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, March 14, 2008

West Ham United vs Blackburn Rovers: Match Preview - 15/03/2008

1. Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends

You know in Rocky films when Stallone is standing there in the ring, with his hands down, getting ruthlessly pummeled and displaying atrocious technique? He hits the canvas for the thirteenth time and part of you thinks "Stay down! Stay down!"

- that's something like where I am at the moment with our current season.

Of course, Sly always clambers to his feet to land a telling blow at the expense of his rapidly declining motor skills, but can we do the same at home on Saturday?

2. Our Opponents

Blackburn have had a steady season and have cemented their claims as genuine UEFA Cup-spot contenders. In Mark Hughes, they also have one of the more impressive young managers to have come on the scene in the last few years.

They have lost just once since Christmas, which was away to Arsenal and whilst never setting the world alight, Rovers have gone about their job consistently. Unlike ourselves, they regularly compete with those teams in and around them and invariably beat those they should.

David Bentley appears to be the only genuine difference in quality between the two teams, who are largely comparable. One gets the impression that their success stems from Hughes demanding that extra 10% from average players and that they enjoy playing for him.

3. History

Our record against Blackburn Rovers is very good. They have not managed to take a single point from Upton Park since a 2-1 victory back in 1994, the season before they went on to claim the Championship. We have won eight and drawn one of the last nine meetings between the two clubs in all competitions.

Last season we claimed a nervy 2-1 win over Rovers, courtesy of goals from Hayden Mullins and Teddy Sheringham to put us two-up, before David Bentley equalised late on.

History and statistics (those most useless of reference points this season), tell us that Saturday should be an exciting game. Blackburn have scored more goals against us than against any other club, whereas we have won more games against Rovers than against anyone else. Cue the tame 0-0 draw.

During my painstaking research I was surprised to learn that, despite our much-lauded defence this year, we have only managed to keep clean sheets in two home games this season - against Middlesbrough and Liverpool.

Typically, I was at our last loss back in '94 and witnessed West Ham's former defender Ian Pearce score the winner, when he used to play upfront with Shearer. This is of course before his knees took on the tensile strength of popcorn and he was forced to morph his career to one of an immobile centre back.

I also remember 'Mad Dog' Martin Allen spanking in a glorious free-kick from fully 30 yards, before running off in celebration like a startled hare with rabies. It wasn't until I saw the replay from behind the goal that I realised the ball took a deflected trajectory akin to a small section of Steve Bruce's nose.

No, of course it didn't. That would be utterly ridiculous.

4. Kicked To The Curb

This week Alan Curbishley was given the dreaded 'vote of confidence' from the Club's Board of Directors after some speculation in the media about his tenure. He also came out with an impassioned response to recent criticism from the terraces as well as conspiracy theories on media "agendas".

One of Alan's complaints was that people fail to acknowledge that he too goes through the same pain and frustration as us fans when the team put in such dour performances as they have of late.

What Curbs fails to acknowledge is that he is paid a king's ransom to sit and watch those stoned llamas lolloping around, whereas we have no recourse for compensation and have to fork out between £35 and £50 per game to be dragged through the same emotional minefield.

His latest outburst put me in mind of the differences between our current manager and his predecessor, Alan Pardew. One of the things I liked most about Pards was his straight-talking in post-match interviews. Only this week he came out with the following after Charlton lost to Preston North End on Monday night:

"I feel for the fans today, paying good money and watching a load of crap."

Curbs would do well to realise that such brutal honesty would go a long way to appeasing some of us. It would at least give us all a flicker of hope that these lacklustre, unimaginative performances aren't given by design.

5. Premiership Plunder

There has been much hoopla this week that English teams make up four of the eight quarter finalists in the Champions League, but the dominance of the Premiership is not reflected in a wealth of homegrown talent.

Of the 44 names on the teamsheets of Premiership sides in the last round, there were just 10 Englishmen: Carragher, Gerrard, Terry, A Cole, Lampard, J Cole, Brown, Ferdinand, Carrick and Rooney.

What our large representation in the last eight reflects is merely the wealth of the domestic league and hence the ability to tempt top class internationals with extortionate wages.

I don't consider our heavy influence in the latter stages of the world's top club competition to be a matter of pride, merely a confirmation of its existence as an elitist practice to maintain the widening gulf between rich and poor.

A widening gap akin to that which lies between Lenny Henry's drain on the the earth's resources and his validity as a life form, except that this gap is laden with chocolate coins. If you can imagine such a thing.

6. InjuriesInjuriesInjuriesInjuriesInjuriesInjuries

Scott Parker bust be a good bet to start on Saturday as he got through 75 minutes in the-game-that-shall-not-speak-its-name, last Sunday. Bobby Zamora also played that dark day and Curbs could continue with his zany 4-4-2 experiment this week, accommodating both Zamora and Ashton.

Although we're at home, so probably not.

Julien Faubert is back in training but not in contention, so it will likely be between just Nobby and Freddie to fight it out for the right wing spot.

Apparently Bowyer is also back in full training and Upson stands a chance of returning, having missed Sunday's grotesque freak show as he was hiding under a rock in abject shame.

Still, on the bright side....

....Luis Boa Morte is suspended!!!

7. Rejoice!

Did you read that? Luis Boa Morte is not eligible for this weekend. He will definitely not be playing! Or even on the bench!!

Oh, happy day...

8. Steve Bruce Update

Deary me, things are going from bad to worse for Steve and his Angular Hooter (TM).

It appears as if the treacherous mountain range he calls a nose (littered with the corpses of expert mountain climbers out of their depth), has ripped the very fabric of the space-time continuum.

Only last week Steve referred to Wigan's match at Manchester City thusly:

"We had a very tricky game at Maine Road."

Now, considering that Man City haven't played at Maine Road for five years, the only possible explanation is that Steve is permanently staring through a time portal, which is continually whirring at the end his Polio-ravaged Twiglet of a nose.

Physicists everywhere are elated, although they freely admit that it would take an army of physicists a thousand years to quantify the innumerable angles jarring from a nose which has more lumps and bumps than a packet of Nik-Naks.

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