Overly long writings about West Ham United FC. This is the kind of thing you might like, if you like this kind of thing.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sheffield United vs West Ham : 14 April 2007 (Match Preview And Other Ramblings)

1. Heaven Help Us

Ah, Sheffield United - God's little joke on football purists everywhere.

This is not going to be a beautiful game. It's not even going to be mildly attractive or have a bubbly personality. We are facing a team whose brand of 'football' could only be less aesthetically pleasing if they played naked and clubbed some baby seals to death at half time.

Paddy Kenny naked? God, I hope you weren't eating.

2. Deja Vu

A bit of H List history for you in case you weren't paying attention the first time around. This is a point written in the preview for our home game against Sheffield United in November:

Although I have done a piece on footballing nicknames previously I did leave out the all time greatest. Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock is known widely around the game as "Colin". This is because it's the first part of an anagram of his name. Why don't you see if you can work out the rest?

3. The History

We actually have a 'Not All That Execrable' recent record at Brammall Lane. Our last defeat there was in March 1994 when we went 2-0 up and lost 3-2. Gosh darn it if our loveable heroes haven't always defended with all the backbone of a boa constrictor.

Of course we've only played there 3 times subsequently. A 3-3 draw in 03/04 including a squandered 2 goal lead, a 2-1 victory in 04/05 courtesy of Sheringham and Harewood and a remarkable FA Cup tie later the same season.

This saw us draw 1-1 despite playing against ten men for an hour. We then proceeded to lose the ensuing penalty shoot out 3-1. That's right - in a shoot out against Paddy Kenny we scored just once.

If I recall correctly, that was the day I successfully proved that it's possible to disembowel oneself with the bristles of a toothbrush.

4. Interesting Numbers

Sheffield United's leading scorer is Rob Hulse who has suffered a severe case of Dean Ashtonism and is now in a coma or something similar for the rest of the season. Their second top scorer is centre half Phil Jagielka. These kind of statistics just make me nervous.

It generally screams that someone absurd is going to score against us like Jon Stead or Colin Kazim-Richards or Condoleeza Rice. Kazim-Richards clearly being the most ridiculous of the three.

5. The esreveR Fixture

Way back in November, a period I look back upon fondly as I still had an intact and functioning nervous system at the time, we beat Sheffield United 1-0.

This was notable as they managed the previously impossible task of allowing us to score from a corner.

A recent joint study by Princeton University and Prestatyn Sands Sixth Form college listed the 9 most difficult things for humans to do, as:

1. Rocket science
2. Brain surgery
3. Adjusting the temperature in someone else's shower
4. Learning Mandarin (except for the Chinese)
5. Listening to the music of James Blunt without wishing to kill yourself. Or him
6. Allowing West Ham to score from a corner
7. Understanding the plot of the first Mission:Impossible film
8. Driving anywhere in Italy
9. Assembling IKEA furniture

They were going to do 10 but it proved too hard.

6. Here's A Trend - Buck It Please

You can tell that I'm nervous about this game. When I look in the mirror I don't see the same suave, good looking, modest young fellow that I usually do. Instead I'm faced with a shell of a man sporting the same kind of look that my wife does when I announce I'm about to attempt a spot of parallel parking.

You see, when faced with "must win" games we haven't been all that fantastic recently. Discounting Cup games on the grounds that they are all, by definition, "must win" and focusing only on League and Play Off matches, there is a very mixed history.

In our 6 Play Off games we managed 3 wins, a draw and 2 defeats. Prior to this there was the infamous 2-1 home loss against a truly crap Sunderland side that should have eliminated us from play off contention altogether if it wasn't for the Reading team later deciding en masse that May was no time to behave like professional footballers.

And the grandaddy of them all was the 1-0 away defeat at Bolton that essentially condemned us to the Championship, and Roeder to the sack, by way of a neurosurgeon. Even on the last day of the season when we required a win at Birmingham we were only able to muster a 2-2 draw.

So, not to urinate all over your potato fries but just don't get too excited about tomorrow.

Some of you might point to the 2-0 home victory over Southampton in 2003 that saved Roeder's job as an example of a "must win" that we "did win". I might point out that this is stretching the envelope of "must win" a little too far, given that subsequent events made it a game "I wish we didn't win".

7. There's Hot And Then There's Bobby Zamora

If you look back on his tenure with us, Zamora has had a very happy knack of scoring important goals. Examples include the Play Off run, all manner of 1-0 wins, and indeed 19 of his 28 League goals for us have come in winning causes.

He is a streaky player, scoring in bunches and then going a Gobi Desert style dry run for months. But, right now, when we need him most, he is scoring and for that we should be thankful.

All of which naturally means that he'll be marked out of the game tomorrow by whatever club wielding cavemen Warnock plays at the back, and Lucas Neill will pop up with the winner.

8. Curse You Magic Beans!

Number of goals conceded to Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea in 4 games: 1
Number of goals conceded to Fulham, Charlton and Watford in 6 games : 10

Lesson: It's no good climbing up and slapping the giant around if you promptly chuck yourself off the top of the beanstalk.

9. Jingle Jangle

With the situation at the foot of the table as fluid as the Iran/Iraq marine border it seems a tad unfair that Charlton get to play after everybody else this weekend. However, let's not kid ourselves, a win on Saturday and we will be level with them and putting some added pressure on their ever so nice heads.

Lose, and I can't see how we can realistically expect to survive with the run in we have.

To quote Homer Simpson - "I've never been much of a praying man, but if you're up there - please save me, Superman".

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