Next we pay a visit to the god-awful London Borough Of Croydon which spawned the former Mrs Percy and which, as a result, should be banished from the United Kingdom and sold to somewhere like Venezuela. We could call it “Crexit”. While we are there we will be playing Crystal Palace in match that kicks off at the proper time of 3pm on Saturday. Hurrah.
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Coming in from Essex by train? Good luck with that. All lines between Liverpool Street and Romford will be shut. As will all lines on the Southend Victoria line. Thought you’d try C2C instead? Buses replace trains between Grays and Rainham on the Tilbury loop. Apart from that it looks fine. Check before you leave.
Daisy the work experience girl with the beautiful smile has consulted her little black book and informs me that this will be the 58th meeting between the two clubs, with us having won 23, drawn 20 and lost 14 of the 57 played to date. The first meeting took place back in September 1906 in the Southern League First Division (ah those were the days) which, as I am sure we all remember, finished in a 1-1 draw at their place which, at the time, was roughly where the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre is nowadays. There used to be a decent pub over that neck of the woods called The Thicket – all flats now you know. (get on with it – ed)
Their current form is mixed – the last six in the league read LWLLDW the last of which was represented by a 2-0 win over Fulham. That left them in 14th place with 26 points from 25 played, leaving them six points and two places behind our good selves. They will be keeping a weather eye (if not a panicky one just yet) over their shoulder. Although Fulham and Huddersfield are beginning to look as if they will soon need high-powered telescopes to have a hope of seeing dry land, Palace are a mere four points clear of Cardiff, who are paddling in a couple of feet of water with 22 points, and two points ahead of Burnley, Southampton and Newcastle who are all standing on the damp sand hoping the tide doesn’t come in on 24 points.
Daisy, the work experience girl with the beautiful smile, actually has something to do this week as, in what was a quiet window all round, the Glaziers were relatively busy. They had a mini-goalkeeping crisis over the turn of the year as both Vicente Guaita and Wayne Hennessy (of whom more later) picked up injuries in the 2-1 home defeat by Watford. Julian Speroni came back in at the age of 39 for the Liverpool game but the double injury left them short of cover. The result was the arrival of Sao Paulo third choice custodian Lucas Perri, initially on loan but with an option to buy for a rumoured £6m.
Both Guaita and Hennessy have recovered from their knocks, with the former getting the nod over the latter against Fulham. Talking of Hennessy (see I told you there would be more) he has been given extra time to prepare his defence against charges of misconduct from the FA. You’ll have seen the photo that shows the player appearing to be raising a Nazi salute with his fingers placed over his upper lip in the style often used to suggest “Hitler” (see the Fawlty Towers episode “The Germans” for the textbook example). Now I have no idea whether or not Hennessy’s explanation is genuine. However, as explanations go, “I was signalling to the bloke with the camera to get on with it and cupping my hand over my mouth so that my voice would carry” is not one of the more robust defences ever to grace a disciplinary hearing. I suspect that Hennessy will probably end up being found “not guilty” on the grounds that, if he was trying to pull a fast one he surely would have come up with something better than that.
The second loan arrival of the winter was Michy Batshuayi. He was being linked with us with some sources suggesting that his personal demands precluded any chance of him turning up at the Olympic. I’m not sure how much of that had legs but clearly they were in the market for a striker on loan, a deal to take Liverpool striker Solanke on loan collapsing a few days previously over injury concerns that seemed to worry Bournemouth not one jot as they stepped in to take the player on a permanent deal.
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They also brought in one player on, well calling it a “permanent” deal might be pushing it a bit. Former winger Bakary Sako has returned to the club on a free from West Brom until the end of the season. The player was previously at Selhurst Park between 2015-2018 and spent just over a year as part of the Baggies squad that went down last season.
Top scorer this season is midfielder Luka Milivojevic who has seven goals in the league. Six of these have come from the spot with him having converted all but one of the penalty kicks he has taken this season. Not all of these have come from dives by Zaha you may be surprised to hear. However, for all the whining about how unfair his reputation is, Zaha has, in the past, earned that reputation for a reason. As I have said with other players notorious for their unsteadiness of foot, if you’ve spent half a career throwing yourself to the floor at every opportunity you can hardly start complaining when referees start belatedly picking you up on it. After all, on the law of averages a referee who calls “dive” has a decent chance of being right.
Zaha’s participation in this match is the subject of some doubt at the time of writing. In the 1-1 draw with Southampton he got a shove from theatrical ticket broker Ward-Prowse to which he reacted in, as they say “an aggressive manner”. Out popped the yellow card. Instead of doing the “shaking his head dismissively” thing that players tend to do on these occasions, Zaha stupidly elected to treat the referee to a round of ironic applause. This was enough to prompt a second yellow, at which point even the dimmest would surely realise that they were on a hiding to nothing. Instead Zaha elected to try to continue the debate only leaving the pitch after being persuaded so to do by his team mates. That’s usually good for an extra match ban and that, with a £10,000 fine, was what he got. Whether or not he will miss this one will depend on whether or not he wants to appeal. If he does he risks an extra game for what would probably be termed a “frivolous” appeal. However, at the time of writing he remains eligible for Saturday pending a decision on the appeal.
And so to us and so to Monday. Well I admit my pessimistic (even by my standards) prediction was based on my recent experiences of watching a team that had lost its way in the manner of someone trying to find their way out of that stupid roundabout in Swindon without a satnav in an MOT failure with no petrol. During rush hour. However, the propensity of Association Football to delight in the most unexpected of manners is, one supposes, one of the reasons we all love the darned game in the first place. And you can stuff your stupid Superbowl Half Time show where the sun fails to make an appearance as far as I am concerned. Who needs some talentless Yank miming to a selection of their recordings from the hit parade when you have the tension and raw excitement of “Beat The Batak”?
The point was well-earned and came in the face of an astonishingly inept performance on the part of all three officials. The offside call for their goal was as inexplicable as the continued existence of Mrs Brown’s Boys as a television programme. Not to be outdone the other lino tried to top it at the very end of the game. And in the middle was Kevin Friend whose application of the advantage law seemed to consist of allowing play to continue for half an hour if Liverpool were in possession but blowing up the nanosecond that one of our players broke away. In addition to their usual tactic of committing niggly little fouls ten yards either side of the half way line to break up play, we were also treated to the snidey late taking out of players to block off runs for return passes. Have a look at Chicharito’s early shot just wide of the post and look at two players getting clothes-lined in the build-up. Friend spotted one of them – it was the only time in the match he got the advantage right for us – but his failure to punish repeated offences just encouraged a team already convinced that the referees are there to assist them and them alone.
Klopp’s haranguing of the ref post-match in the face of such blatant favouritism towards his team told its own story. It looked for all the world like a case of him having a go at the ref to convince the world that their failure to win was Friend’s fault when, in fact, but for Friend and his assistants he would have gone away pointless. This classic deflection tactic based on the old “repeat a lie often enough and people will believe it” principle was all a bit embarrassing from Klopp whose post-match conference bordered on the Keeganesque. Though as we have seen many times, shame is not exactly something that comes easily to the average Liverpool supporter – just look at how far they will go out of their way to defend diving whenever they get caught out.
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There were damned fine performances all over the place on Monday. Everything stuck to Fabianski’s gloves, Fredericks repaid the faith paid in him – I’ll admit this game had Zabaleta written all over it for me. Ogbonna looked imperious alongside the equally impressive Diop. Chicharito got a bit of stick on twitter from the boss which I thought was a tad unfair if truth be told. The tweet compared Hernandez’s work over 80 minutes with the obviously more attrition-based approach of Carroll. Hernandez may not have ruffled feathers in the same manner as the big lad but he put in an enormous amount of running across their back line to keep them honest – no mean feat when you really aren’t the type of player to whom that sort of thing comes naturally. Not as eye-catching but, in its own way equally as effective.
Anderson got the sponsors’ MOTM but personally I’d have given that accolade to Rice. Careful lad, people will notice!
Most likely to return to the squad from the treatment room is Arnautovic whose bruised foot is believed to have eased. Nasri’s calf has become unstrained but not enough for him to be considered. Incidentally with the welcome and much overdue news that Billy Bonds is to have a stand named after him, maybe the treatment room could receive some similar renaming – how about the Kieron Dyer Memorial Facility?
And so to the prediction. I suppose that a performance as decent as that one – we were a team again - is almost duty bound to be followed with something less impressive if we follow the old West Ham script. However, I don’t think that will happen this time round. They are an odd side whose consistency seems to run through various shades of mediocre and, at their best they won’t be an easy victory.
So, continuing the slightly pessimistic tone of last week, I will err on the side of caution and place the £2.50 I was going to send to the branch of the Samaritans that Klopp looked on the verge of calling the other night on a draw.
Enter my password into the Winstone Turf
Accountancy App (when the fun stops Kevin Friend is trying to “manage” another match) and let’s go for a 1-1 draw then shall we?
Enjoy the game!
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When last we met at Selhurst Park: Drew 2-2 (Premier League October 2017)
Chicharito and a stormer of a goal from Ayew put us 2-0 up at the interval. However, the midweek exertions of having beaten Spurs in the League Cup at Wembley began to catch up. Ogbonna gave away a penalty early doors in the second half and it looked a tired eleven that was on the back foot after the interval. Still you’d think that with the ball somewhere out wide down by the corner in the 96th minute you’d be able to see out the few remaining seconds wouldn’t you?. Sadly, Antonio didn’t see it that way and elected to put a pointless cross into Speroni’s mitts rather than hanging onto it for the 10 seconds that were left. Speroni launched it forward and a few seconds later Zaha levelled.
Referee: Craig Pawson
Last seen doing Southampton away. That went well. Could be worse – Mike Dean is on 99 Premier League red cards – including all the ones rescinded. Let’s hope he has the 100th out of his system by time we get him next.
Danger Man: Andros Townsend
I rate him as more of a danger than Zaha as there is more than one dimension to his play. He is on decent form as well as having the potential advantage over Zaha of not actually being suspended.
Last week week we delved into the Liverpool Echo, the only paper that comes with its own chips from which the following missing words headline was taken:
The XXX with nearly 40 XXXXXX XX XXX XXXXXX who’s a disgrace to his family
Huzzah and well done to Mrs Rosamund Valderma of Bowers Gifford for correctly guessing that the missing words were “Yob”, and “crimes on his record”. Mrs Valderma informed us that the reason that the yob was a disgrace to his family was because at his age his dad had a amassed a record double that length. Well done Rosamund!
This week we visit the Croydon bit of the My London website from which the following “desperate attempt to find a local angle in a non-local story” headline was taken:
Couple who have won £115m Euromillions jackpot were XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXX XX XXXXXXX
Good luck everyone!