Friday, March 02, 2007

West Ham United Preview

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‘Beware of the wounded lion – it can come back fighting more ferociously than before’ could be a warning for Spurs as they enter Upton Park on Sunday. West Ham have certainly been wounded especially after their defeat to Charlton and the players must have been stung by the criticism dished out. They are a team in much disarray and newspaper reports this week have simply added to that. If the players have any professional pride they will want to make amends quickly and as their new signing Calum Davenport is reported as saying, ‘We owe it to the fans!!! – an understatement if ever there was one.

So Spurs need to ensure that they don’t take anything for granted and that they show the same endeavour, work, passion and skill as they have in their last three games. Anything less than three points for Spurs would be unacceptable. I don’t care how they get the win but it is essential to build on the feel-good factor and confidence that has built up over the past fortnight.

Spurs recent record at Upton Park is poor, they haven’t taken a point there since a 1-0 win in November, 2001 from a Les Ferdinand goal. They have only three Premiership wins at Upton Park and the previous victories were in December, 1993 when goals from Dozzell, Hazard and Anderton gave Ossie Ardiles’ team three much needed points and in January, 1995 when they won 2-1 with Sheringham and Klinsmann scoring.

The overall away League record against West Ham is:
P 54 W 15 D 14 L 24 For 71 Ag 82

The more recent Premiership record doesn’t make as good reading:
P 11 W 3 D 2 L 6 For 13 Ag 16

The most memorable recent win there was in the FA Cup in 200 – 01 when Rebrov scored twice and Doherty once to give Spurs a 3-2 success.

The Spurs’ connections are all through the west Ham team – Bobby Zamora who is the leading scorer with 6 League goals, Sheringham, Etherington, Davenport and Konchesky have all played for Spurs while rumours in previous transfer windows connected Spurs with Ferdinand, Reo-Coker, Harewood, Neill who signed from Blackburn and Boa Morte who eventually joined West Ham from Fulham. West Ham will be without Ashdown who remains injured and Reo-Coker who is suspended.

This game is an excellent opportunity for Spurs to avenge the ‘lasagne-gate’ defeat last May which finally ended Spurs’ chances of making the Champions League. West Ham showed no mercy to Spurs last season, as you would expect, so Spurs must not be charitable to them this year.

The game at White Hart Lane was won by a Mido goal in first half injury time and was a much closer match than would have been expected as the visitors arrived without a win in nine League and Cup games and without a goal in their previous six games.

West Ham have won six games this year, all at home, including victories over Arsenal and Manchester United, the latter in Alan Curbishley’s first game as manager. However, since then it has been very much a struggle for him and the team – without a League win in 10 games and they haven’t scored a goal in almost 4 ¾ hours.
Spurs will be without the suspended Robbie Keane so last season’s goal scorer at Upton Park, Jermain Defoe, should start alongside Berbatov and if all are fit, the only other decision would centre on whether Anthony Gardner should regain his place from Rocha.

Everything points to a Spurs’ win. Their recently improved form, the nature of last week’s win and the confidence is high while West Ham are in 19th place with 20 points, the team and players are in disarray and confidence is low.

However, Spurs must not take things for granted – as West Ham invariably raise their game against Spurs, the players will want to respond positively to last week’s stinging criticism and they need to do something urgently if they are to avoid relegation at the end of the season.

Spurs to win – but remember last season at Sunderland in mid-February, it had seemed so similarly easy against a team who hadn’t won at home and were certainty’s for relegation but a late goal gave the home side the point which finally brought their total of points to double figures. Spurs be warned – make sure you don’t take anything for granted and be complacent – you could regret it.
The referee is Martin Atkinson who refereed the recent match against Sheffield United and the earlier game at Villa. He awarded penalties against Spurs in both games. West Ham are the only team in the Premiership who hasn't scored from a penalty this season.


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