George Parris: ‘Zabaleta cannot do it all so Pellegrini needs a new plan’

Pablo Zabaleta is the only natural right back, but at his age, we are asking too much

West Ham have got seven games in December, but one problem is right back — with Ryan Fredericks out, Pablo Zabaleta is the only natural right back, and at his age, it’s asking too much. He’ll need wrapping up in cotton wool after every game.

Other clubs have the strength in depth, we don’t. If we reshuffle, maybe Declan Rice could move to right back — with his all-round ability and passing, I think he’d adapt well, but the concern would be the knock-on effects for other positions.

Talking of him, his contract stand-off is very strange. I’m sure he wants to play for West Ham, but the longer it goes on, the more the fear starts to grow that maybe it’ll never be sorted. No-one knows precisely what money is being talked about but surely there has to be some compromise as I can’t see what the club hopes to achieve from it.

Rice makes an interesting contrast with Reece Oxford — a couple of years ago he was the golden boy but recently Manuel Pellegrini has given him a pretty clear warning about his future at the club. Sometimes if they get in the team too early and get themselves a good contract, it’s not helpful for a young player, and their head can be turned. I hope he can knuckle down and get in the side.

Although Christmas is a very busy time for footballers, it’s the party season for them too, just like any other workers. It was all good fun in our day — everyone used to come out and sometimes when you were out some fans would see you, come over for a chat and a drink, and then leave you to get on with the evening. There was a sort of understanding. We even used to invite some of the press to come with us.

Nowadays, that’s changed a lot, sometimes it’s hard for players to step beyond the front door without someone taking a photo, but I hope the tradition doesn’t get lost. Players are human beings too, and in fact Christmas is one of their busiest times of the year, so fans need to cut them some slack.

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