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To preview Sunday’s game against West Brom, I did a brief interview with Baggies supporter John Rudge. John is very knowledgeable about the club and football in general, has excellent taste in music (i.e. similar to mine), and is one of the world’s foremost cereal connoisseurs. You can find him on Twitter here, very much worth a follow. Manchester United are heavy favourites according to the latest Betfair Football Odds.
Rob: First off, welcome to Stretford-End.com. After the Manchester clubs and Arsenal, Albion are the most in-form team in the league. To add to your merriment, Wolves are at the bottom of the form table and 18th on the Big Important Table as well. The WBA coach, Roy Hodgson is a favourite among football fans. People love his polite, sophisticated manner, consistent managerial excellence – sabotaging Liverpool with Poulsen, Konchesky and Jovanovic was genius – and the love of heavy metal that he shares with David de Gea. In short, he’d be the greatest uncle ever. Are you happy with Uncle Woy and how the season’s gone so far?
John: Uncle Woy is a cult hero at The Hawthorns for his jacket throwing (and retrieving seconds later), face-rubbing, quoting 19th century tomes and discussing theatre, but also because he has made us believe we can beat anybody. It’s only a few occasions this season when we could say that our players haven’t performed to their highest level. He’s got the absolute optimum from a technically decent team through strong match preparation, organisation and exploiting our strengths – Moving the ball around and defensive solidity. The season so far has been very similar to the start of Woy’s reign in as much as soon as we started getting all our players fit and going in the right direction (Woy’s carefully planned direction) we were able to string a few decent results together and make sure we started looking up instead of down. I’m a major pessimist so until we cross that 40 point line I’ll not be sitting comfortably but I think even I will allow myself to sleep a little easier than I was at this stage last season.
Rob: As an aside, what are your thoughts on his predecessor Voldemort taking over from AVB at Chelsea?
John: RDM (it’s all initials these days becuz kidz avent got very gud attention spans or speling) was responsible for bringing some classiness and swagger to The Hawthorns that we worried might be lost when Tony Mowbray departed and took us to the Premier League first time of asking. I think the arrogance he carries with him might rile the egos in the Chelsea dressing room but he’s called in Eddie Newton, his lieutenant from his time at the Hawthorns who seemed to act as the buffer during his spell with us so that seems like it could a good call. Also, you say Voldemort? I raise you Parker, the butler from Thunderbirds.
Rob: Ha! Great shout, that. Albion were desperately unlucky to lose against United on opening day. Shane Long was a handful, and Tchoyi had a great game in midfield. United relied on legendary poacher Late Own Goal for a barely-deserved winner. What tactical battles and player matchups will be key if WBA are to get a result on Sunday?
John: I was quite pleased to see you put a strong team out against Bilbao, not only because it ensured a rip-roaring, truly spectacular game but also because the high-intensity Blibao brought to OT ensured your key players had a major work-out. As United are really my second team, I supported them until I was about eight before my dad decided it was time to take me to see Albion – Stockport and witness some ‘proper football’, I love watching United and usually most of their players but one player I can’t stand is Ashley Young, partly because of his time at Villa but also because he routinely plays well against us and he tore us to shreds at times in the game at The Hawthorns. If he plays, I’ll be dreading him getting to the byline or cutting inside. Morrison is our outstanding player when he’s on form, he’s got superb vision, makes some driving runs from the centre and can put in a decent tackle. It’ll be interesting to see how Mulumbu (he’s better than Kaka – “Mulumbu, woooah, Mulumbu, wooooah, he comes from Africa, he’s better than Kaka, Mulumbu, wooooah!”) handles your midfield threat, he will probably be tasked with watching Rooney when he drops deep and poses the threat from the edge of the area.
Rob: Stephen Reid’s unfortunately out for your side, how big of a miss do you think he’ll be?
John: We’ve just found out that he will miss the rest of the season and he has been in the form of his life so that will destabilise the full-back position a little and your wingers could exploit that with their pace. He is a leader on the pitch and his decision making in terms of positioning and when to make a tackle is nearly always perfect so he’ll be a big loss to our defensive unit but also to the team as a whole.
Rob: We’re both big fans of the Slovenian midfield schemer Robert Koren, formerly of West Brom. Anyone in the current team stirs your passions like the headbanded genius?
John: Funnily enough, Keith Andrews… You might want to mop up the coca-cola you’ve just sprayed all over in laughter before I continue. Cheers. He has a superb passing range and likes to pick the ball up from our centre backs and spray. SPRAY. He’s also brilliant at pressing his central midfield opponent and often breaks forward to press the opposition centre-halves.
No one can touch Koren – that bloody lovely boy was like an older, more handsome brother to me – but Jimmy Morrison is probably the heir apparent to his role of ‘Creative Hub.’ His passing, vision and forays into the opposition area are delightful to behold.
Rob: Two of your “favourite” players will probably be gracing the same field on Sunday: The Ghost of Peter Odemwingie and Luis Nani’s Living Room Statue. Who do you expect to fall down the most?
John: For me, this is the only reason I’ll be watching this game. Forget the result. It’s all about seeing Nani receive the ball at pace and then slow the game down to standing pace as he performs that ‘toe-tap’ exercise you get told to do at training when you are eight. He’ll then either run straight at the opponent and fall over/lose the ball, or just pass it backwards. Of course, all will be forgiven when he lashes in a 40 yard screamer in the 89th minute. Meanwhile, Peter Odemwingie will also be falling over. Not because he’s run into an opposition player, he’ll just be falling over the spherical object that it appears he’s never seen before in his life. That, or hitting incredibly tame shots, or screwing simple scoring opportunities out for throw-ins at every opportunity.
Rob: In contrast to the “plucky” stereotype that plagues so many decent English teams, the Baggies looked positively authoritative against Chelsea in their last outing, and have been smacking goals past opposing teams recently. Rio Ferdinand might be rested, and United’s defence and midfield have looked shaky at times. You must be feeling confident about Sunday, then? Your predictions?
John: I’m glad someone has noticed that it wasn’t a ram-raid win over Chelsea and that we were genuinely the superior team. MOTD highlights seemed desperate to portray the opposite. One of our strong points is our ability to move the ball around on the deck and this fact should make it a delightful game for the neutral with two positive teams playing good pass and move stuff. Regarding the recent glut of goals, I’m somewhat baffled since Shane Long is easily our best striker, he’s strong, quick, has bags of technical ability and his runs and movement are quality, but has spent a number of games on the bench, unable to dislodge Fortuné as the lone striker. Fortuné doesn’t score goals. It’s just not his thing. His hold-up play is superb and he brings our more creative midfielders into play exceptionally well so Evans and Smalling, if that is the pairing, will have their hands full with his physicality but our main goal source, unbelievably, has been Peter Odemwingie who to put it bluntly is the poorest footballer at the club. He is lightning quick, I’ll give him that but when it comes to actually touching a football he’s a disgrace. How he has scored so many goals for us I’ll never know, in fact it’s making me rethink my career plans, I might give Uncle Woy a call and see if he fancies taking a punt on a 23 year old from Brandhall! I wouldn’t say I feel confident about taking three points off you but I am confident we shouldn’t get a battering since our defensive unit is the strongest I’ve ever seen at the club so maybe if we can keep you out we always have a chance of nicking something through one of our midfielders, or a set-piece. Oh, wait that last sentence seemed far too optimistic… No, I can only foresee a thirty three-nil loss.
Rob: Haha, somehow I doubt that. Looking forward to the game. Thanks for your time, mate!
John: No worries.