Up to the Southampton game, there were a few people complaining about the fact we hadn’t won a game since beating Chelsea at home in October but I never lost faith. Before this season, I would have expected us to have collapsed but I went to the Liverpool game feeling confident and that’s a new sensation for me.
Although when Winston Reid gets back it’s not definite to be Collins that partners him, he’s made a very good case for himself. Angelo Ogbonna or James Tomkins will be pushing him all the way and it’s great that we’ve got such strength in depth at centre back. I know I’ve spoken a lot about Michail Antonio since he signed for us but I’ve been so pleased that he has proved me right. I’m feeling pleasantly smug about that!
He showed against Liverpool his desire to play and across the pitch that was the real difference between us and Liverpool – our lads wanted it more. You could see at full time how much the players and Slaven Bilic enjoyed it. I went to the press conference after the game and it was obvious how much Slaven enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere after such a brilliant win at home in front of the fans. I definitely think Slaven was starting to feel the pressure before the Southampton game with no win in eight league matches.
Had this happened this time last season, people would have been screaming about it but I never felt the desperation and panic like I have before as a West Ham fan. I was confident we had the players, and the manager, to turn this situation around. You’ve got to remember as well that we’ve got strength in depth and quality players all fighting for places – when was the last time you could say that about a West Ham squad?
When, for example, Victor Moses comes back from injury, he is going to want to walk straight back into the team but Michail Antonio wants to keep his place and I think he has done enough so far to keep playing. As for Andy Carroll, I was over the moon for him after the Liverpool game. People have been saying that he isn’t good enough but when he is on the pitch and at his best, he is unplayable as he showed against Liverpool.
I was interested to listen to what Slaven said after the game about Andy and it being up to him to train well, look after himself, rest well and then, and only then, will he be an asset to the Hammers. I think he is very settled at West Ham and in London but you get the feeling it is either sink or swim for him now. He worked his socks off against Liverpool, was powerful, has tremendous aerial ability, defended corners and showed with his goal that he has still got it.
Players say that playing against their old club doesn’t mean anything and they don’t read the papers but it does mean everything to them. They don’t like to think they have failed. They have a point to prove. You don’t get a career in the Premier League without talent and working very, very hard and you could see how much that goal meant to him. I don’t think he will go on and score 20 plus goals between now and the end of the season but I think he can still be a huge success for us but this is his last chance.
He will need to prove himself by the summer because the club will be looking for a new striker for sure – possibly from a lower league. I think we’ll see more Premier League clubs starting to look at the lower leagues to unearth gems of unknown young players. As fantastic as the academies are I just don’t think the players coming through have that hunger that the likes of Jamie Vardy, Charlie Austin and Callum Wilson have after plying their trade in the lower leagues.
These guys are prepared to fight tooth and nail and give everything to the cause because they’ve had to graft to get to the top – they’ve not had everything handed to them on a plate. Don’t get me wrong, academies are great but players get very comfortable as they have the best equipment and they don’t have to fight for position. I think a lot of teams, including Premier League clubs, will be starting to look more at the lower leagues and there will be plenty of players looking at the likes of Antonio and seeing where ambition and desire can take you.