West Ham v Blackburn - match preview

Saturday 13th August sees a visit to the Boleyn ground of T’Rovers of Blackburn for the opening day of the Premiership campaign.

They are famous for being bankrolled by a true football man, Mr Jack Walker (RIP), for winning the Premiership in 1995 (with Ludo’s help) and for being just about as Northern as they come. Based on my research on Blackburn websites, they don’t seem to like Burnley much and there is some weird Dingle situation going on (not sure if they are the Dingles or they hate the Dingles) but anyway.

They finished the league in 15th position with a total of 42 points (the same as we went down with) but much of that success came after Souness absconded to Newcastle to be replaced by former Blackburn striker, Mark Hughes. It is Hughsey’s first foray into club management after a successful run as Welsh manager though he has been quick to attract other members of the Taffia to the club (See midfield and attack). The club also enjoyed a trip to the Stade de Taff for a cup semi final but were unsuccessful against the eventual winners, L’Arsenal.

Their style of football has been kindly described as direct, though this is the same as a kick in the jacobs can be described as direct. Their physical, aggressive or downright dirty style was most talked about after the semi final defeat, the strategy that day was to kick, punch or elbow the Frenchies off the pitch, though thankfully for football, the team from gay Paris overcame them.

They certainly boast a solid defence, Lucas Neill, Andy Todd, Ryan Nielsen and Dominic Matteo will probably line up in front of the half decent Brad Friedel in goal. Marlon / Bobby/ the old Millwall one / mysterious new striker will find the defence fairly unforgiving. They managed 6 clean sheets in the last 10 games of last season against opposition including Liverpool, Manchester Buccaneers (formerly United), relegation strugglers Southampton and Palarse and a goalless draw with the Spuds.

The midfield is blessed with one of the least popular characters in the game, Robbie Savage. He is famous for being in the Man United youth team (with Scholes, Beckham, Neville et al) but not making it, a typical act of petulance with Paolo Maldini’s shirt at the beginning of his international and having the chaviest tattoo ever, an Armani eagle on his arm (that I am sure Giorgio would happily remove with a machete given half a chance). He is the heart and legs of the midfield and will be treated to a chorus of boos for the duration that will only be surpassed if ol’ Terry Brown was to be introduced as a West Ham substitute.

Robbie could form part of a four man midfield, or they may settle for one up front, with Aaron Mokoena, Stephen Reid, purchased from the Bermondsey scum. Brett Emerton, Morten Gamst Pedersen, David Thompson or Tugay making up the numbers.

Goals were the biggest problem last season, scoring the fewest goals in the Premiership and the clubs top scorer was Pull Dickoff. They have tried to address that by capturing the signatures of the ever so familiar Shefki Kuqi as well as the man who carries more baggage than a Madonna world tour, Craig Bellamy. They also seem to have nearly got Matt Jansen fit so the striking line up for the first game is a little unpredictable. Hopefully, to West Hams advantage, they may not be too familiar with each other.

Their pre season has gone quite well, a draws with Morecombe and a 1-1 with 1860 TSV Munich three days before we went there were followed by victories over Real Mallorca, a 4-1 victory at Swansea and a 2-1 victory at Grimsby. Matteo and Reid have both scored a couple and Kuqi, Dickov and Jansen have all been off the mark. Their final friendly was against Spanish opposition and ended in a 4-0 victory over Espanyol, with Reid and Pedersen getting two goals from midfield and Kuqi Koo getting two, though the Spaniards had two players sent off.

They come to East London in a confident mood, Hughes has spoken of a desire to push for a European spot and a glance at the Blackburn websites boards shows how confident they are. However, most football fans are in a pretty buoyant mood at this stage of the season and we can hope that that confidence will translate into complacency and we can turn that to our advantage.

I suppose that I should be brave enough to back all this data up with a few predictions. I am going to stick my neck out and declare that there will definitely be widespread chaos at the turnstiles with the introduction of the new swipe cards, I am confident that the fare in Tippys Café will be of its usual high standard and that the number of renditions of Bubbles in the Centenary Lower will be in the 8-12 range.

Score wise, this one has got 0-0 written all over it but I think the number of debutants on both sides and the first day of the season excitement will force a 1-1 (with Marlon getting ours). Don’t forget that if you are stupid enough to bet on the game based on this prediction and you lose, the author can’t be held responsible. However, if you are prudent enough to successfully invest based on my advice, 7.5% should be sent to me in cash or paid into my Zurich account.

Whatever happens, this Saturday, we are Premier League.

Enjoy the game.

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