Saturday, March 18, 2006

Weekend Outlook ( 18 Mar 2006)

West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester United

"...I am expecting Solksjaer, Silvestre and Richardson to be among the first to be shown the door..."
- JayWalk, 18 Mar 2006

A little bit of trivia here. These days we call West Bromwich Albion, "West Brom" for short. In the early days, we used to address it as "W.B.A.".

West Brom has had a special relationship with ManUtd as far as history is concerned. Fergie's predecessor, Ron (Big Ron) Atkinson was a manager from West Brom before coming over to Old Trafford. Despite winning a few FA Cups, he was eventually replaced by Fergie as the Board of Management felt that it just wasn't enough without the league title.

Coincidentally, West Brom's manager today is none other than ex-ManUtd Captain Marvel, Bryan Robson. Robson played for West Brom before Atkinson brought him over for a record-breaking 7 million 1.5 pounds sterling. It may not sound a lot by today's yardstick but it was helluva lot of money back then.

On the League Table-front, Liverpool closed the gap on ManUtd to just 2 points when the Reds played an extra game in mid-week and won 5-1 over Fulham at Anfield. Granted one may say that ManUtd, as a result, has 2 games-in-hand but let us not forget that games-in-hand doesn't automatically convert to instant points. Those games would still have to be won in order to collect. Having said that, the bad news is that ManUtd's mathematical target of 25 points has not change for this week as Liverpool did not drop points during midweek. However, Liverpool not known to do well when traveling away after a mid-week exertion should be expected to drop 2 points (or hopefully 3 points) at St James' Park on Sunday. Still, let's not count the chickens before they are hatched.

On our part, we can edge our goal closer to 22 points when we win today and just keep our fingers crossed for the next 24-hours. Any additional points dropped by Liverpool shall be counted as a bonus i.e. take it as a gift and not an entitlement.

At the other end, West Brom is flirting with relegation. With the 3 newly promoted teams expected, at the beginning of the season, to go back down, West Brom thought that Premiership survival should be a piece of cake, based on that simple assumption. Oh how West Brom has thought wrong! With West Ham and Wigan Athletic currently in the top half of the table and having crossed the magic 40-point mark, West Brom is only starting to realise the urgency of the matter. However, with only 9 games to go, it may be too little and too late.

JayWalk The Talk: On another note, Ruud van Nistelrooy has been on the speculation rumour mill of late and it is not a good sign for the team. When the striker gets benched for one match, we call it squad rotation. But when the Dutch striker gets benched for three consecutive matches, I say something is not right in the changing room.

Sir Alex Ferguson, known for his fiery temper, is a stickler for discipline within the ranks, regardless of how pivotal the player is to the team. Those notable names receiving the infamous Fergie Boot are McGrath, Whiteside, Kanchelskis, Stam, Ince, Beckham, Keane and van Nistelrooy if the Dutch doesnt' get in line soon. This is where I admire Fergie. This guy's got backbone, I tell you.

It didn't help matter when Saha and Rooney are partnering immaculately with the team scoring 8 goals in the 3 games that van Nistelrooy is benched.

Anyway, Queiroz' statement on Friday said that van Nistelrooy is not leaving Old Trafford but I think it may just be a PR damage control session ahead of today's match. My question is "Why Queiroz and not Fergie to give this statement?"

Did I mention that Luiz Ronaldo should be available next season?

Whatever it is, let hope this issue gets resolved quickly for it is not doing anybody any good.

Squad-wise, West Brom sick list looked pretty bad with Gera, Quashie and Robinson unavailable. ManUtd side will have Brown, Smith, Heinze, Fortune and Solksjaer on theirs. Scholes has made a surprise return to the training ground but I don't think he is ready for the big league yet. O'Shea's return should be a big boost to the squad today as well.

Watch out for Jonathan Greening today as the former ManUtd youngster has an axe to grind with Fergie. Expect him to play with much vigor as he would want to prove Fergie wrong in letting him go. If Inamoto gets onto the pitch today, then we may have a Japan vs South Korea game with Inamoto facing off Park in the battle of midfield.

Looking beyond this season, other then the motivation to want to shine brightly for their respective country managers to select them for the World Cup squad, the players at Old Trafford may be working harder than usual for a different reason. Avoid the axe during summer housekeeping.

While we are aware the Fergie and Queiroz have already started rebuilding the ManUtd team, what is not known is that they have now enter the stage to identify which players to bring in, which players to hold on and more critically (from the player's perspective) which players to eject.

I am expecting Solksjaer, Silvestre and Richardson to be among the first to be shown the door. Then again, there is still quite a bit of time between now and the "retrenchment" exercise for the players to buck up and starting earning their keep.

JayWalk The Walk: ManUtd is giving up 1-ball for this game with a decimal odds of 1.90 to beat it. Head to head, West Brom has not won ManUtd in the last 4 encounters conceding an average of 2.5 goals. With ManUtd on a streak of 4 consecutive wins (11 goals for, 4 goals against) against West Brom with 4 consecutive games without a win (3 goals for, 11 goals against*), I say it would be a stroll in the park for ManUtd to win comfortably.

* West Brom lost to Fulham at Craven Cottage 1-6 on 11 Feb 2006)

The above views are purely my own two-cents' worth. In other words, I cannot and will not guarantee that my predictions are accurate. If you want to bet on the game, do so at your own risk. Also, please bet responsibly and within your means regardless of how "sure thing" that game may appear to be. As the old saying goes, "The Ball Is Round". Good luck.


At 4:13 PM, March 18, 2006, Blogger Acey Deucey said...

Erm, I think it's 1.75 million pounds, not 7 million. The heights of 7 million pounds was only reached in the Andy Cole era.

At 6:08 PM, March 18, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

You're right about the mistake.

It was a British record (back then) of 1.5 million pounds sterling back in October 1981.

To make up for my boo boo, here's another trivia. Back in 1982 when England played France in the World Cup (Espana '82), Robson scored the tournament's fastest goal in a time of 27 seconds.

At 6:13 PM, March 18, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

And yeah, the 7 million pounds sterling was Andy Cole from Newcastle United.


At 6:34 PM, March 18, 2006, Blogger Acey Deucey said...

It's ok, we all make mistakes.

Yeah, I know about that trivia regarding the fastest goal in the World Cup. I believe I've even had the luck to see it on TV before.

At 8:31 PM, March 18, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

A-ha! Thought I caught you there.

Robson's goal as fastest world cup goal was erased by Hakan Sukur (Turkey) in the 3rd-4th Placing match during the Korea/Japan World Cup 2002 against South Korea.

If we were to include the world cup qualifiers, then we have to date back 1993 in a match between San Marino and England.

The big surprise is that the first goal was scored by San Marino against England in a record time of 7 secs.

At 6:35 AM, March 19, 2006, Blogger Acey Deucey said...

Another win. 2nd place for keeps for another week. *Grin*

At 8:47 AM, March 19, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

Yeah and 20 more points to go.

And maybe even down to 17 if Liverpool lose today.

At 7:58 AM, March 24, 2006, Blogger Acey Deucey said...

Have you guys heard? Solskjaer may be staying!

At 6:38 AM, March 25, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

Well, it may be a case of he having no where else to go at his age except to a lesser club.

Quite a sad ending but it seems most footballers end their careers this way.


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