Burnley v West Ham United

Preview Percy was already in a foul mood this week due to a raging earache that, for once, had nothing to do with Matron at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered.

So you can imagine just how grumpy he was when we reminded him it was time to write a few words about this weekend's trip to Burnley. It shows....

Next up we traipse up to the cul-de-sac of England that is Burnley. Kick-off is at 3pm and there are no engineering works en route. Even the man with a shovel working the Shenfield to Southend line is having a day off though you will notice that the works will be beck in place for our next home match.

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They are currently in 14th place with their three wins and three draws from their 11 matches played thus far giving them 12 points. A point and a place behind us then.

Their last three have not gone well with Chelsea defeating them 4-2 at Turf Moor, Leicester prevailing 2-1 at the thingy stadium and last week Sheffield United turned them over 3-0 at Bramall Lane, which was much nicer when it was a cricket ground. Local reports described them as being "out-Burnleyed" in Sheffield, not something that you'd expect of a side managed by the croaky one.

It's often been pointed out that a ridiculously large percentage of the population of Burnley turn out for home games - last time I could be bothered to do the calculations Turf Moor played host to a crowd roughly 30 per cent the size of the town's population each week. To put that into some sort of context Man Utd would have to pull in something like 115,000 each week if they wanted to play host to 30 per cent of the population of Croydon.

Obviously percentages are somewhat skewed by the sample size but in this case it highlights Burnley's perennial issue over the years, which has been the financing of a top flight club on small gates in an area where there appears to be a professional football ground every 150 yards. They suffered more than most by the Liverpool-inspired change in rules many years ago that changed the system whereby away clubs were given a percentage of the home club's gate money, famously coming close to Conference football on one occasion.

Even though they are now, perhaps better run than in the past, transfer budgets are still a matter of cutting cloth. Daisy, the full-time personal assistant with the beautiful smile, informs me that they spent a cool ?1m on Stoke left back Erik Pieters. Pieters had spent much of 2018/19 on loan in France and clearly the Potters were keen to get the Netherlands international (18 Dutch caps since you ask) off the wage bill with his salary presumably being based on Premier League money. Perhaps if Burnley had hung on for another couple of weeks Stoke might have been desperate enough to pay the Clarets to take the player off their hands.

They spent a bit more to secure the return of local boy Jay Rodriguez. There was an initial down payment of ?5m to West Brom with a further ?5m payable after 12 months. Though described as "cut price" due to the escape clause contained within his Baggies contract, the fee will (eventually) eclipse the rumoured ?7m they received from Southampton when he left back in 2012.

Despite the name (middle name 'Enrique') he is as Burnley as they come, his Dad being a Spaniard who was on Burnley's books back in the 1980s, who married a local lass on being unable to find his way out of the town. Jay does in fact have an England cap to his name. Just the one but he can at least say he has one. He is unlikely to be swapping Christmas cards with Brighton's Getan Bong for the foreseeable, Bong having accused Rodriguez of racial abuse. The charges were dismissed by the FA due to a lack of evidence.

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With Tom Heaton off to Villa they decided that further cover was required for Nick Pope and Joe Hart in the goalkeeping dept. In came the oddly-named Bailey Peacock-Farrell for whom Leeds were paid ?2.5m. BPF (for short) seemed reluctant to sign a new deal at Elland Road, where he had lost his place to Casilla. Presumably figuring that if he were to sit on a bench anywhere it might as well be a Premier League bench, he signed a four-year deal in the summer.

The final addition to the first team squad came via the loan market where Danny Drinkwater arrived on loan from Chelsea. The surname raised a few smiles about these parts when he got a 20-month ban for remodelling a garden wall using the unusual tool of a Range Rover whilst over the limit. Perhaps there ought to be some benevolent fund that us supporters can all contribute to so that these poor players can all have access to a taxi hope after a night out.

Drinkwater is clearly fond of an evening out, though after his evening at a Manchester nitespot in September, he may be becoming more fond of a night in with his feet up in front of the box. It seems that Drinkwater found himself in conversation with a young lady and invited her back to his place (presumably he was after a lift home in view of the driving ban). This might have been all well and good but for the fact that the young lady in question was stepping out for the evening with Kgosi Ntlhe, a South African player on Scunthorpe's books.

Nthle (no I have no idea how to pronounce it either) took exception to this turn of events. What happened next isn't that clear but reports suggest that six brave souls took it upon themselves to give the player a beating causing, amongst other injuries, damaged ankle ligaments. All of which means that the player has just one League Cup appearance to his name this term. The loan deal expires in January and Dyche is currently mulling over whether or not to extend it, commenting (with his entry to the "Bleedin' Obvious Statement Of The Year" awards) that "we weren't thinking that the [loan deal] was going to transpire as it has done".

Clearly (and sadly) a troubled man, Drinkwater has returned to training but is running out of time to impress and will be desperate to avoid a return to Stamford Bridge where both Sarri and now Fat Boy have deemed him surplus to requirements. One can only ponder what the player must think when Leicester turnup on MOTD.

Drinkwater has been training but his likely availability for this weekend is rated as 50/50 rated purely on fitness before taking anything else into consideration. Joint top scorer Chris Woods is a doubt with a thigh injury whilst much-capped Icelandic winger Johann Berg Gudmunsson will definitely be absent, a troublesome thigh also being the culprit.

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It's time for our look at the wild and wacky world of Association Football. Pep Guardiola annoyed half the population of Liverpool by suggesting that side who play in red are prone to diving. Guardiola added further astounding news by suggesting that his research into the lavatorial habits of mammals of the Ursidae family had proven beyond all doubt that woods continue to be a preferred location for the defecation process, adding for good measure that he was pretty sure that the Pope owed his current position to his choice of religion. Meanwhile, Mane rather gave the game away by admitting he would dive again if it earned him a penalty.

Meanwhile the Scousers are cheesed off with the authorities for making them play two games in a few days in December due to the scheduling of the World Club Championship Cup Type Thing which, lest we forget, you can qualify for by beating Spurs with the help of a dodgy refereeing decision. This clashes with the League Cup tie against Villa, a tie that they qualified for with the assistance of an ineligible player.

Let's face it - the congestion could have been worse had they been made to replay the MK Dons tie as a certain precedent suggests they ought to have done. Presumably dissatisfied that the authorities simply didn't hand them the League Cup to save all that mucking about actually playing the cup ties (though no doubt the authorities are working on that), they will be fielding two different squads though rumours that these will divided into "diving" and "non-diving" are obviously false - where are they going to get enough players together for a non-diving squad?

VAR continues to cause controversy, with the Premier League having to issue increasingly illogical statements in order to justify the errors that the system keeps throwing up. The problem with VAR is that managers, players, pundits and supporters are so hung up on the idiosyncrasies of the system itself that they are missing the point on the very useful purpose it is serving - much to the relief of PGMOL.

You see whilst it has been readily apparent to anyone with more than a passing interest in "the beautiful game" that the standard of officiating in this country has been going to the dogs now for many a year, referees have always been able to hide behind excuses of the "we only see it once" variety. What we are now seeing with VAR is officials sitting in front of a tv screen giving them every possible angle and still making stupid decisions.

Take the penalty incident in the Spurs game for example. Clear penalty that, for some reason the idiot (Anthony Taylor) in the bunker decided wasn't one. Instead of hanging the idiot out to dry, the Premier League issued some cock and bull story about it not being a spot kick because of pressure from another player who was somewhere in the same vague postcode district.

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Frankly lads, if that's the best you can do to defend the indefensible I wouldn't bother. Meanwhile, with everyone looking at the mechanics of how VAR operates, nobody seems bothered that someone given all the information required to make a correct decision can still cock it up so badly. What it needs is for someone to put together a compilation of all the VAR cock-ups this season and put them before the authorities and ask "why?".

And so, with a due sense of foreboding, to us. Well certain aspects of the defeat on Saturday simply beggar belief. Now I claim no deep knowledge of tactical insights into the game as it is played at the top level, and this column is more designed as an antidote to some of the dryer analysis-based guides that you will see out there. However, if (admittedly with the help of Preview Alastair) last week's column can identify Saint-Maximin as a danger man based on his pace, surely something similar ought to occur to someone at the club?

I mean I'm not suggesting that anyone from the club should read this - there are plenty of other sites out there telling them how wonderful they are without KUMB having to massage the truth for more sensitive ears. However I am suggesting that if they did any research last week they got it badly wrong. (And no, Daisy the full time personal assistant with the beautiful smile is not for sale before you ask). How else does one explain the baffling answer given to the question of whether you start with a reasonably nippy 27-year-old full back or, alternatively, do you hand the role to a 34-year-old veteran slightly less blessed in the mph department?

Then we look at Roberto. Now I mean this in no way to be abusive to the lad but, having seen all of his matches since Fabianski's unfortunate injury, I am of the opinion that he is not up to the standard required for Premier League football. Maybe he had been good enough in the past. I don't know. But at the moment it would appear that the player's confidence is somewhat shot to pieces.

That sort of thing transmits itself to the back four. Going back to his arrival on the scene down at Bournemouth, it was clear from the very start that the defence was reluctant to pass the ball back to him - and that was even before he made a complete mess of a clearance. His form since then has not improved any and a defence with no trust in its 'keeper can only spell trouble.

So the question is "should David Martin get a shout?". It's a difficult one - we don't see "Son Of Stretch" in training every day like the boss does so swapping custodians might well be a frying pan/fire situation. On the other hand, if it is thought that Martin can do a job then I would pick him this weekend in view of what Roberto's state of mind must be like.

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In the meantime there will be a temptation to rush Lukasz Fabianski back. Nobody wants that if it means setting back a full recovery. Much will depend on his likely return date but I would seriously consider a dip into the loan market in January for someone solid and dependable as backup should Fabianski's recovery be fragile. I appreciate that this will not exactly do wonders for Roberto but the interests of the team as a whole must come first. It's time to be ruthless.

As for Newcastle, well Almounia was the subject of a Chronicle headline a few weeks back that suggested that he had "more dives than goals" under his belt this season. After last weekend that remains the case and someone should warn him that he is running out of matches in which to rectify the position.

So moving on, for Saturday we have the same three long-term injury absentees in the aforementioned Fabianski, Reid and Antonio, the latter of which is still on course to turn out in the Spurs match after the break. Wilshere is due "to be assessed" which suggests that he won't be about until after the international break either.

This is a match which will require concentration and a willingness to knuckle down and work one's socks off. Sadly, with the possible exception of Snodgrass, these are qualities that have been all too absent from our side in recent weeks. Yes injury has robbed us of the best 'keeper in the league but it's been alarming to see how the whole house has crumbled in the absence of one (admittedly load-bearing) brick.

So, getting a result out of this one will depend on there being a reaction from the players. Burnley got walloped last week but you can bet there will be a reaction from them and it will all hinge on us being able to match that reaction. Sorry guys but I can't quite see that happening. So the ?2.50 that I was going to place in the Taxis For Pissed-Up Players Benevolent Fund will instead be placed on a Home win. Mr Winstone (when the fun stops someone has switched on VAR again) please stick the lot on a 2-1 to them in the hope that I am spectacularly wrong.

Enjoy the game!

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When Last We Met At Turf Moor: Lost 2-0 (Premier League December 2018)

A bit of a sluggish display for which there might, for once, have been a bit of an excuse. A couple of days earlier a team that was so "bare bones" in nature we were one sub short on the bench had pulled off a remarkably fine performance under the circumstances winning 2-1 in an evening match at Southampton. This had all the hallmarks of being a game too far for the squad members available. Burnley had had a couple of days extra off and it showed. Wood and McNeil gave the home side a 2-0 lead in the first 35 minutes and we rarely looked like putting a dent in that scoreline.

Referee: Kevin Friend

Responsible for one of the stupidest decisions of the season (in a season full of stupid decisions) when he disallowed Villa's equaliser against Palace and, to add insult to injury, booked Grealish for diving in the process. If that wasn't bad enough, Lee Mason will be watching the match in the bunker. As if the film "Dumb and Dumber" actually needed a remake.

Danger Man: Ashley Barnes

Joint top scorer alongside New Zealander Chris Woods. The wannabe Austrian gets the nod on the grounds that at the time of writing there is a doubt about the Kiwi's fitness, a thigh issue being the problem.

Percy's Poser

Last week's poser came from the Chronicle which gave us the following headline:

The Botanist is hiring a paid XXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX

Congratulations to Mrs Thomasina Wilberforce of Vange who correctly identified the job vacancy as being for a "Hanging Kebab Taste Tester". Though it's not clear whether it is the tester or the kebab that is hanging. Either way, enjoy your round the world cruise Thomasina.

Normally when scouring the local papers the length and breadth of the country for these things one usually avoids the crime reports when trying to look for oddball stories - which causes no end of problem when perusing the Liverpool Echo I can tell you. However, every so often there comes along a headline so odd that one wants to know more. So thanks to the good people of the Burnley Express for providing the following headline from which, as usual, a word has been cunningly removed:

"Three men arrested in Pendle over bogus XXXXXXXXXX claims"

Good luck everybody!

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