West Ham United v Brentford: match preview

Next up we play host to Brentford on Monday night. Kick off is at 8pm, so get a late pass from the other half.

So Brentford then. They’ve won three and lost nine of their last 13. The wins came at home to Luton, home to Forest and away at Wolves. For the rest they lost away at Brighton, Sheffield United, Spurs and Man City, and home to Villa, Wolves and Liverpool.

The latter game was interesting as it looked for all the world as if England’s best referee (© M Oliver and nobody else) seemed to go out of his way to help the visitors, allowing MacAllister to get away with five (six if you throw in Law 12’s comments on "Persistent Foul Play") yellow card offences and ignoring attempts to punch the ball into the net, meaning that when Endo finally received a caution he remained on the pitch.

The foul in the build up to Liverpool’s equaliser – which carried on into the box -and the bizarre flattening of Toney in the box which no honest sane human being could have said was a fair challenge all looked highly suspicious. But there again, since PGMOL seem to be on a challenge to see how far their members can go before anyone notices nobody should be surprised. As we will find out later.

Not that we should have too much sympathy for Brentford. One of those few wins came against Forest, set up by an Ivan Toney goal from a free kick moved to give a more favourable angle. PGMOL’s comment was that VAR could not get involved. Which was baffling since "goals and violations that precede them" is the no.1 thing on the list of things that VAR can review.

All of this has left them in 15th place with 25 points from as many games, which is five places and 11 points behind us.

Daisy tells me that three permanent and one loan arrivals made the short trip from Heathrow during the window, though they seemed to be aimed on the youth development side of things. Yunus Emre Konak, for example, is an 18-year-old defensive midfielder who has three caps for the Turkish Under 21 side and arrived from Sivasspor for €4.5m on a five-and-a-half year deal. He as yet to trouble the statistician.

Slightly older, though at £2.5m, although slightly cheaper was Icelandic ‘keeper Hakon Valdimarsson, who arrived from Swedish side Elsborg, having started his career with the brilliantly-named Icelandic club Grotta. He has been capped five times by the national side formerly known as Bejam but again is one that they will be looking to bring through, as they used to say in Yes Prime Minister, "in the fullness of time".

Possibly looking at a replacement for Toney they announced an agreement to sign Igor Thiago, a Brazilian forward from Brugge for €38m. The deal will not be completed until July but still came as a bit of a surprise, coming as it did following the collapse of a deal to sign Norwegian winger Antonio Nuasa from the same club, the player failing a medical. I guess it was a case of saying "that one’s broken, have you got anything else in stock?"

The loan signing was Uzbek winger Mukhammadali Urinboev who has gone into their B team from the Tashkent side Pakhator. One wouldn’t normally mention B team signings but Uzbekistan and Tashkent are exotic enough even before considering the, er, mickey-taking fun to be had out of that surname.

One shouldn’t move on without mentioning the aforementioned returning Toney. And having mentioned him one will move on...

...To the wild and wacky world of Association Football. Well if you had any lingering naïve thoughts that referees are just misunderstood and do the best they can, the final nail in that particular coffin was hammered firmly in place by Howard Webb whose analysis of the flattening of Bowen up at Bramall Lane exposed PGMOL for the backside-covering racket it really is.

If you were wondering how low PGMOL could go in defending its employees, just listen to Webb’s verbal gymnastics in defending what overall was a zero out of ten performance from serial offender Michael Salisbury.

Webb, of course, was previously an employee of South Yorkshire Police so he’ll be no stranger to a culture of cover ups and corruption. His performance reminded me of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy character Oolun Colluphid who was so successful in arguing that black was white he got run over at the next zebra crossing.

Seriously though, they are not even pretending anymore – someone tries to punch the ball into the net right in front of the ref, just get good old Howard up on the box and he’ll simply deny it ever happened.

To the rest of the world our officials are an unfit laughing-stock. There have been numerous examples of them failing fitness tests, even a few attempts at cheating them. FIFA have sent home our refs in the past for not being up to the job and we have now got to the stage where refereeing influence is as likely to be the deciding factor in a match as the relative merits of the sides involved.

Oliver’s performance in our visitors’ match against Liverpool last week (fouls ignored, players committing multiple yellow card offences without punishment) pretty much ensured that the scousers were guaranteed three points, whilst later on Andrew Madley ensured that Man City didn’t get a couple of spot-kicks that would probably – no definitely – have been given to the home side at Anfield.

There needs to be a thorough investigation of the woeful standards of officiating in this country. Proper and thorough. The game is too important to allow it to be run by people who openly lie to cover themselves.

I have long been critical of the mainstream media who will pore over individual decisions to microscopic detail without ever considering the wider picture. However, I did spot this week a potential green shoot in the Sunday Times where Martin Samuel questioned PGMOL’s apparent habit of progress by patronage.

In particular, Samuel was critical of Stuart Atwell’s continued presence amongst the so-called "elite" after 16 (albeit interrupted) years of abject performances at the top level, pointing out that "Clueless" Atwell owed his return due to Mike Riley’s backing. Before that Atwell’s mysteriously rapid rise through the ranks was attributed to his promotion by Keith Hackett – which is really not a recommendation for anything.

Ok it’s not Woodward and Bernstein, but it’s a start.

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And so to us. Forest was another performance so devoid of confidence it was a surprise that the team actually ventured on to the pitch. I felt a bit sorry for Kalvin Phillips whose dismissal came from one of those challenges where you attempt a block and get penalised for being kicked. A decent referee might note that but since there aren’t any in this country the second yellow was sadly inevitable.

As I say the confidence amongst the squad would appear to be so low the Northern Line is overhead. Much has been said about the lack of attacking intent amongst the squad – with many fingers pointing in the direction of the manager. However, might it not be the case that the players are so frightened at the moment that playing the ball forwards is a concept akin to handling your front doorknob a few days after having cut-up Vladimir Putin at a roundabout.

Time after time the ball started to move forwards only for a player to check back and play a safe ball square or backwards in case a chunk of Novichok lay somewhere ahead. Whether that’s management’s fault or something within the players themselves I’m not qualified to say – though thousands are apparently. Where the manager must get involved is in repairing the confidence that is clearly missing.

It was good to see Antonio back. For all his limitations – and I’m sure his thousands of detractors will tell you what they are at great length if you have a free day or so – he did bring a bit of strength and trouble making to the attack. Just a shame nobody gave him much to get on to after the first 15 minutes or so.

On the squad front, Phillips will miss out through suspension whilst Lucas Paqueta, though getting there, may be looking at a more likely return at Everton or at home to Burnley. Other than that it’s a full squad to choose from.

Prediction? Well getting the first goal is vital in this one. Go 1-0 up and the confidence will improve. Go one down and lookout for the heads to go down. Mind you they’re in similar mode given recent results.

I think that this will be one of those games which will live about as long in the memory as it takes Novichok to enter the nervous system. So the £2.50 I was going to send towards the fund to develop a lie-detector for Howard Webb (no need – you just have to see if his lips move) will instead go on a rare prediction of a 0-0 draw when I can get down to Winstone’s Turf Accountants

Finally, afore we go, if I may be a bit self-indulgent I’d just like to pay tribute to my late Dad who passed away two years ago on the date of this match. I’ll sing Bubbles with a bit more fervour on Monday night in your honour mate and if you could have a word with the boss up their for us about the match we’d all be jolly grateful.

Enjoy the game!

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When we last met at the Olympic: Lost 0-2 (Premier League December 2022)

Despite dominating the first half we were somehow 2-0 down at the interval. We laboured in the second half, not helped by a failure to award a penalty when Bowen was sandwiched in running into the box. VAR’s response was something like "don’t worry we’ll find an excuse for you". It was our fifth defeat on the spin with many predicting that a sixth would see a change in management.

Referee: Simon Hooper

Frankly it matters little these days. The match will be probably depend on whether he can be bothered or inclined to learn the laws of the game. I suppose there’s a first time for everything. But I’m not putting any money on it at Winstone’s.

Danger Man: Ivan Toney

Not actually that good but makes a little go a long way.

Percy & Daisy’s Poser

Last week’s poser was:

'Delightful' XXXXXXX XXXX XXXXXXX pair popped into Nottingham clothes shop and XXX XXXX’XX XX XXXX

Well done to Mrs Hortensia Bonus-Spatula of Havering-Atte-Bower (which is one of the answers to this week’s Sunday Times Travel Quiz. Genuinely) who knew that the missing words were:

"Strictly Come Dancing" and "say they’ll be back".

This week we look at the My London website from which this delightful piece of Brentford news was lifted:

I got my XX’s XXXXXXXX removed from my XXXXX for my new partner

Good luck everybody!

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