Neil Shaw-Smith > Six games to go and the sound of Europe is increasing at the London Stadium.
Not since the Eighties (‘Boys of 1986’) have the Hammers had a better opportunity to finish in the top four and go down in club folklore.
After losing to Newcastle in the first game of the season, careless whispers amongst supporters feared the worst but that has spun right round with the two clubs heading in opposite directions. Another loss to the rejuvenated Magpies hasn’t totally eclipsed the enthusiasm of fans looking upwards.
West Ham began the first half of the season playing with a thrifty defence, building on clean sheets hard graft, set plays and hold-up play to grind down the opposition. Only the most talented of sides were able to punch through a well organised and consistent team.
However, in January a smaller squad took its toll meaning match to match they were with or with few, especially Antonio and an unreplaced sold striker Haller meant bringing in Rocketman Lingard altered the approach. Suddenly this team that struggled to break down the defensive midtablers were on the front foot with a smile and having the time of their life. A rush to press with a quick counter, score goals and then cling on for dear life as under pressure and nerves jangle, checking if there are any fingernails left as another one bites the dust.
With social media showing JLingz, having the time of his life, moonwalking in the dressing room. Typical of the great spirit in the camp just now, you just can’t beat it. So far, the sporting ballet on the pitch is matching the gold David Moyes has spun behind the scenes, that much is true. But what can we expect from remaining fixtures?
6. CHELSEA- The toughest of the fixtures left, and having sweet dreams after the win over Manchester City in the FA cup and midweek match where they can overtake W. Ham. After a clear festive fixture 3-0 win for the blues when the teams met last, Christmas had Chelsea in fifth position, with the East Londerers 10th, showing the jump Moyes’ men have made since then and had to fight for the right to be included in the Champions league speculations.
5. BURNLEY- There was a single ‘A-ha’ moment in reverse fixture in January where Burnley’s best defender was singled out to be pressured. With Antonio’s take on [Ben] Mee resulting in a narrow but crucial 1-0 win. That simple mindset could be the best tactic against the Clarets, more than just relying on the star man from Man Utd to bust a move and get his team out of trouble.
4.EVERTON- After years of the reverse, West ham seem to be a bit of a bogey team for Everton lately. This will be the best test for the squad to prove they deserve to be above the blue half of Liverpool and able to get into the groove for the remaining 3 matches in 12 days.
2. WEST BROM
1. SOUTHAMPTON –
The remaining three matches couldn’t fall any better and the envy of teams chasing the top 4, with the hope that the relegation places are settled and those safe will be going through the motions time after time. The biggest issue the team will have to contend with here is the weight of expectation as the hammers will be clear favourites to get the full 9 points available.
Big Sam will surely want to put one over his previous employers. Also remember last time around, Battling Brighton went ahead twice before a draw was salvaged, similar with a goalless draw against Southampton are never going to give it up. Big Sam will definitely want to put one over his previous employers as a statement to stop West Brom’s free falling to the championship.
Regardless of the results of the final six it’s going to be a great journey for West Ham fans this season. Don’t stop belivin’!