West Ham United v Newcastle United

What have two sheep, a parrot, a deer and a goat got to do with the visit of Newcastle United? Nothing. Obviously. Which didn't stop Preview Percy referring to them in his look at Saturday's fixtrue. Obviously.....

Next we return to home soil where will host Newcastle United. Kick-off is a diary-wrecking 5.30pm so the telly people can have their way. Travel? Hey, whaddya know there's engineering works. Nothing between Liverpool Street and Shenfield save for replacement buses and those see-saw trolley things. Also there are buses on the bit of C2C between Barking and Grays. Check before you leave and all that.

However, should you be coming in from, to quote a completely random example, say Watford both the Met and Jubilee lines will be operating normally so you have no excuse not to arrive on time at the appointed pre-match watering hole armed with your wallet. Hypothetically speaking.

So the Geordies then. The work experience girl with the beautiful smile informs me that the teams have met on 132 previous occasions, the first being an FA Cup second round match in 1908 which we lost 2-0 up at St James' Park - Preview Alastair remembers it well. Up to now we have won 47 drawn 37 and lost 54.

They currently sit in 13th place having gleaned 31 points from the 28 games played thus far which leaves them three places and five points behind our good selves. They have won four of the last six, the most impressive on paper being the 2-1 defeat of Man City at St James' Park. The other three involved home wins over Cardiff, Huddersfield and Burnley. Those needed to be won really - they had dipped into the bottom three over the turn of the year.

For the last ten years the club's owner Mike "High Wycombe not London" Ashley has claimed to be on the verge of selling the club. It will come as no surprise that the club is still within his portfolio with no deal ever really coming close to completion. It will be interesting to see how things go when Benitez's contract expires at the end of the season. Over the years Benitez has somehow managed to convey his distain for the owner and his "short arms deep pockets" syndrome without ever having headlines plastered all over the back page to that effect. Benitez did recently mention that there were a number of "little things" that needed to be sorted before a new contract could be agreed. Presumably those "little things" are measured in millions and are to be contained within a rather dusty folder marked "Newcastle Transfer Policy"

The work experience girl with the beautiful smile had something of an attack of the vapours when she started the transfer research this week. The notoriously stingy Ashley actually stuck his hand in his pocket and bought a player this January. Not only that, if the reported fee is correct, he broke the club transfer record that had sat at ?16m for 2005-06, the season that they signed the charisma-free zone that is Michael Owen.

The result of all this wild lavish spending was the arrival of Miguel Almiron for ?21m from US outfit Atlanta United. It can be a bit of a punt when players come in from what the damned colonials insist on referring to as "Major League Soccer" but Almiron has been an instant hit with the Newcastle support, providing a degree of creativity in the middle that some say has been lacking on Tyneside in recent years. He even seems to have been forgiven for the cheeky scoop that might have been better replaced by a more conventional side-foot finish against Huddersfield.

They did bring in a second player though, having spent that ?21m, Ashley seems to have closed the purse strings for this decade, and so the new arrival came courtesy of the loan market in the form of Italian left-back Antonio Barrecca who arrived from Monaco. It is said that there is an option for the deal to become permanent, though at a rumoured ?8m, the fee won't cause any immediate threat to Owen's no.2 status in terms of fees paid.

Top scorer by a decent stretch is loan striker Salamon Rondon who is on an exchange trip from West Brom for a season, Dwight Gayle having gone the other way for the year. Rondon is one of those identikit journeymen strikers that West Brom seem to specialise in and who always seem to score against us. He has 7 in the league this season, three ahead of Spaniard Ayoze Perez who, you will have worked out, has four to his name in the league.

The recent upsurge in fortunes for the Magpies has brightened up what has, at times been a pretty dispiriting season for them, judging from the crying noises emanating from Preview Alastair's room on a regular basis. With an owner who seems to have a completely different take on High Street shopping to the rest of us, bright spots were few and far between. Excluded from that diagnosis has been the form of Sean Longstaff who has pushed his way into the team in recent weeks. Longstaff netted his first for the club in Tuesday's 2-0 defeat of a remarkably out of sorts Burnley. One to watch then.

And so to us. Well I suppose we'd have all quietly taken a 1-0 defeat up there before the off. However the manner of the defeat left a nasty taste in the mouth once more. In Stuart Atwell we have a referee who has consistently and at every level performed well below the standard required. Promoted to the top flight as a favour to Keith Hackett (spit) his mentor, he was even temporarily demoted from the select group, something that is more difficult getting Preview Alastair to buy a round with his own money.

They let him back in of course, and he has continued to underperform ever since. So who'd have though that a referee so poor would be so ready to blow for a penalty at the first sign of an embarrassing dive? Everyone, that's who.
They will point to the fact that they had squillion percent possession and umpteen chances to which the correct response is that they scored zero percent of the legally-scored goals, much like Liverpool did against us the other week.

On the bright side there was a promising debut by Ben Johnson who may already have made the no.53 shirt his own. I was going to make a comment as to how well he has looked after himself since the infamous Seoul Olympics but then the authorities might have asked how a 57 year-old sprinter managed to look so young, and with that name the lad's probably nailed on to be staying behind to give the sample each week as it is. Hats off to the lad anyway - and a further doff of the cap to Mr Pellegrini for having the bravery to bring in the occasional youngster and the sense not to do it seven kids at a time.

There was of course fun-a-plenty for those that enjoy a conspiracy theory (spoiler alert - the moon landings were real and Buzz Aldrin has been known to deck the more obnoxious of the nay-sayers). This week it was pointed out that the viral problem that kept Arnie out of Wednesday's match coincided with the eve of the closing of the Chinese transfer window. For what it's worth it also coincided with the birthday of the late, great Harry H Corbett so it's equally possible that the player was off to open a rag and bone yard in Shepherd's Bush. Sometimes a coincidence is a coincidence.

Arnie should be in contention for a return this weekend and the calf problems that curtailed young Ben's involvement on Wednesday should have eased enough for him to be available if required, with Masuaku having a knee problem that will require a fitness test. Balbuena is another week away, though it would be harsh to see him walk straight back in given the way Ogbonna and Diop have stuck to the task in recent weeks.

MP did admit that the selection on Wednesday was made with an eye on this match so those who spent the match in the racing car seats can expect more of a runout for this match so I'd be looking at a similar starting XI to that which started against Fulham with Fredericks - who is beginning to show the form that earned him the move - starting, the left back slot being dependent on who is fit.

Prediction? Well they are on a bit of a bright patch at the moment and, though they arguably aren't quite clear of the woods yet, with two of the three relegation spots likely to be occupied by Huddersfield and Fulham and Southampton and Cardiff looking to be the main protagonists for the third you would have thought that the Magpies would have enough nous to steer clear. And let's face it who wouldn't want to see Colin's face as he takes them down. So they will be a bit more relaxed than they were when we turned them over up there. The addition of Almiron has improved the mood no end.

On the other hand they don't travel particularly well making this an eminently winnable match if the right West Ham turns up. The atmosphere will be boosted by the naming of the Billy Bonds Stand and one presumes that Declan Rice's London Young Player Of The Year trophy will make an appearance at some stage so there should be a few smiles on faces before the off.

I had to pick up a new prescription from the Chemists this morning and it came in claret and blue packaging and, whilst this might not be the most logical method of selecting a winner, it's as good as anything else I've come up with this year. So the ?2.50 that I was going to spend on a lifetime subscription to watch Trippier's own goal will instead go on a home win.

I will therefore go on to the Winstone Turf Accountancy App (when the fun stops you've run out of data watching Trippier's own goal) and place the whole lot on 2-1 to us.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at The Olympic: Lost 2-3 (Premier League December 2018)

Arnie opened the scoring on 6 but defending straight out of the Looney Tunes playbook saw Saviet and Diame give them the lead. We were offered a way back into the league when Clark brought down Antonio but, with Noble out, Ayew saw his weak penalty saved by Elliot. Atsu made it three on the hour but Ayew buried a loose ball after Carroll's header had been saved. It was backs to the wall stuff in the last 20 mins but the defensive lapses gave us too much of a mountain to climb.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

Sat in the VAR truck for the Spurs v Chelsea League Cup semi final the other week and, with all the camera angles and technology, still managed to miss Kane being offside. So quite how bad he will be armed with only the eyesight he has is going to be a worry.

Danger Man: Miguel Almiron

Seems to have given them a lift. Looks dangerous when running at people.

Percy's Poser:

Last time out we visited the website of the Manchester Evening News.from which the following was nicked:

Video shows hilarious moment a driver is spotted with two XXXXX, a XXXXXX, a XXXX and a XXXX in his Vauxhall Zafira

A hearty well done to Mrs Avril Trubshaw of Little Thurrock who writes:

I'm afraid I'm not very good with this sort of thing but I thought I would give it a go. Is it two sheep, a parrot, a deer and a goat?
Well what a guess Avril! You are correct!

For this week we look at Newcastle's Chronicle. The following headline appeared recently:

Campaigners fear plans for XXXX XXXX near Newcastle

Good luck everyone!

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