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, September 20, 2007

Newcastle United vs West Ham: 23rd September 2007 (Match Preview And Other Ramblings)

1. They're Dead Passionate, Like

A trip to the land of the barcode then. In what has been a fairly gentle start to the season, this is perhaps the first true test of the new, improved West Ham particularly as it is away from home where we have looked our most impressive.

Of course, the prospect of facing any team managed by Sam Allardyce is usually as enticing as getting Polio, but for some reason it doesn't seem quite so bad this time round, what with us being Not Rubbish on our travels, for a change.

Still, the cauldron that is St James's Park, home of "The most passionate fans in the world" (Copyright: Any Lazy Journalist), is a different kettle of fish to Birmingham and Reading (Except in 1990/91 when their average gate was 16,835 - but that was before Euro 96 so it doesn't count because football hadn't been invented then).

2. The History

Our short term history on the Tyne isn't so appalling as one might expect. Last year saw us take a deserved early 2-0 lead before a combination of egregiously inept finishing and a Uriah Rennie lobotomy saw us blow it and gain only a point.

That said, we haven't won there since 1998 when Ian Wright inspired a 3-0 victory and Stuart Pearce was sent off for garroting Trevor Sinclair. It really doesn't feel like it, but we don't beat Newcastle very often.

3. The Opposition

Up until we bought all of their players I would have said that Newcastle were the very definition of a club that was less than the sum of their parts. Quite how you can spend the GDP of Zambia on a football team and still be this consistently bad is beyond me.

Now that we have all of the players who made them so useless, I imagine that we too can look forward to the stultification of all our hopes and dreams. Marvellous.

Between them Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Albert Luque cost around £35m and have so far made a combined 56 League starts between them. The former two are still at the club and very well might go on to score bucketloads I suppose, but it does highlight the Geordie propensity to take good players and turn them into crustaceans.

New arrivals this year include Alan Smith, about whom nothing good has ever been said.

4. I Wonder About The Boy Wonder

I usually pay about as much attention to other teams transfer dealings as I do to Hansard, but I must confessed to being hugely disappointed when Michael Owen joined Newcastle.

Firstly, I hate to see English players conceding defeat when trying to make it overseas, but perhaps even worse was the apparent decision he made to turn his back on a fight to win a place at Madrid in exchange for the constant mediocrity, but far heftier pay packet at Newcastle.

I don't know why we have a tendency to imbue footballers with a sense of altruism that we ourselves don't possess, but it certainly doesn't seem like there can be a lot of difference between £80,000 and £100,000 a week, where as there would seem to be a hell of a difference between English mid table tedium and Spanish aristocracy.

I guess I'm just saying that the guy used to win European Player of the Year awards, and now he's exchanging passes with Shola Ameobi.

It's a hard knock life.

5. An Addendum

Another reason to dislike the return of Owen is that he has scored 10 goals in 10 games against us. That's like, an average of one a game (You're probably wondering, yes I am an accountant).

My suggested method of dealing with this is poisoning.

6. The Need For Speed

Last week saw the truly glacial pairing of James Collins and Matthew Upson at the heart of our defence. Now that kind of thing might work against Middlesbrough when they are playing two yukka trees up front, but Owen and Martins will surely burst right through that particular wall of resistance.

As unfortunate as Collins was to lose his place after a stellar end of season run of form, he would seem the more likely to make way. I can't say that I have seen anything about Upson to suggest that he is the better of the two but Curbishley clearly does, so one would expect the Welshman to step aside for the returning Ferdinand.

Lucas Neill has no speed at all. It won't matter.

7. Medical Matters

Don't worry about the large trail of bandages around our training ground, as our crack medical team are on the case. Even as we speak they are placing leeches on Craig Bellamy's troublesome groin, and sacrificing a goat in order to clear up Scott Parker's aching knees.

8. The Return

Tomorrow will see large swathes of underachievers return to St James's Park. Bellamy will doubtless be afforded the red carpet treatment that tends to follow him everywhere, whilst Parker and Bowyer didn't really cover themselves in glory during their varying tenures on Tyneside.

The one who will be most warmly received is likely to be Nolberto Solano, who at this point remains a theoretical concept as far as I'm concerned .

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