West Ham go into May unbeaten in four matches having seemingly turned things around in the nick of time. How pleased have you been with the resilience shown in recent weeks and does this bode well for next season?
Lucy Woolford: It’s a good sign when teams are able to recognise weaknesses and improve on them so I’ve been really pleased to see a good run of results. Th is season was always going to be tough with a new home and it’s understandable that we’re only starting to settle down now. You can see that the players are starting to play with a bit more pride. Next season won’t be plain sailing but maybe not quite as rocky as this one.
Sam Hills: I think the way we’ve defended over the last four games has impressed me the most. Out of those four unbeaten games we’ve had three clean sheets which, given the amount of goals we conceded earlier on in the season, is a very impressive statistic.
James Gavin: Back to back clean sheets have to go down as a great success. Stopping Romelu Lukaku scoring in particular deserves a mention given his prolific record against us. Aft er five straight defeats we were in quite a sticky situation but the six points we have picked up have taken us well away from danger. In terms of next season it is hard to say, while results have improved our performances remain frustrating. Our defence does look better but I hope this doesn’t put off any much needed transfer activity this summer.
Slaven Bilic recalled Adrian after a run of dire performances from Darren Randolph and he has since produced back-to-back clean sheets against Everton and Stoke. Is he the man you want to see in goal next season or do the club need to spend in this position?
LW: I’ve always been a fan of both ‘keepers. I was sad when Adrian lost his place and now I’m sad for Randoph that he’s lost his too. The nature of the goalkeeping position is that it relies on confidence and form, which unfortunately Randolph had lost. I’d hate to see Randolph dropped to third choice, but in the interest of the team and results, we probably should look at a solid goalkeeper in the summer. I’d happily see Adrian lead us to next season though.
SH: Adrian has shown over the past few seasons that he is more than capable of being our number one so I’d be more than happy to see him starting next season. Also when Randolph was initially put into the first team he looked like a comfortable keeper who we could trust, so hopefully his recent performances are just a dip in form and he can come back at his best next season to challenge for that spot. However, if there’s a replacement who would genuinely improve the team available, such as Joe Hart, we must take the opportunity to sign them.
JG: I remember calling for Adrian to be taken out of the starting XI after he had a similar string of dire performances. Both Randolph and Adrian have had some really poor performances this term and cost us a notable number of points. This has shown me that both aren’t good enough to be our number one. My number one choice would be to make a move for Hart. It’s an ambitious move but he loves the Premier League and a lot of other teams already have a good number one. He would be an asset and a marquee signing, bringing good goalkeeping and great character to the dressing room.
What do you make of the Michail Antonio contract situation?
LW: I don’t blame Antonio for not signing at all. He’s a smart young man and knows full well that he could be in for more money if he has a good season in 17/18. In general, I think the idea of offering someone a contract when they still have three years left on their current one is ridiculous and a bit cheeky. The club are hoping he’ll just roll over and say yes and not hold out for a higher payday. Risky strategy!
SH: From one perspective, if the rumours are true, you have to wonder why the board wouldn’t offer him the wages he’s demanding. He’s a good player, he has a good work rate and he has a good relationship with the fans. So why won’t we pay him comparable wages to some of the other players? On the other hand, Antonio should never be threatening to leave and it’s always said that no player is bigger than the club. It’s a bad situation all round.
JG: Unsettling is the first thing that comes to mind. Nobody likes hearing about contract tensions especially regarding important players like Antonio. But like all stories we never know what is going on, stories are leaked in the press and some of it is true some of it isn’t. Oft en one side is trying to infl uence another. Antonio is a hard worker and if he is here next season then he will give it his all and a deal would probably get fi nalised. If he goes I’m sure we would get a good price, but hopefully it won’t come to that.
West Ham play Spurs this month in a game that could have a big impact on the title race. What is your favourite memory of playing Tottenham?
LW: My overriding memory of a game against Spurs is when Carlos Tevez got his first goal for the Hammers, which was ten years ago in March. I was at the game and don’t remember many better crowd celebrations. It was a thrilling game to be at with West Ham leading 2-0 for a time, then it was 3-2 up until the dying few minutes. Of course, we lost 4-3, but it was a memorable game.
SH: So many different memories good and bad with this lot. Th e league cup fixture in the 13/14 season was an unbelievable turn around and probably the most undeserved win I’ve seen. However, because of the significance I have to pick our home win last season. It was the last Spurs game at Upton Park and, if we didn’t win that, I think they would have gone on to win the league. It was a massive win.
JG: Well, I have a lot of sad ones despite being only 19 years old. Beating them three times in the 13/14 season was wonderful but, for me, there can only be one winner. Ruining their season was wonderful. A lot of people say we were the team that stopped Spurs winning the title and it was a fantastic performance. Spurs were second best and that was due to us being fantastic, a great result.
The Hammers have again been linked with a move for Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge. Would you like to see the forward at London Stadium next season?
LW: My head and heart are fighting over this one. I really like Sturridge, always have. If he’s on your team sheet, the opposition are fearful because when he’s firing on all cylinders, he’s unstoppable. But there’s the issue – WHEN he’s firing. I think it’s worth a punt at the right price because the fans would take well to him and all he has to offer. Maybe he and Andy could do a deal to split time between the pitch and the physio room!
SH: In many ways Sturridge would seem like the ideal striker we’ve been looking for. He’s quick, proven and he scores goals for fun. It’s just such a shame that he is so injury prone. For that reason it would be too big of a risk to put all of our eggs in one basket. We risked the same with Andy Carroll and I think we should have learned our lesson from this.
JG: I admire Sturridge he has real quality. He also normally hits the ground running following a move so that would always be welcome. However, I do not think an injury prone striker would be the best move for us this summer. We manage to turn strikers who aren’t injury prone to injury prone, so who knows what would happen to poor Sturridge. We need to add to our strike force as it is lacking, but I think someone other than Sturridge would be a better move. I think Jermain Defoe and another big name would be better business.
Who should win Hammer of the Year?
LW: This is a tough one, isn’t it? I guess Antonio is in with the best shout having earned an England call-up at the start of the season. As many players have, he’s struggled with a few little injuries and also struggled to come to terms with his positional uncertainty. Despite this, he puts 100 per cent effort into every game and plays with a smile on his face. Sadly, the usual candidates of Mark Noble, Winston Reid and even Carroll have failed to ‘wow’ us this season for various reasons.
SH: I’d pick James Collins. Just. He’s a fantastic leader and the man bleeds claret and blue. Of course this alone doesn’t mean he should win Hammer of the Year, but his performances over the second half of this season have been exceptional and I think he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. I said Collins ‘only just’ because I found it hard to choose with Pedro Obiang, Antonio and Manuel Lanzini as close contenders.
JG: One man has stood out for me. It has to be Lanzini, he was tipped to step up when Payet left and I think he certainly has. He is our best player and would be a deserved winner. He is technically brilliant and can create something out of nothing. He can turn a match around.