It’s amazing, being a West Ham supporter isn’t it? In January, shortly after the 5-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest and the 6-0 reverse against Manchester City, things could not have looked bleaker. A poor run of form in the league, combined with repeated calls for Big Sam to step down, meant that in the minds of many, relegation was a near-on certainty.
Now, whilst Big Sam still doesn’t unite all West Ham fans, and we’re still involved in one massive relegation scrap, things are definitely looking up. Three successive wins, the highest number of clean sheets in the league, and players returning from injury have all helped boost the confidence in the team at just the right time. Can we maintain it? Southampton will definitely pose a tough test. They’ve had a great season, but having just hit the 39 point mark, they may well consider themselves safe and perhaps mentally switch off
Certainly, this fixture represents a great chance to stay on this unbeaten run, provided the team plays to their potential without Andy Carroll, who is serving the final match of his 3-game ban. Looking further ahead, every month seems to be crucial now, but March has a number of fixtures which make it doubly so.
Even if we lose this weekend, we’re still only around 12 points from safety so if we can pick up the majority of those points over the next five games and we’ll give ourselves a fantastic chance of survival come the end of the season. It’s a tough start to the month, with an away trip to Everton. They’ve been playing consistently well over the season, so it might be here that we come unstuck but a point would be very welcome, and three points would make me ecstatic.
Much more winnable games follow, at home to Hull City, and away to Stoke the following weekend. I’m looking for a minimum of four points from those. Then, it’s the big one – at home to Manchester United, who are in some malaise. If there was ever an opportunity for three points against our old foes, this would be it.
There’s enough in our side for a point minimum from this game – the Red Devils are still a good side, but since the departure of Sir Alex, they’re simply not the force they once were, as some of their other results have showed. An away trip to Sunderland ends the month, another of our rivals for one of the three relegation places.
This is “must-not lose” territory, not only because of our proximity to the relegation places ourselves, but also because defeat to them pulls them much closer to us. So, where could we stand at the end of the month? Assuming that we avoid some catastrophic performances, in my continuing positive frame of mind I can see a minimum of six points from these fixtures – a win against Hull City and at a win either at Sunderland or Stoke.
If we can go into April on at least 35 points, we’re well placed to survive this season. For what it’s worth, even if we failed to achieve this, on the assumption we don’t completely implode we should still survive. For me, Fulham, despite their second change of manager, and Cardiff look in serious trouble, with a number of teams in the mix for the third spot – hopefully not including us.