1. The Boys Are Back In Town
Everybody, unlock your daughters! Middlesbrough are coming! Somnambulents - get yer asses down the Boleyn, I have a cure!
Sweet Lord above - if there is a more dull prospect in the cosmos than watching Middlesbrough play, then it would have to involve painting, or creosoting, or at the very least James Blunt.
2. The History
The nearest the Boro came to any silverware last year was their prestigious H List "Worst Opposition Team" award. This was a fairly undisputed decision based upon a turgid 2-0 defeat towards the end of the season. Bobby Zamora and Carlos Tevez did the honours, with neither likely to do the same this time around, although one could make a strong case that Tevez is still the more probable of the two.
It would be safe to say that Middlesbrough have a truly dire record at Upton Park, with just one win here since 1990. Karmically that was a bad one, given that the winner was scored by Brian Deane, but even during their small window of decency in the late 90's we held the Indian sign over the visitors.
In true West Ham fashion we have repaid this debt many times over by transforming into amoeba on any and all journeys to the North East in the meantime.
3. The Opposition
If it is true that teams take on the personality of their manager then Middlesbrough would be a prime example. Gareth Southgate is a nice enough chap, I'm sure, but he has the personality of a wardrobe, and none of the flair.
Reading a few online previews from Boro fans they seem to feel that the team have turned a corner from the chronic mundanity of the Steve McClaren era, and now are essentially the second coming of Brazil circa 1970. Even allowing for the natural bias of football fans that kind of delusion generally requires magic mushrooms somewhere down the line.
Your front two are Mido and Jeremie Aliadiere! These men are fungi!
I can accept that the likes of Gary O'Neil and Julio Arca are underrated, whilst Jonathan Woodgate is a truly exceptional if truly injured player, but come on - Middlesbrough are putrid.
4. You Look Familiar
There is a chance that Scott Parker may make a belated debut tomorrow, having come through a midweek friendly against Colchester without needing the assistance of Dr Greg House. I'd be surprised if he went straight back into the team given the very decent form of Noble and Mullins but it would be nice to see our bench options swelling.
Freddie Ljungberg appears to have realised that he is the goalscoring midfielder on my fantasy team, and has hence emigrated for the last 4 weeks. I suppose he might return, but I don't think Packitupsonyourfathersonnightwork FC are going to recover from our slow start to the year.
Curse you mindless summer optimism.
5. I've Been Away
Alan Curbishley is a bit upset that our glittering cast of international superstars will have to play on a Saturday after their various globetrotting exploits.
Craig Bellamy inspired Wales to a fairly unbelievable 5-2 win in Slovakia, with what John Toshack described as the best individual performance he had seen in some time. Truth be told, I can't imagine there has been a great deal of competition in the Welsh team. Danny Gabbidon and James Collins also played and didn't blow anything up. Kudos.
George McCartney went to Iceland and didn't have all that enjoyable a time as Northern Ireland lost 2-1 courtesy of a last minute own goal from Keith Gillespie (pay attention at the back, that might be relevant later).
On the flight back to the UK he then ended up in a brawl with the aforementioned Gillespie. The latter does play for Sheffield United so perhaps George is a bit fed up of Kevin McCabe's idiocy too.
Mark Noble continued his fine early season form with a goal for England Under 21's in Bulgaria and Jonathan Spector probably played somewhere for the US.
I should really mention Nolberto Solano who played for Peru, but until I see him standing uncomfortably at the training ground with our Curb's arm round his shoulder in a slightly cringeworthy way, then I'm not going to consider him a Hammer.
Luis Boa Morte does not play international football. Instead he ventures off to distant parts of the galaxy and finds new worlds, terra forms them, and then plays keepie uppies using those planets with the Lord God himself.
7. I've Been Away - Even Further
To top that, Lucas Neill trumped everyone in respect of airmiles as he flew back to Australia for a 1-0 friendly defeat against Argentina.
It's hard to imagine that a round trip like that would leave anyone in decent physical condition, although his pure Lucasneillitude should see him through. It won't hurt that he is likely to be in direct opposition to Stewart Downing who isn't exactly a fully functioning biped.
8. Mido The Weirdo
In his time in England, Mido has played exactly twice against us, and scored exactly twice. He managed one League goal all season last year, which was the winner against us in October. That just hurts my eyebrows.
His move to Middlesbrough has begun well, with two goals in his first two games, although it took a fair bit of cheek to claim his first one, which really should have been saved by Tony Warner were it not for his curious decision to wear two large foam "Number 1" gloves.
He's rubbish. If he scores I'm going to pre complete all of Matthew Upson's crosswords before he receives his morning newspaper.....