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, August 13, 2009

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 15/08/2009

1. Is It That Time Already?

It could be a case of "art" imitating life, or more likely a chronic lack of preparation, but I have followed West Ham's lead by leaving it 'til the last possible moment before preparing in earnest for the start of a new season.

Like the Hammers, the odd pass may go astray, I may not be at 100% match fitness, but thankfully we both have access to those splendid halftime hot-dogs - 'the greatest in the world'.

2. Opposition

We open our account this season with the glamour tie of the round - a visit to Wolverhampton. As uninspiring as this may be, it is the proverbial banana skin and a game from which I would be happy to escape with a draw.

Wolves have been guided to the Premier League by manager Mick McCarthy, who has been in the hot-seat there for three years.

I admire McCarthy for the way he stood up to Roy Keane's shameful mutiny in World Cup 2002 while he was Republic of Ireland manager, but am less enamoured with his association with Millwall (see you on the 25th).

Regardless of his team's competitiveness (McCarthy's Premiership win percentage is a staggering 5.4%), he will doubtless provide some competition for Steve Bruce in the Angular Hooter stakes.

Their biggest and somewhat surprising signing of the summer was that of Kevin Doyle from Reading for £6.5million. The Irish international was briefly linked with us last season (primarily by HeadHammer Shark) and his form this year will be key to Wanderer's survival.

Wolves have also very recently confirmed the season-long loan of Michael Mancienne from Chelsea. The mini-Predator will likely feature this weekend.

3. Summer Signings

In the not too distant past, we have made some close-season signings as ropey as Madonna's arms. This year we decided to buck that trend by making hardly any.

Our transfer activity has been altogether more subdued than... well, anyone. The standout moment came early on with the loan acquisition of playmaker Luis Jiminez from Inter Milan.

Jiminez is supposed to be the kind of player we've sorely lacked since the days of Benayoun and Tevez, and he displayed some nice, composed touches against Napoli in our last pre-season friendly.

Swiss left-back Fabio Daprela was another signing and a permanent one, signing a 5-year deal from the best named club in Europe, Grasshoppers Club Zurich.

Other than that, Luis Boa Morte od'd on Chinese opium again and will spend around 5-months zig-zagging his way back from the Far East.

For all Carlton Cole's excellent work, we are in dire need of a striker who is not hooked up to all manner of life-support machines.

Luca Toni of Bayern Munich and Eidur Gudjohnsen of Barcelona have both been touted recently and for me, it's Gudjohnsen all the way. I've seen Toni miss some absolute sitters for club and country, and LBM's got that market cornered thank you very much.

Also, if Julian Faubert starts at right-back ahead of Jonathan 'The Scourge Of Brazil' Spector, then we may as well all pack up and go home now.

4. How Much Is That Aussie In The Window?

One of the more protracted stories of the summer has been the next thunderous step in the career of tubby old Lucas Neill.

Neill rejected our intial contract offer, undoubtedly due to money as we were no longer willing to pay a King's ransom for his services.

Rumours persisted of a move to Galatasaray, then Man City, then Sunderland and it emerged this week that there remains an offer on the table from West Ham, which Neill has graciously put "on the shortlist", nestling as it does between 'bags more cash' and 'don't forget to buy four-dozen apple turnovers'.

Neill is obviously not alone in his mindset as a money-grabbing professional footballer, and his previous isn't good seeing as he chose us over Liverpool. But, attempting to adopt a neutral perspective, given his age, the fact he is captain, his already sizeable bank balance and his near-guaranteed place in our starting XI, money-aside I fail to see where he will get a better deal.

But cash is king and only time will tell what Lucas values more - a few extra grand a week or professional pride and access to 'the greatest hot-dogs in the world'.

5. History

We haven't played Wolves since our last stint in The Championship in 2004/'05, when our visit to Molineux resulted in a 4-2 defeat.

Hater-of-the-handicapped, Glenn Hoddle was in charge at the time and with things all square at 2-2 after 60 minutes, up stepped 'JUDAS!' Paul Ince to score a third before Carl Cort put things beyond us.

We have only managed two wins from our last seven visits to Wolves, but these matches span the last 25-years and can not fairly reflect the present day, so this sentence is largely useless.

The danger is of course that Wolves are newly-promoted and brimming with pre-season optimism. It will be a packed house and one promoted team always gets off to a flyer.

Failing a dominant display of total football from ourselves, we're pretty much on a hiding to nothing.

6. Picture Book

Joe public is asked for his verdict on the new home kit:

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