. Maybe coming up against players of lesser quality at that level helped rebuild his confidence, maybe it was just a matter of playing week in week out that’s done the trick but what we have here is a completely different player who looked like a frightened rabbit in headlights up at the Hawthorns that year. Fair play to Mr Allardyce for having the guts to pick him I say.
On the injury front, the extra week and extra day mean that both Collins and Tomkins should be available for selection, whilst Matt Taylor should also be close to a return from the calf injury that has kept him out of the squad for a few weeks.
Stoke will be a tough nut to crack and discipline will need to be at its best – perhaps another quiet word with young Andy Mr Nolan? I’m wavering between a draw and a home win. They do like a draw and in the past it would have been typical for us to have followed up a decent win with a rotten performance in the following match. However the current boss seems to have quietly dispensed with such time-honoured “traditions” – the win on Tyneside itself being a case in point. So I’m allowing myself to be swayed by the feelgood factor of seeing Arsenal and Spurs beneath us in the table. This week’s charity of the week at the Avram Grant Home for The Bewildered is the Support For Victims Of Undercooked Lamb’s Liver in Posh Reastaurants. Worthy though that cause may be I’m taking the complete collection (£2.50) along to that nice Mr Winstone and placing it on a narrow win. May I be so bold as to suggest 2-1 to us?
Enjoy the game!
When last we met (at the Boleyn): March 2011, won 3-0. Bizarrely, having beaten Liverpool the previous week we managed to win back to back matches for the first time in aeons, giving us what turned out to be false hope. Ba – who had failed a medical at Stoke a few months previously – opened the scoring after a comedy lapse from ‘keeper Begovic. Da Costa’s towering header made it two and a late rocket from Hitzlesperger made it three late on. That was their sixth consecutive away defeat incidentally.
Referee: Chris Foy. Multi Olympic gold winning cyclist, according to Spurs fans. Makes you wonder how he finds the time to referee at all. Won plaudits for his fine judgement over a penalty call when last we saw him up at Norwich.
Danger Man: Peter Crouch. He just is that’s all.
Daft Fact of the Week: The city of Stoke on Trent is famously made up of a confederation of six towns, those being Burslem, Hanley, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb.
Stat man John: Northcutt's corner
Head to Head
Pld 82; West Ham Utd 33, Stoke City 30, Draws 19.
27th September 1919: Stoke City 2-1 West Ham Utd (Victoria Ground, Division Two)
13th March 2011: Stoke City 2-1 West Ham Utd (Britannia Stadium, FA Cup)
16th November 1957: West Ham Utd 5-0 Stoke City (Boleyn Ground, Division Two)
6th November 1982: Stoke City 5-2 West Ham Utd (Victoria Ground, Division One)
26th January 1972: Stoke City 3-2 West Ham Utd (Old Trafford, League Cup)
It was the days of endless replays - there were no penalty shoot-outs back then - and West Ham's epic League Cup semi final tie with Stoke was entering a FOURTH game. Whilst the original two-legged affair had ended 2-2 after extra time a first replay, played at Hillsborough, finished goalless (also after extra time). Old Trafford was the venue for the fourth match in the series which was taking place SEVEN weeks after the first leg had been held at the Boleyn Ground. With Hammers 'keeper Bobby Ferguson temporarily off the field having been concussed following a collision with City's Terry Conroy, Bobby Moore stepped up to take the number one jersey - and within minutes, Stoke had been awarded a penalty after a shocking back pass by John McDowell saw the defender foul John Ritchie. "It must be 100 to 1 against", commentator Gerald Sinstadt remarked on Moore's prospects of saving Mike Bernard's spot kick - but that's precisely what he did. Sadly he couldn't stop the rebound and West Ham eventually went down 3-2 on the night, despite briefly recovering to lead 2-1 (through Bonds and Brooking) at one stage.
They Played For Both
Henri Camara; Clive Clarke; Robert Dixon; Matty Etherington; Kevin Keen; Lawrie Leslie; Nicky Morgan; Matthew Upson; John Carew; Abdoulaye Faye; Geoff Hurst.
Our former manager Lou Macari (1989-90) also managed Stoke City (1991-93).
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.
10:57AM 19th Nov 2012
''Glad to see you are betting with Mr Winstone as his employer owns Stoke :)''
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