Saturday 15 November ~
With the remarkable parity in the Premier League this month it's important to remember that while all (well, most) teams look equal, some are more equal than others. One of those teams that may not be as equal as the rest is Gianfranco Zola's West Ham side who host Portsmouth at Upton Park today. Zola is just getting comfortable, but the man now widely referred to as “the feisty Italian” could soon start feeling the heat unless his side take the three points on offer. However, Zola does remain optimistic: “It is a test. Not an easy one, but I like it. I have had low moments in my career but I have always reacted well. A couple of wins and you can be in seventh place.” The Hammers are currently a hot tip for relegation after a run of just one point in their last six games and find themselves just two points off the bottom. With Tony Adams’s side surely looking ahead to Thursday’s clash with Ronaldinho & co against AC Milan, a third straight loss at home could see the fans’ patience with Zola start to wane.
Patience is something Charlton fans have definitely run out of as Alan Pardew treads the thinnest of thin ice en route to face second-placed Birmingham City. With expectations of being in play-off contention, the Addicks have won just once in the last ten outings and find themselves just a point off the relegation zone with over a third of the season gone. Pardew did a fine job taking West Ham up after their relegation but has failed to work his magic at The Valley. After taking the lead last week in the 92nd-minute and failing to win the game, Charlton will need to conjure up some performance at St Andrew’s to secure Pardew’s job for another week.
Watford find themselves in a similarly unattractive position at the bottom end of the table, but unlike their cross-London counterparts, they clearly weren’t in the mood to explore the murky depths of the Championship any further as they parted ways with Aidy Boothroyd last week. With a disappointing, and totally lacking in flamboyance, exit from their long-serving president Elton John as well, times are changing at Vicarage Road. They’re now looking to play their way out of trouble under caretaker boss Malky Mackay as the new era prepares to be ushered in. Life after Aidy continues with a trip to Barnsley with Watford in search of their first league win in six.
Boothroyd, however, may not need to move back in with the parents just yet. Huddersfield Town have been sniffing around the ex-Leeds coach after sacking Stan Ternent earlier this month. The Terriers seem undeterred by Boothroyd’s wish to “take a break” from the game for a few weeks (also translated as “waiting for a better offer”) and still hold out hope. For now, they’re currently forging ahead with caretaker boss Gerry Murphy, who will take charge today against Leeds at Elland Road. Should Boothroyd decide to stay at home, he’ll be missing out on quite a bit of fun at the McAlpine. There have been a staggering 24 goals in their last five games, with one of those being goalless. However, Huddersfield have now twice contrived to lose after having a 3-2 lead with less than eight minutes to go and will have a tough time changing their fortunes. Dan Bryant