I’d love to be able to have had the chance to rustle up a quick article for this magazine on Saturday morning, being up to date with all the dealings in the transfer window and knowing the exact information when it comes to our injury situation as we go into the most crucial set of fixtures for the season.
Alas, of course, that’s impossible as deadlines have to be set to ensure this arrives in your email inbox or through your letterbox or however you choose to read it on time ahead of each home game. What I do know is that we’ve recruited a midfielder and an attacker from Serie A. I am aware we have upped our bid for McCormack and that the higher echelons at West Ham are nervous about this deal. Is that just idle gossip and speculation or has the deal now become a reality? Have we signed more than three players?
Depending on when you read this, the transfer window is fast approaching being shut or is done and dusted and we’ll know how our squad is shaped for the rest of the season.
Now what I do know is that by the time you read this we will have played Chelsea and most likely lost. This means we are still languishing in the relegation zone with only 15 matches remaining. So February will define our season. It’s as simple as that.
Every excuse under the sun has been used to explain why we are in this position primarily, though, the horrendous injury list is the one trotted out most often. Every year we have an extensive injury list at some point in the season – so much so that Alan Curbishley definitely thought there was an issue with our training ground and made that remark when him and Allardyce chatted at the Fulham game recently.
It’s hard to remember a season when we were not struck down by injuries that did affect our ability to put out a strong team. You could probably write a whole host of essays on the subject and not get to the true cause of the issue but surely Curbishley must be speaking some kind of sense and maybe Andy Rolls knows something we don’t.
The point is we all know the injuries have been bad – that case is not being argued – but the flaw in the argument is that our form has been fairly awful all season, minimal injury list or full-on hospital ward. Let’s face it, going back to August and the matches were not exactly a barrel of laughs and I did wonder if points routinely thrown away at the start of the season would come back to haunt us. Now I fear they just might. So it’s time to put it right. With the injuries clearing up at a rapid rate of knots, with fresh blood in the team and Carroll getting up to full match fitness, there is now nowhere to hide – neither for the manager or the team.
On paper we look strong and a full-strength team should be able to pick up a fair few points throughout February to ease the pressure significantly and bring back some much needed confidence. This weekend we are playing a team that has slowly been dropping down the league table, a side that has remarkably picked up less wins than us in the previous 10 matches up to the midweek games.
Three points from this game is essential. Anything less than that and the relegation bell will be ringing ever louder come Saturday evening. It’s then away to Aston Villa, a side who battled well the last time I saw them play against Liverpool and previously they rallied against Arsenal after they snatched a goal back. It will be difficult but a draw is achievable and three points is certainly not out of the question.
Another midweek match follows at home to Norwich – it goes without saying three points is the only possible outcome. We finish off the month with another home tie against Southampton. How we’d love a repeat of last year’s result, probably not going to happen, but a win is within our grasp considering Southampton are not on a particularly good run themselves at the moment with only two wins in the last 10 up to the midweek matches.
We need to aim for 10 points out of 12 for February. It’s a task that’s difficult but certainly not out of the question. It’s a struggle we’ve forced upon ourselves for a myriad of different reasons not just because of the injuries but if we fail to reach at least seven points for February then it really will be difficult for Allardyce to justify his position at the helm of the club. We also have to look further afield at what lurks in the deep recesses of the end of the season.
On the final day both Sunderland and Cardiff have home ties, Fulham and Crystal Palace are taking on each other and we’re facing a little trip to the Etihad. Imagine needing to come away from there with three points to save our Premiership place. Of course it could be too late by then and the destiny of West Ham would lurch into unknown territory once again. That scenario needs to be avoided at all costs. We need to sort it out starting now.