Welcome to 2014. Well, nearly. It’s West Ham’s last home match of the year, and on the surface, a pretty winnable one against West Brom. We hope.
There’s no doubting that it’s been a pretty tough second year back in the Premier League so far – as I write this, we are hovering around the relegation zone although by the time you read this, who knows? We might have propelled ourselves up the table. So what does 2014 hold for us? Well, there’s definitely some matches which we could take some points from, that’s for sure.
Beating West Brom and taking some confidence into the New Year would be a good start – especially as we start with an away match on New Year’s Day against Fulham, themselves really struggling. They’ve recently dispensed with Martin Jol’s services, of course, after their 3-0 loss to us at the end of November, so there might be an element of payback in their minds, and we will need to be prepared for this.
We look far less solid at the back since Winston Reid’s injury, and it has been hoped that he’ll be back for the New Year. His return is, in truth, probably still a while away, but even so, Fulham are not that great shakes and a win definitely isn’t out of the question. It’s one of those “sit tight and don’t concede” games and so no doubt Big Sam will take that approach. After Fulham, it’s a trickylooking tie away to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. They’ve been doing well in the Championship this year, so this does have a potential upset look about it.
Of course, we’re more than capable of winning the game, but we have to be prepared to play the game at about a million miles per hour. It is likely to be pretty full-bloodied. Personally, I’d be happy to bring them back to the Boleyn, given some of our recent results away from home. Cardiff City await us on January 11 in another away match. We beat this lot 2-0 in the opening game of the season, and they are not far away from us in the table. Not losing this game is pretty key – and we have plenty of fond memories of this place, having won 2-0 in the first leg of the Championship play-off in the season we went up.
With matches against Newcastle United, who’ve been very strong recently, and Chelsea to come, it’s vital that we pick up some points in these games. If we can’t win these sorts of matches, the players have to take a long hard look at themselves, if we want to stay in this division next year. Enjoy the game – and happy New Year!