West Ham United v Burnley

Apparently the state pension will rise by 299 in 2019. Which would account for the near smile that arrived on Preview Percy's face after this week's budget. Unfortunately he thought that was a weekly rise rather than an annual one, hence the slightly grumpier than usual tone of this week's look at the visit of Burnley.....

Next up we face Burnley at the holy hour of 3pm on Saturday. Trains? A nightmare I'm afraid. Nothing between Liverpool Street and Shenfield/Billericay but replacement buses. Nothing between Romford & Upminster. No District Line west of East Ham. Set off now I'd say.

Burnley then. Well after last year when they finished a creditable 7th things have come slightly less easy for them this time around. Their record is identical to ours - won 2 drawn 2 lost 6 and they sit at the bottom of a Palace sandwich, two places behind us by virtue of a -11 goal difference (as opposed to a -6).

Their last two matches won't have helped much in that respect, having shipped five at Man City and 4 at home to Chelsea. The City game was an odd one - had the officials done their job they'd have been playing against ten men for the majority of the match. And then there was the goal that was both offside and out for a goal kick. Still PGMOL tells us that everything in the garden is rosy so it must be true, right?

Those of you who view this through the red button will be pleased at the sight of Daisy, the work experience girl with the beautiful smile, making a welcome return to the preview. Unlike our last opponents, Burnley are big enough to have signed a few players during the last window which mean that Daisy's gathering of information on new signings will once more be on view.

On her own admission she didn't have to look too hard for information on our erstwhile custodian of the onion bag Joe Hart. Hart cost a reported ?3.5m from Man City though the last two seasons were spent firstly with Torino and secondly with our good selves. In truth he was probably neither as good as everyone made out he was while he was with the Citizens nor as bad as everyone said he was whilst he was with us. Mind you he did have a few mares last season and from a purely footballing perspective I'd have reinstated Adrian much earlier had I been at the helm. He is keeping Tom Heaton out of the league side at the moment - and Nick Poe too, possibly, were he not injured. If nothing else Hart is a living example to Spurs supporters that dandruff need to be no impediment to leading a normal life and making a contribution to society, even if you do have to actually shower or bathe to do so.

The ?15m paid to Middlesbrough for full-back Ben Gibson is a club record. However a hernia sustained in the Thursday Night League qualifying stages against Olympiakos has meant that Gibson - who has been well enough thought of to have been called up to England squads in the past - has yet to make a league appearance this season. The usual injury websites give him a 50-50 chance but on past experience if he does appear he'll spend most, if not all of the match on the racing car seats.

They dispensed with an undisclosed fee for Derby striker Matej Vydra, a fee which Daisy, the work experience girl with the beautiful smile informs me is likely to have been in the region of ?11m. Whenever we were in deep bother at the turn of the year it always seemed that we were being linked with the Czech international striker, whose main use this season has been from the bench whence three of his five appearances in the league have come. He has the one goal in the league plus one in the League Cup thus far.

His appearance at Turf Moor came as something of a surprise as he seemed to spend all summer hanging around Elland Road deep in negotiations with Leeds. Finances seem to be the reason that that deal fell through, though arguably he might have expected more game time in the second tier.

In the past we have often poked some light-hearted fun at the details of Ashley Barnes' international career. The current joint top scorer (3) you will recall was on a pre-season tour of Austria a few years back when he let slip the fact that his Gran had been Austrian. He was swiftly called up for international duty by the Austrians who awarded him an U20 cap. Then promptly forgot that he existed it seems. Having hit a spot of form last season, and presumably hinting in case the Austrians had genuinely forgotten about him, he happened to mention to any newspaper that would listen that he wouldn't mind a crack at playing for the full senior side if anyone fancied giving him a game. The Austrian manager had him watched and saw him score against us, something he somehow thought was impressive. However, it transpired that Barnes didn't hold an Austrian passport which made a call-up impossible at that time. It seems his U20 career (all 17 mins of it) relied on a special permit from FIFA. Presumably someone turned up with a brown paper bag with used small denomination Euro notes in it which was subsequently exchanged for a scrap of paper on which was written "Barnes can play for (insert name of preferred country here)". Playing for the first team would mean an Austrian passport so that's as far as he has got internationally.

The other joint top scorer is another one who plays for a country not of his birth. It is said that Sam Vokes was blissfully unaware of his eligibility for Wales until receiving the call-up for the U21 side back in 2007. Having got his call-up he didn't hang about, netting within 38 seconds of his international debut. He progressed to the full side and was part of the team that punched above its weight to get to the semi-finals of Euro 16, though the one-off nature of that tournament for Wales has seemingly been underlined by the Taffs' subsequent form. In the meantime if you would like a candidate for the most pointless statistic since Spurs were banging on about goals in a calendar year 12 months ago how about this one: Vokes has scored more goals for Wales than any other player not actually born in the country. Buy me a pint if that comes up in a quiz question.

Ok on to us. Leicester away? Nobes was daft and he knows it so there's no point in banging on about it, though had he had a Man City shirt on and his name had been Kompany he'd have just had a yellow it seems. Also there was a naughty and deliberate elbow to Antonio that went unpunished that evening but frankly anything about that match is tainted with the memory of what happened afterwards so on the whole I think I'd rather draw a curtain on that one if you don't mind.

Wednesday? Well we just prove that if you give any side a 3 goal start you'll have problems. Even teams as average as Spurs who had a fully fit Stuart Atwell on board to assist. Grady D was causing problems and within a minute was threatening to breakaway until crudely hacked down in midfield. As with Kompany the previous week it seems that the usual laws of the game do not apply if it's too early in the game. Or with Atwell in any part of the game as promising run after promising run was brought to a halt by illegal methods.

Atwell's failure to apply the laws of the game extended to the treatment of Antonio who had his shirt pulled bac at least three times. We know Atwell saw it but the yellow card remained firmly in the incompetent one's pocket. Any idea that Atwell knew what he was doing went out of the window late on when, having denied a penalty of the sort given everywhere else, play was stopped whilst Spurs decided to waste some time. Electing to restart the game with a drop ball, Atwell decided that possession should be given to Spurs to kick back to Adrian. This annoyed our players who had been on the front foot in good territory and, quite rightly, decided that they wanted to contest the ball. Atwell was having none of it and made everyone back off so that he could drop the ball at the feet of a Spurs defender who, continuing the theme of running down the clock, stood at it and elected to watch it for a few seconds. Rice took the ball away only to hear the whistle as the ref illegally stopped the game once more to drop the ball a second time.

The laws state that the ball is in play the second it hits the ground and a referee has no right to stop play simply because it didn't go the way he wanted.
Sadly referees think that they can do this sort of thing because they are encouraged to do so by PGMOL under the guise of "game management" - in other words pushing a match in a particular direction. PGMOL gets away with this because it self-assesses. Proper assessment of referees went out of the window a long while ago and any internal review is conducted with one eye on the fact that telling it like it is would be tantamount to admitting that they are single-handedly responsible for the worst standard of officiating in living memory.

PGMOL needs to be wound up and referees need to be under the direct control of the FA. This would at least bring the FA back within the rules as set out by FIFA - the current set-up contravenes a number of regulations and makes it a lot easier for outside sources to manipulate matches should they choose to do so. Having it brought in house and with referee's assessing taken over by a panel independent of the referees themselves would prevent the likes of Atwell reaching the top without being anywhere nearly up to the job - Atwell's original promotion being delivered in the face of poor ratings at every level as a favour to former referee's boss Keith Hackett.

On to this week's events. On the injury front the usual long-termers will be missing, namely Yarmolenko, Sanchez, Reid and Lanzini, all of whom will not play until the year has a "9" in it. Carroll and Wilshire will be looking to the end of this month for a return. Cresswell, who might have played instead of Masuaku on Wednesday should be ok to at least form part of the squad, if not actually start. Noble of course will be suspended. I'd expect Balbuena to come in for the somewhat off the pace on Wednesday Ogbonna and Arnie will, of course start all being well which would mean a return to the racing car seats for Hernandez.

Anderson remains a worry. His withdrawal on Wednesday was said by MP to have been planned, though many might raise an eyebrow at that. The guy's got undoubted talent but at Leicester he got into promising positions time and time again only to run out of ideas and lose possession, usually by attempting to thread the ball through three opposition defenders. If he plays this weekend could I request that someone else tales corners?

So on we move to the subject of predictions. Up to Leicester we were playing well and getting nothing. Leicester was a bit of an oddity, the game being skewed as any sort of indicator of form by Noble's dismissal. The Spurs cup game was a meaningless run out - giant killings happen occasionally so I won't lose too much sleep over that. This should give some return to normality then. The normality being that we create chances without taking them in recent weeks.

We have to be due a piece of luck somewhere soon and, with the psychological boost of hopefully being able to put out half decent side we ought to be able to put one over a Burnley side that, though probably better than results might suggest, still have the spectre of having conceded nine in their last two games.

For that reason I will go for an all too rare home win. The ?2.50 that was going to go on a packet of throat pastilles as my voice goes out in sympathy with that of the visiting manager will instead be wagered on the Winstone Turf Accountancy App (when The Fun Stops its because PGMOL have decided that fun is not for you), my result of choice being a 1-0 home win.

Enjpy the game

When Last we met at the Olympic: Lost 0-3 Premier League March 2018

Events on the pitch were overshadowed by events, er, on the pitch. And off it. Frustrated by the abandonment of a march under circumstances that have never quite been explained the crowd turned its collective back on the game to congregate in the area in front of the seats occupied by the owners who bore the full force of the underlying anger about the place. A quiet word from the Met saw those in charge of the club disappear inside, leaving the sight of Sir Trevor sitting forlornly on his own looking bemused at what had become of his club as one of the more enduring images of a sorry season. Meanwhile an homage to the Bond Scheme protests of the 90's took place with a corner flag being planted in the centre spot by one of a number of pitch invaders that punctuated the second half of the match.

Oh and Barnes and Woods (2) scored in the second half for the visitors.

Danger Man Ashley Barnes

Another of those "adequate" players that seem to score against us a lot.

Referee: Roger East

Frankly I'm past caring. The fact that he failed his pre-season fitness test (claiming he was feeling "unwell") doesn't bode well. He did however pass it eventually thus allowing the powers that be to inflict him on an unsuspecting public.

Percy's Poser

For the Spurs match we asked you to supply the missing words from the following headline from their local rag:

Where and when you are most likely to be XXXXXXXXXXXX on the tube

The correct answer supplied by Mrs Brenda Onycocryptosis of Leigh On Sea was of course "Pickpocket". As Mrs O pointed out half the potential readership are pickpockets and the other half are illiterate anyway so it's a bit of a waste of a headline really.

For this week I am indebted to the good people of the Lancashire Telegraph for the headline from which we have removed a number of important words. First correct answer out of the digital hat this week will join an increasingly large bunch of competition winners and will get to be a Select Group Referee. So spot the missing words from this one:

Burnley XXXXXXXXXXX pubs receive top rating in national XXX awards

Good luck everyone!

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