Limping To The Finish Line

I have to say that thinking about what to write for this week’s issue left me scratching my head somewhat

I have to say that thinking about what to write for this week’s issue left me scratching my head somewhat

The crushing pain of the Aston Villa game which I was fortunate enough to mostly avoid as it was on at the same time as I was at work had slowly diminished and with a blank week in the schedule I was left twiddling my thumbs and counting the mass influx of Premier League footballers into the Sandpit over the week. It must have been a bit gutting for Norwich to be based down the road in the capital city, Abu Dhabi, casting jealous stares over their shoulders at the no less than five teams who decamped to Dubai in the week.

Add to that those footballers who chose to independently travel to the Sandpit for the unofficial winter break and we’re counting well over 100 of the Premier League’s glitterati slumming it in luxury over here. Alongside the likes of Reading, Sunderland, QPR and Stoke, if I recall, our beloved West Ham also made the seven hour flight over and you’ll be pleased to note your match ticket price was going on putting the squad up in the rather elegant Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel on the Palm.

Not bad for a winter ‘training vacation’ as a reward for a pitiful display in Birmingham – kind of puts my old company’s ‘away’ day trips to Centre Parcs in the shade. So this is where I saw my opportunity. Chuck in a request to the West Ham media office, bag a couple of interviews and Bob’s Your Uncle, this week’s article in the can.

No such luck, I’m afraid. A very polite e-mail response told me that there would be no opportunities for interviews with either the team or players throughout the week as this was not classed as an ‘on duty’ trip. No fixtures were to be played and thus no media was to be entertained. Thus I looked on as photos were posted of Dubai residents and West Ham fans hobnobbing with the players in various nightspots across the city and members of the team posing with the Hoff, randomly, in the hotel. Talking of nightspots why do footballers tend to find themselves at home in overly priced garish clubs generally held in a matter of disdain by the general public?

One of the places the squad went to is currently in court for setting a paying customer on fire. That, my friends, is a fact. Still, what it did mean was that I was back to square one for this week’s article. I could have gone to ‘An Evening With Sam Allardyce’ hosted on the Wednesday night but work commitments meant I was unable to attend and, anyway, I thought questions would have been vetted to ensure Big Sam would not be squirming under interrogation over recent tactics and the alarming slump in form.

So what to discuss? Well, it was interesting that both Harry Redknapp and Martin O’Neill turned up on radio to chat about Dubai, training sessions and the possibility of one round of fixtures being played over here in future seasons. I mean, with almost a third of the Premier League over here on the same week, the next logical step would be to play a fixture here, no?

But what was more interesting was how honest Redknapp was in his interview. To cut a long chat short, he targeted 37 points as the minimum he expected QPR needed to achieve to ensure Premier League survival this season. To me, that seems realistic, so let’s extrapolate that to our position. If we reckon 37 points is a good target then two wins and two draws over the remaining set of fixtures should be enough to see us playing in the top flight until at least May next year. But how easy is this to achieve? Listening to the Guardian Football Weekly podcast last week the opinion of one of the panel was that we are in deep trouble and he could not see where West Ham would pick up a victory next.

Perhaps that’s just panic stations but the way we have been playing and how the team has been set up recently means it’s not entirely out of the realms of possibility

Casting my mind back to what seems an eternity ago with the glorious victory against Chelsea it hardly seems believable that things could have gone so wrong since. Just a reminder that victory was on December 1 and since then we’ve picked up eight points out of a possible 33, or to put it another way we’ve lost seven out of our last 11. On a positive note, though, we just need to match that record over the last twelve matches to pretty much ensure survival and we can hardly be any worse than we have been recently, can we?

Still, despite remaining blissfully (and perhaps stupidly) upbeat, it is hard to see us realistically win a match for another month, targeting WBA at the end of March as an essential victory then look a few games forward from that and hope the Wigan fixture will not be a dreaded ‘six pointer’.

It’s going to be tough but our excellent start to the season should still be enough to see us through and as has been proved time and again in the Premier League this season, anything can happen in any match. Let’s just hope the unpredictable result can happen in favour of West Ham on Monday night with a victory against Tottenham.

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