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West Ham United v Southampton

Filed: Thursday, 29th March 2018
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy's back and he's not happy. And he has calmed down a hellova lot during the Cup/International break. Not that it shows. Here's his take on this weekend's visit of Southampton.....

And so, after what appears to have been a break that lasted a long as a close season without a World Cup or Euros to fill the gap, we return to action. Kick-off is 3pm and our visitors will be Southampton. Had the “most successful stadium move in the world, ever, it really was, honest” (Copyright K. Brady) not resulted in our home ground being unavailable at the start of the season this game would have been played on the south coast. It wasn’t so here we are.

Trains are their usual shambles in and out of Liverpool Street and you can add some diversions into the mix on the C2C where there is nothing between Grays and Rainham. So if you have ever fancied a visit to Ockendon this weekend would be a good time to try it. Oh and if you happen to be coming up from Southampton RMT have called another one of their strikes but I don’t expect anyone will notice the difference.

So Southampton then. They currently occupy the final relegation spot with 28 points from the 30 played so far. Which is 3 points and one place behind us. They’ve won 1 drawn 3 and lost 2 of their last 6 in the league, a run of form that saw them dispense with services of Pellegrino and turn to the oh so subtle talents of Mark Hughes. The general impression one gets of the appointment is that Hughes wouldn’t have been the average Saints fan’s first choice to take the helm but needs must when the devil vomits in your kettle as it was so eloquently put in one of the Blackadder series.

Hughes got off to a winning start with a 2-0 win at Wigan in the Cup with the home side finally having run out of referees willing to give penalties like the one they got against us. However, the vagaries of the international break system mean that this will be Hughes’ first league match in charge so, having had a free pass for his first game it’s from here where the real work starts.

A quick look at the transfer window courtesy of the work experience kid of as yet to be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises might suggest that the departure of Virgil Van Dijk (imagine Thunderbird 2 piloted by a chimney sweep with a dodgy cockney accent) to Liverpool (where else?) might have led to a slump in form. However, the player effectively left for Liverpool back in the summer when yet again the Scousers got caught red handed breaching every transfer rule in the book. In fact the Dutch defender played only 12 times in the league this season and his last match in Saints colours was as early as 13 December. Just after Christmas it was announced that the player would officially be a Liverpool player with effect from 1 January. There were dark mutterings that the £75m fee contained some sort of premium in Southampton’s favour in return for leaving the player out of their December squads and for not taking the transfer rule breaches any further. Let’s put it this way, it wouldn’t have been the first time Liverpool have paid off rival clubs to avoid trouble with the authorities – eh Tottenham?

The £75m received for Van Dijk didn’t send Pellegrino rushing out to the shops, though they did break their transfer record in spending a reported £19m on Monaco’s Argentinian striker Guido Carillo. Carillo netted 21 times in 95 appearances in all competitions in the principality. Prior to Monaco Carillo plied his trade at Estudiantes, an Argentinian club that those of us of a certain age will remember getting involved in a brutal Intercontinental Cop tie with Man Utd back in 1968. The Estudiantes side contained a number of players from the Argentinian squad labelled as “animals” by Sir Alf Ramsey in the 1966 World Cup and their conduct two years later did little to counter that description. All of which has nothing to do with this weekend’s game but hey it was an amusing diversion down memory lane nonetheless. Back here in Blighty Carillo has yet to open his account in a Southampton shirt which probably only means one thing…..

Top goalscorer at present is Charlie Austin who has 6 in 16 league appearances. Austin was, of course, the subject of one of those “public relations disasters” that never take place according to the Baroness, when David Sullivan opened his gob and proved once again why he should leave the running of a football club to someone who might know what they are doing. George out of Rainbow, for example, wouldn’t have done anything as stupid as claiming another club’s player was shot as Sullivan did with Austin who, understandably, had slightly different views on the matter. The aftermath was that Sullivan ended up having to issue another of those apologies for a public relations disaster of the sort that never take place according to the Baroness. Worryingly, it seems that Austin is winning his battle against a thigh injury and has, at the time of writing, a 50-50 chance of appearing at the weekend, which probably means only one thing…….

Another who is likely to be fit is full-back Ryan Bertrand. Bertrand withdrew from the England squad for the recent friendlies against The Netherlands and Italy suffering from a back problem though the withdrawal seems to have been “precautionary” in nature, though not as precautionary as Man Utd’s constant withdrawal of fully fit players from international friendlies as a precaution against them possibly getting injured over the years. Now that Giggs is managing Wales I do so hope managers start treating him in the same way as he treated Wales managers over the years – what was it one friendly in 9 years?

But I digress.

So what has happened since last we met? Well every time I think this club can’t get any lower it does. Let’s look at Burnley then. Now as a very old supporter who was brought up on the promise of a thick ear from my Dad if I so much as thought about running onto the pitch, I can’t condone incursions of the nature we saw at Burnley. However, I sure as hell understand the sentiment behind them. And there has been a complete load of utter twaddle spoken about the situation much of it from people who know the square root of sod all about football in general and our club in particular.

Take Mayor Khan for example. According to him the crowd unrest was “planned and co-ordinated”. Now I don’t know who is feeding him such b*llocks but as a senior elected politician really he ought to know better than to open his gob on stuff he knows nothing about. Apparently the evidence for the “planned and co-ordinated” trouble was that it all kicked off at the same time. Clearly Khan and his info suppliers have never tried to make a mobile call within the confines of the stadium. Remember last year even the old bill couldn’t get their radios to work in the place. The only communications system that would really work would be a series of tin cans linked with string and I didn’t see too many of those about did you?

No, unrest had been building up over a number of weeks culminating in the cancellation of the march that had been due to take place that day. By all accounts the club had been going out of its way to try and ensure that the march didn’t take place. If that was the case it was a plan that blew up in their faces in the most spectacular manner with the pitch incursions (and please let’s not pander to the gutter press by referring to them as “invasions”) and the protests in front of the directors’ seats garnering infinitely more publicity than the march ever would have done.

The fact that unrest started simultaneously had more to do with the fact that it had Burnley’s first goal as a trigger. Or do they think we ring each other up on those rare occasions we actually score a goal and say “ready to cheer in 3,2,1…….”?. So yet another public relations disaster of the sort that we never have according to the Baroness then.

As mentioned column miles have been written about the protests, some wise some less so. A number of columnists have made great play about David Gold’s age. Now rightly or wrongly Gold is portrayed as the junior partner of the ruling junta and maybe there is some truth in the notion that his involvement is far less than Sullivan’s. Gold’s public utterances are certainly less “foot in mouth” than those of his co-chair or his vice-chair. He usually shoehorns in the fact that he lived opposite the Boleyn much in the same way as dodgy Dave Whelan mentions that he broke his leg in a cup final, but that’s about it. However, the idea that his age somehow exempts him from criticism is a bit ageist. I do believe that the chap isn’t in the rudest of health – and I sincerely wish him no ill in that respect – but football matches always take place in something of a confrontational atmosphere and directors up and down the country know that. Given that, outside some video channels and the occasional other website or blog, only three people in the world think our club is actually well-run, if the criticism is too much for someone of advanced years wouldn’t it be a good idea to plan for a comfy retirement? How about a word with that woman who was putting together a group to buy Newcastle until she got fed up with Ashley messing her about? We would probably cost more than the Geordies but on the up side we are in London – I know this because it says so on the bloody badge.

I ‘spose I ought to talk about football at some stage (please – Ed). The injury list looks like this:

1) Andy Carroll – broken foot – estimated return possibly Arsenal if they can make their bloody minds up when it’s being played

2) Sam Byram – ankle – looks like he’s out for the season

3) Pedro Obiang – knee ligaments – he’s definitely out for the season

4) Manuel Lanzini – “knock” – picked up a worryingly vague mystery spot of “muscular discomfort” on international duty and is rated 50-50 for this one

5) Cheikh Kouyate – sick – apparently he’s been under the weather with an attack of the vapours or some such. Nothing too serious and is 75% likely to play

6) Winston Reid – knee ligaments – out for the season

7) James Collins – hamstring – as predicted Collins’ hamstring flared up after the Burnley game and he his rated with only a 25% chance of playing.

On the brighter side Fernandes’ ankle has healed enough for him to be in contention. Masuaku is available for selection having a) served out his deserved suspension and b) emerged unscathed from the international break having joined three other players in walking out from the DR Congo squad in a Roy Keane stylie due to a “complete lack of organisation”. A spokesman for DR Congo said “We thought he was missing West Ham. We were only trying to make him feel at home” I expect.

With Arthur having decided that the delights of playing for a country hitherto famous only for its appearance as a pointless answer on that quiz show that I can’t remember the name of are not for him, and Ogbonna thankfully not being thrown on for the England Italy match, we came away from the international break relatively clear of injury – assuming Lanzini’s “knock” isn’t too serious. We are struggling at the moment for numbers in defence with Collins’ advancing years meaning that he will take a while to recover and Reid’s ligaments being horrifyingly knackered pro-tem. With Byram also having an early summer holiday to avoid school holiday time you can expect to see a lot more of young Rice in the starting XI. By the way congrats are due to the lad for his full international debut for Ireland during the break.

Arnie looked in good nick in midweek. On Saturday he should be reminded of a few things and wound up and told to channel his anger at beating this weekend’s opponents in the same way he vented his spleen at Stoke away this season. Just remind him of the elbows to the face he took down at their place only to be punished for retaliation. With Mark Hughes now pitch side tell him it’s Stoke again, there’s the goal now get on with it. Incidentally Hughes’s foul-mouth tirade at Arnie when the player was subbed at Stoke this season saw no action from the authorities. Odd that.

So prediction time. Up to now the crowd have been content to boo when the performances have been sub-standard. Burnley changed all that. Although the protests were rightly aimed at the board, the pent-up rage they contained should have brought home to the players just how dissatisfied we all are at the moment infinitely more than half a season’s worth of booing has done. So that will have gone down one of two ways. Either we get a reaction which involves sleeves rolled up, teeth gritted and some sheer bloody-mindedness and a determination to win. If we get that Burnley will turn out to have been the low point and the catalyst and kick up the backside that was needed to get something out of the players. If we don’t get that reaction Burnley will just turn out to have been a yet another stopping off point en route to the inevitable.

The latter option doesn’t bear thinking about and whilst I don’t think I will be right I am going to predict a nervy home win on the grounds that I really want to be proved wrong so it’s off to Winstone’s I will go with the £2.50 I was going to chip in to the club’s coffers for a new corner flag (every little helps) and place it on a nervy 2-1 win to us.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Olympic: Lost 0-3 (Premier League 2016)

Remember how we rolled over against a mediocre Brighton side at home this season? It was like that with different coloured stripes.

Referee: Jon Moss

Won his place having successfully completed the phrase “I think I should be a referee because” on the coupon cut out from the side of cornflakes packet. Spent the rest of the week hoovering up cornflakes that had fallen out of the hole in the packet as a result. Incidentally it was confirmed this week that no English referees wold take part at the World Cup. Nice one Riley.

Danger Man: Charlie Austin

Inevitable, isn’t it.

Percy’s poser:

Last time out we asked you why the good burghers of Burnley are getting in a tizzy about something called “Pexit” as well as the “now in it’s 30th year” matter of “Brexit”. Thanks are due to Mrs Juliette Disgruntled of Great Baddow who was first out of the digital hat with the answer that “Pexit” is the name given to the plan by a number of East Lancashire’s local authorities to leave Lancashire and set up their own unitary authority as a reaction to being “ruled by Preston”. Quite what they are going to do with the Yorkshire border remains to be see, Well done Juliette.

For this week’s poser we look at the world of public transport. We’re not big fans of buses here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered – too many poor people from council estates all in one place for our liking. However, we do have to slum it once in a while and we are very quick to fill out the compensation forms whenever our journey is delayed or otherwise interrupted. So this week we ask you what happened on a Southampton bus this week that would have had us demanding eye-watering levels of compo? Clue: It involved some horrific crimes against music – and Southampton has produced enough of those for you to be getting on with….

First prize will be a set of ear plugs.

Good luck!

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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