Matchday: Hammers versus Eagles

The “Careful What You Wish For” derby sees Sam Allardyce return to West Ham.

West Ham PalaceTo start with an apology for previously giving the impression that Dimitri Payet was one of the most skillful players ever to wear the claret and blue of West Ham, that he was the undisputed master of the assist, the team talisman without whom we never win and a veritable sorcerer when it came to the sublime or sumptuous set-piece. We can now reveal that the petulant, perfidious Payet is in fact the quintessential cowardly, overweight, backstabbing, surrender monkey who would barely make the top 10 famous people from Reunion Island were it not for the stage presented to him by West Ham.

There has been a lot of negative comment on Payet’s behaviour in the media from pundits (even sober ones), managers and players alike although that will not prevent clubs carefully putting any principles to one side and queuing  up to offer him a lucrative contract. In an ideal world he could be left to stew but, as today’s visiting manager has demonstrated, you would need to have committed a particular heinous crime such as biting the heads of babies (or being compromised by a Russian hooker) to become unemployable in an industry as morally bankrupt as modern football.

“We haven’t got a big squad now left, we just have the players for this game. But we have enough players to put a strong team out and have good players on the bench. It is the team that I am managing. Many times clubs have lost quality players but gained a team.”

– Slaven Bilic on his small but good squad

So it is that the shamed but unrepentant ex-England manager who brings his latest long-ball charges to face the Payet-less Hammers at the London Stadium this afternoon. Both clubs would have started the season with hopes and dreams that didn’t involve a potential relegation battle but as events have panned out we find ourselves with a four-and-a-half pointer if not a fully fledged six-pointer on our hands. Expect the Fat One to set up in respect the point mode to see how the West Ham team react to their new reality.

Head to Head

Depending where you look West Ham have played Crystal Palace anywhere between 31 and 76 times. The following stats exclude long ago Southern League and war-time cup competitions which makes encounters between the two clubs a rather recent rivalry that West Ham have largely bossed. Palace have won only one of the last 5 meetings but the Hammers haven’t beaten them at home (even at fortress Upton Park) since 2003.

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Sequence

Home

17

10

5

2

22

13

DLLDWW

Away

18

 6

7

5

29

18

WWWLDL

 

35

16

12

7

51

31

 

Team News

Whatever the West Ham lineup all the talk in the build-up, during the game and in the post match analysis will be about Dimitri Payet. The final straw for Payet apparently was when they let Cresswell take a free kick at Leicester – I knew no good would come of it!  Sam Byram and Reece Oxford are now both fit but “lack match fitness”; I would like to see both involved at some point so that they can actually work on that fitness. Ayew and Kouyate, of course, are away on international duties and Michail Antonio was reported as being ill (hopefully not with a bout of Chelsea flu!). From what has been said the manager expects Manuel Lanzini to step up to create all of our chances; so no pressure there Manuel. I would like to believe that we will put out a team full of pace, passion, movement and with not too many players played out of position.  It is only hope that keeps us going so let’s see what happens.

“If there are any fears left in their players because of the new stadium then we need to try to take advantage of it. If we can put pressure on them and try to score the first goal then that will be very important.  I had four happy years at West Ham and one of the reasons I am at Palace is because of London. I enjoyed living here.”

– Fat Sam

I am always nervous when former players and managers make a return to face West Ham and today we have two for the price of one in Fat Sam and James Tomkins. On the plus side Palace have their best (albeit very unpredictable) player, Wilfred Zaha, away at the ACON. Benteke has a shoulder injury but should be fit and Townsend will be excited at playing against a team without a proper right back.

I have my fingers crossed for a Payexit bounce and a 2-0 home win.

Man in the Middle

We are joined in the middle this afternoon by Neil Swarbrick from Lancashire. This is his second visit to the London Stadium after being in charge of the Middlesbrough game in October last year (some French player scored our goal if I remember correctly). In all competitions this season Swarbrick has featured 20 times furnishing 75 Yellows but only 2 Red cards.