West Ham ( or Vest Hem for my Albanian readers – a fact my father picked up last week while visiting Europe’s second fastest growing economy) travel to Newcastle for a 3PM Sunday kick off at whatever St James’ Park is called these days. We have not won in the league against Newcastle since 31st October 1998 (3-0 at Upton Park, Wright 2, Sinclair) and frankly I cannot see that changing this weekend.
Newcastle has a couple of players out thanks to suspension and Alan Pardew also has a couple of late fitness tests to concern him. But West Ham also has a string of defenders facing late tests notably Collins (very doubtful) and Tomkins (maybe). Our away form this year has been fairly shocking with only one win (against a hapless QPR) and horror stories at Wigan and Swansea.
I am sure that Allardyce will try to talk up our chances after the Man City showing and both Nolan and Carroll will be keen to do well against their former club (as of course will Fat Sam) but this is a game where I expect 0 points. Rather like Man City, anything else is a bonus. 15 points have been secured and by the New Year we all hope that Stoke at home and Reading away will have added another six to that total. I suppose West Brom, Everton, the Scum and Newcastle are the sort of games where one might hope to pick up the odd point to take West Ham closer to that magic 42 points and safety but with a back line that might have to include academy starlets like young Potts I fear that this weekend will not be a great one.
I see that neither Noble nor Carroll have made Roy Hodgson’s latest England squad. The form of both men in the league has been awesome and a friendly against Sweden would be just the time to give both (especially the one whose veins are claret and blue) a chance. A poor call I think.
Meanwhile every Hammer’s second tea travel to Walsall in Division One today. Walsall is missing three key players through injury and got thrashed last time out. Swindon are – after last weekend’s FA cup horror story – now able to focus 100% on securing promotion and against a side with mid-table mediocrity written all over them ( even without injuries) this is the sort of game Paolo knows we must win. A victory could plausibly leave Swindon fourth and with a transfer embargo now lifted we can really hope for promotion.
Of course I say this selfishly. I want Swindon to go up. But I also want West Ham not to renew Fat Sam’s contract in May and if Paolo di Canio has delivered back to back promotions for Swindon the case for a one man short list and the return of the Messiah/prodigal son to the Academy will be unanswerable. My thoughts will be on Walsall (is that somewhere near Birmingham? I have no idea) today but for tomorrow I fear the worst.