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

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fulham vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 23/02/2008

1. The Magnificent Dozen (Less One)

If there is any justice in this world (which there isn't - the enduring popularity of The Brit Awards is testimony to that), I would be declared Supreme Ruler Of The Boleyn Ground. My first act as your new leader would be to ensure a mandatory uniform be necessary to gain entry to Upton Park.

And it would be thus:


2. Wome Wasn't Built In A Day

When Woy Hodgson took over at Fulham, I for one was quite surpwised at the selection and thought it an inspired choice.

He is one of the few Englishmen who have genuine managewial cwedentials wanging fwom top level Euwopean football with Inter Milan to major internationals, having lead Switzerland to World Cup USA '94 - a tournament for which England failed to qualify.

However, it seems as though Woy has inhewited a stacked deck at Cwaven Cottage and will need a couple of years or more to establish Fulham as a solid Pwemiership outfit.

Should he fail, he faces having his Hawwods store card wevoked and be the latest addition to the ever-gwoing list of people accused of conspiwing to murder Dodi Fayed.

3. The History

Last season's corresponding fixture ended in a 0-0 draw, but our record at Craven Cottage is very good. We remain unbeaten there in the Premiership and have claimed 10 out of a possible 12 points since 2002. In fact, we haven't lost away to Fulham since the 1974/'75 season.

While historically things look good, the same old problems persist. Our matches this year have produced fewer goals than any other club in the league - surely a consequence of Curbishley's stifled style of play.

We do possess the fourth best defensive away record, but our lack of bite upfront would explain why we have won just one of our last five games - and that came courtesy of an injury time penalty.

One ray of hope is that our good defensive away record is in stark contrast to Fulham's home one. Derby aside, they have conceded more goals at home than anyone other team this season.

This game marks the end of an 'easy' period which should have seen us make some ground on those above. Our next four fixtures are Chelsea (h), Liverpool (a), The Scum (a) and Blackburn (h) - although knowing us, we'll pick up twelve points there.

Of course we won't.

4. Captain Marvel

It is fitting that Sunday sees the 15th anniversary of the death of Bobby Moore, a day after the two clubs he played for go head-to-head.

While his three seasons at Fulham are a mere footnote to his career after sixteen glorious years at Upton Park, Moore is still fondly remembered at Craven Cottage and demanded the respect of football fans the world over.

Lucas Neill has spoken this week of how he still gets a "tingle" when he thinks of his name on a list that boasts England's only World Cup-winning captain, but that's obviously where any comparisons end. Matty Upson has also spoken of his pride at wearing the famous West Ham Number 6 shirt.

Neill has confessed that earlier in the season he was guilty of trying too hard to be a captain as opposed to just a good player and leading by example, but he's shown no signs of turning that corner just yet.

Bobby Moore, widely regarded as the greatest defender to have ever played the game, should rightly be remembered at this weekend's match. In retirement he was criminally overlooked in comparison to the likes of Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst.

West Ham aside, it is only the recent Goliath of a statue outside the new Wembley Stadium that bares fitting tribute to the embodiment of what a footballer should be.

Oh to have him on the teamsheet now.

5. Hail To The Thief

Firstly, Mohammed Al Fayed is a famously litigious man and so I salute him in all his endeavours, all of which are cracking good value. However, as a bogus pseudo-journalist of sorts, I am forced to speak of a story brought to my attention recently by a blaspheming unbeliever.

Not so long ago there was an 'exclusive' promotion in Harrods whereby discerning customers could treat themselves to a single glass of Dom Perignon 1975 for a measly £250. For one glass. That's £250 for one glass.

Of course, the promotion came with all the usual corporate spiel, but it was plain to see this for what it was (said the soon-to-be-penniless dissenter) - a scam akin to paying £7 million for Seth Johnson.

As outrageous as this seemed, the offer should have come as no surprise from a man who charges a whopping £45 for a bog-standard ticket to see what is essentially a glorified Championship team. Apparently, some chimney-sweeps have turned their noses up at the fee.

They know not the value of 90-minutes in the company of a man happy to close one of the largest and most popular shops in the Western world in order to pander to a bleach-skinned pop star turned paedo.

6. He We Are Now, Entertain Us

When I'm not acclaiming the wonders of the world's finest department store or denouncing that Nazi, the Duke Of Edinburgh, I enjoy a good read, an innovative tune or a slice of cinematic splendour.

On those rarest of occasions - with the planets in necessary alignment, ITV broadcasting anything worth watching bar football - I am also partial to the increasingly rare sight of an entertaining home fixture at Upton Park.

Not necessarily a win, just some entertainment.

A few short years ago, this wasn't such a far-fetched concept. This season however, you can count the number of exciting home games on the fingers of a man who juggles live grenades for a living. Some performances have been so dour, it's surprising suicide rates among Hammers fans haven't matched those of Bridgend teenagers.

Come on, lads - how about a bit of caution-to-the-wind football? Our Premiership status is assured and Europe is a pipedream - why not some kamikaze, Keegan-esque football for the last few games to cheer the home support?

For formation ideas, I refer you to the soon-to-be mandatory home uniform detailed above.

7. Tom, Dick And Lucas

During my youth, I misspent my time in a variety of ways. Very occasionally I was not protesting outside the Home Office at their excessively stringent Visa requirements for the many down-trodden Egyptian billionaire migrants in the UK.

During the quiet times, I was force-fed many classic films from the 1960's - one of which was the POW tale, 'The Great Escape'.

When it's not being desecrated by the tiresome England Supporters band, this film surely ranks among the greats. One scene in particular has popped into my mind more than once when watching our captain this year.

Sir Dickie Attenborough and his right-hand man Gordon Jackson have done all the hard work in preparing their men for escape and the perils of fleeing through enemy territory. Everything was taken care of, right down to those sneaky Nazis and their ingenious language trip-up techniques.

Things are going swimmingly as Dickie and Gordon, posing as Frenchmen, board a bus for neutral Switzerland, only to come a cropper when Jackson replies in English to a Nazi gesture of "Good luck".

Consider the following fictitious post-match interview with Herr Neill:

"Another tedious goalless draw here at Upton Park, Lucas."
"Cheers, mate."
"Yet more staggering positional play and desperate strong-arm tactics from yourself."
"Thanks, mate."
"Still, you must be chuffed at having fooled your paymasters that you are a professional right-back?"
"Sure am, mate."

*Cue stricken look of panic as Lucas realises the game is up*

Well, Lucas - the game has been up for some time now. What on earth has happened to our roguish, more-than-competent defender of last season??

8. Injury List... Blah Blah Blah

Craig Bellamy is out for six weeks and may well have to be put down. Curbishley has decided that Bobby Zamora and Julien Faubert will need at least another 45 reserve team games before he risks releasing them from their bubblewrap cocoons.

Curbs has been gracious enough to allow Scott Parker back into full training as of Monday and said that he may even get a game or two before retirement. Meanwhile, rumours abound that we will bid for Eidur Gudjohnsen in the summer - just so that our over-cautious manager can saw his legs off and imprison him in our Hotel California of a treatment room.

I'm getting sick and tired of hearing Curbishley say this player is 'still a few weeks away' and that player has 'only had half an hour in the reserves'. His record as manager thus far is the epitome of average - won 18, lost 18, drawn 10.

At least when we were scrapping around the lower end of the league, one might feel a jolt of adrenaline now and then.

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