West Ham United v Liverpool

After last weekend Preview Percy was more annoyed than usual. Something about not owning a cat to kick. We advise local pet shops to be on the lookout in advance of this week's visit of Liverpool...

Next up is Liverpool. 7:45pm kick off on Wednesday so no weekend engineering works to worry about. Just the train companies' usual propensity for messing things up during the rush hour to worry about.

The following, but in Percy's dulcit tones

So Liverpool then. It looks like this may finally be the year when all that assistance they get from PGMOL may finally bear fruit. They are top having won just about every match going but not without assistance from the men in the middle.

I'm not talking about those major game changing decisions - though they have always had more than their fair share of those over the years. I'm talking about those small little things that gently nudge a game in their direction, that don't hit the headlines but nevertheless will have more of an influence over the direction of the Premier League Trophy than a zillion VAR decisions.

Now I'm not a fan of basketball per se. However, one idea that football could have a look at is the concept of team fouls. When a team commits a certain number of fouls their opponents get a free throw - basketball's equivalent of a penalty kick.

Now I'm not saying that after (say) the third tactical foul there should be a spot kick. However, if the perpetrator of the third foul got an automatic yellow and (say) the perpetrator of the fifth such foul pick up a red maybe that would curb the tactic that our visitors have gotten down to a fine, if somewhat dark, art. Or, alternatively they could try punishing the snidey little trip or nudge designed to disrupt play with a yellow card - which is what the laws of the game in their current state.

Rather amusingly the embarrassingly Liverpool-centric BBC football website gleefully decided to look at Man City when their similar tactics were panned at our place at the start of the season, They analysed the sort of foul that we are talking about only to discover that, statistically anyway, Man City were mere amateurs compared to Liverpool. They did publish the review - somewhere near the bottom of the website next to the link to the Irish League.

Daisy, the full time personal assistant with the beautiful smile, informs me that their most significant signing of the season was the freebie of Adrian de San Miguel de Castilla. He's a bit of a cult hero around our way - not least for his chucking his gloves on the floor as he scored the winning spot kick in a shoot out against Everton that time. He was never going to get past a fit Fabianski at our place (oh the irony) and elected to join Liverpool's Cup squad when his contract was up.

The short chap who picks up my copy every week often reminisces about the time Adrian won the KUMB.com best new signing award years ago. The short one and the boss were wandering around the Boleyn videoing nice little acceptance speeches from the various award winners. It was all pretty standard PR stuff ("this award is special because it comes from the fans" etc) until they got to Adrian who could barely contain himself with joy once his interpreter had explained it all to him.

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Welcome home

The short one still has recurring pain from the five-minutes of vigorous handshaking before Adrian disengaged to call Mrs de San Miguel de Castilla on the phone to give her the good news. It was a genuine reaction from the player - who had bought crates of San Miguel lager for the press that day to celebrate the previous week's win against Spurs. Indeed, the short one tells me that he still has one of the cans which Adrian signed.

He got a few games in the league earlier on this season thanks to Allison's injury on the opening day and few will begrudge him his league winners medal when it comes his way.

More recently they brought in Japanese international Takini Minamino. The ?7.25m fee paid to Salzburg is, relatively speaking, peanuts and will no doubt be recouped quite easily with sales of their new kit which will have a new manufacturer after they wriggled out of their deal with No Balance .

On the injury front they will be without Mane, Milner and Clyne whilst Lallana has nearly recovered from some unspecified illness (knowing them probably the bends) and stands a good chance of being involved, possibly on the bench.

And so to the wild and wacky world of Association Football. It will have come as a major shock to those used to our national press operating in the manner of some GSB-sanctioned Pravda that our owners have suddenly been coming in for some stick. Reporters from the Telegraph, Mail and Grauniad on the Sky Sunday Supplement programme in particular were somewhat scathing.

"A shambles" was one of the politer comments as the mainstream press finally cottoned on to what we have been saying for about 10 years.Maybe it's a reaction to that fawning interview on TalkSport the other week. but a lightbulb seems to have gone on in whatever we are supposed to call Fleet Street these days, and one looks forward to the Mail/Telegraph/Grauniad having their press access withdrawn due to "unnecessarily negative" coverage, though they'll find bullying tactics against Fleet Street (or whatever) even more counterproductive than they were against supporters' websites.

One statistic the journos might like to consider is David Gold's comment of a few years back in which he said that if 85 per cent of supporters wanted them to sell up they would go. One can only presume that they are waiting for the figure to fall down to that level.

In similar vein Joe Cole probably did fatal damage to his chances of being employed by the current regime with his criticisms, though frankly he's probably better off out of it all as things stand.

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Oh, Tommy Tommy

At the time of writing (which means that there is still time for someone to mess things up) we are on the verge of signing Czech Midfielder Tomas Soucek for a fee of about ?13m give or take a few Koruna here or there. Moyes described the player as fitting "the profile of the player I want" which could be read as meaning that the player Moyes actually wants is somebody else.

Still he's (relatively) cheap and presumably is enthralled at the prospect of working in a PortaKabin every day (Note to the head of Intellectual Property at PortaKabin - yes we do know it's a trade mark - you wrote to us before. Isn't there something useful you could be doing instead?)

As for last week. I missed the first couple of minutes - I checked in midweek to see if a paper ticket was required as none had turned up. I was told that my season ticket card would be sufficient to gain access. That was, of course, rubbish and I had to walk halfway around the bloody place to pick up the paper ticket they ought to have sent me in the first place. Frankly I needn't have bothered.

The first 45 minutes is as bad as any I've seen in my years of watching us - and I go back a long, long way. There were players out there who, if they want to be at the club are doing a bloody good job of hiding it. Sanchez in particular was as much of a spectator as I was - they ought to have charged him for a ticket and sent him half way to Stratford to pick the damn thing up - he'd have had about as much effect. And what the hell has happened to Balbuena. His passing was so bad that ironic cheers broke out on each occasion that he found a teammate. Which by my count was twice.

I hesitate to say that things got better in the second half but the three substitutions made things slightly less worse I suppose and we did have chances to get a draw we wouldn't have even begun to deserve, but it was telling that even with a man advantage in the last 15 minutes nothing changed. Clueless just about sums it up. I don't think there are words adequate enough to describe just how dreadful that performance was.

For this one there is a chance that Fabianski will be back - he has been training and they will make a decision on the day. Yarmalenko, Anderson, Fredericks and, unsurprisingly Wilshere are all out. There are doubts over Snodgrass and Masuaku who both have knee problems.

Prediction? Well if the ref is friendly to us we might get away with a cricket score (an England one rather than a South African one). If not we may be relying on a half-time declaration. That "biggest screen in Europe" might need an extension. I will therefore be placing the ?2.50 that would have gone on the world's smallest violin to accompany Klopp's constant laments that the FA aren't doing enough to help them win trophies (that's PGMOL's job) and place it on a 4-0 win to them.

Enjoy the game!

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When Last We Met At The Olympic: Drew 1-1 (Premier League February 2019)

Mane opened the scoring with a goa that was so offside that it baffled belief. Not a armpit but a whole human body two full yards offside with officials having an unblocked view. Antonio gave us a fully deserved equaliser after a clever free-kick from Anderson. Incredibly, but predictably, Klopp spent the post-match press conference complaining about the refereeing, presumably on the grounds that he hadn't given them a second. They've made up for it since though.

Referee: Jonathan Moss

Jonathan Moss appears by kind permission of Liverpool FC.

Danger Man: Mohamad Salah

Scores a few goals. Dives a bit.

Percy's Poser:

Last time out we looked at the pages of the Express & Star, who told us of a new exhibit at the local zoo. Congratulations to Mrs Caroline Carbuncle of St Botolph's who correctly guessed that the missing words from the following

XXXXX XXXXXXXXX set to be installed at Dudley Zoo

Were "Lemur Sculpture" - saves on feeding bills I suppose.

There's a blast from the past from this week's Liverpool Echo which looks back on a municipal project that went wrong. Supply the missing words from this if you dare:

Mersyside's back to front XXX XXXXX that nobody got to use

Best of luck!

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