All the background information and team news ahead of Saturday's big game at the Boleyn Ground
WEST HAM UNITED v READING
SATURDAY 31 MARCH 2012
FULL AUDIO AND TEXT COMMENTARY - WEST HAM TV
• West Ham United go into Saturday afternoon's crunch game with Reading in third place in the npower Championship just a point behind the Royals.
• The Hammers recorded their eleventh away victory of the season on Tuesday evening beating Peterborough 2-0. This equaled the Hammers club record for most away wins in a season that has been achieved twice before in 1922/23 and 1957/58.
• Reading have lost just one game in their last 12. A run of results which has seen them go from eleventh place at the beginning of December up to their current position of second.
• West Ham United have not been beaten at home since Burnley won 1-0 in December, a run of nine games. The Hammers have however drawn their last five home games.
• Reading have won ten of their away games this season and have the third best away record in the league. The Royals did however lose their last away game 3-1 to Peterborough.
• The fixture at the Madjeski stadium in December was a feisty affair, with West Ham United having both Jack Collison and Joey O'Brien sent off. Reading won the game 3-0.
West Ham United
• Sam Allardyce could welcome Winston Reid (head), Guy Demel (thigh) and Papa Bouba Diop (hamstring) back into his matchday squad. All have been in full training with the first-team squad this week.
• Abdoulaye Faye is facing a race to be fit after receiving a nasty blow to the head during Tuesday's win at Peterborough United.
• Joey O'Brien was also withdraw at half-time at London Road with a tight calf and may miss out. Should the Irishman not be fit, he could be replaced by Julien Faubert, who was hugely impressive on his own return from injury in midweek.
• Royals boss Brian McDermott will hope to have striker Jason Roberts fit after the Grenada international missed a number of matches with a hamstring injury. Should he fail to make it, Arsenal loanee Benik Afobe could continue to deputise.
Last Time Out
Tuesday 27 March 2012
Peterborough United 0-2 West Ham United
West Ham United: Green, O'Brien, Tomkins, Faye (Collins 46), McCartney, O'Neil (Maynard 88), Noble, Nolan, Taylor, Cole, Vaz Te
Subs not used: Baldock, Carew
Goals: Vaz Te (51), O'Neil (57)
Saturday 24 March 2012
Reading 3-1 Blackpool
Reading: Federici, Pearce, Gorkss, Harte, Cummings, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Kebe, Hunt, Afobe (Church 69)
Subs not used: Andersen, Tabb, Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre
Goals: Harte (30), Pearce (35), Leigertwood (60)
Last six meetings
(Championship unless stated)
10 December 2011 - Reading 3-0 West Ham United
26 December 2007 - West Ham United 1-1 Reading (Premier League)
1 September 2007 - Reading 0-3 West Ham United (Premier League)
1 January 2007: Reading 6-0 West Ham United (Premier League)
1 October 2006: West Ham United 0-1 Reading (Premier League)
12 March 2005: Reading 3-1 West Ham United
All-time record v Reading: W3 D2 L5
West Ham United
2010/11 Premier League 20th (relegated to Championship)
2009/10 Premier League 17th
2008/09 Premier League 9th
2007/08 Premier League 10th
2006/07 Premier League 15th
2005/06 Premier League 9th
2004/05 Championship 6th (promoted to Premier League via Play-Offs)
2003/04 Division One 4th
2002/03 Premier League 18th (relegated to Championship)
2001/02 Premier League 7th
2010/11 Championship 5th
2009/10 Championship 9th
2008/09 Championship 4th
2007/08 Premier League 18th (relegated to Championship)
2006/07 Premier League 8th
2005/06 Championship 1st (promoted to Premier League)
2004/05 Championship 7th
2003/04 Division One 9th
2002/03 Division One 4th
2001/02 Division Two 3rd (promoted to Division 1)
• Saturday afternoon's referee will be Chris Foy.
• Foy has refereed West Ham United once previously this season in the Hammers' 2-0 npower Championship away win at Cardiff City at the beginning of March.
• Previous to that Foy was referee when they lost 1-0 at home to Birmingham City in the Premier League on 6 February last year. Prior to that, he had taken charge of the 2-1 loss at home to Newcastle United on 23 October 2010 and the 3-1 defeat by Chelsea at the Boleyn Ground on 11 September 2010.
• Foy has been a Barclays Premier League referee since 2001, having originally made the Select Group list of assistant referees in 1995.
• The St Helens-born official has been a Premier League referee since 2001, having originally made the Select Group list of assistant referees in 1995.
• In 2007, Foy took charge of the FA Trophy final at Wembley, before returning to the Home of Football a year later to act as fourth official for Portsmouth's FA Cup final victory over Cardiff.
• In 2009, he was back at Wembley to take charge of the League Cup final and Community Shield, while Portsmouth were in action again as Foy refereed the 2010 FA Cup final, which Pompey lost to Chelsea.
• This season, Foy has issued 62 yellow cards and sent off seven players in 26 matches.
• Foy will be assisted by Simon Bennett and Richard West. The fourth official will be Mick Russell.
Us and Them
• The following players have worn the colours of both West Ham United and Reading during their careers - Tommy Allison, Ken Bainbridge, John Blackwood, Charles Cotton, William Davidson, Steve Death, Tommy Dixon, Jack Fletcher, Jack Flynn, Harry Gunning, Shaka Hislop, Jim Holmes, Sam Jennings, Thomas Kinsell, Herbert Lyon, Jobi McAnuff, Steve Mautone, Trevor Morley, Hayden Mullins, Geordie Reid, James Reid, Horace Ricketts, William Robson, Peter Simpson, Ron Tindall, Ernest Watts, Rod Williams, Alan Wooler and Len Young.
• Jobi McAnuff, the Reading captain, played 14 games for the Hammers in the second half of the 2003/04 season.
• Wally Downes spent five years as a coach at Reading between 2004 and 2009, working under Steve Coppell.
• Reading Academy manager Eamonn Dolan is a former Hammers youth striker, who rose through the ranks to play 15 league games for the first team and scored three goals between 1985 and 1990.
• Alan Pardew has been in charge at both clubs, taking the helm at the Royals in his first managerial role in 1999 and staying there until 2003 when he moved to West Ham United.
• The last time Reading visited the Boleyn Ground was on Boxing Day 2007. On that day, Nolberto Solano gave West Ham United the lead just before the break before Dave Kitson equalised 15 minutes after half-time. Reading had Brynjar Gunnarsson sent-off in the first half.
• West Ham United face a trip to Barnsley on Good Friday for a 5.15pm kick-off. Ticket information for that game can be found by clicking here. Reading face Leeds United at home on the same day, with kick-off at 2pm.
• Tickets still remain for Saturdya's top of the table clash. Click here to get more information.
• Saturday's weather forecast is for a cloudy day with temperatures reaching 15C (59F).
Big Sam targets early goal
The manager believes a fast start is imperative in Saturday's showdown with Reading
Sam Allardyce has spoken of his desire to make sure his team hit the ground running in their crunch match against Reading on Saturday afternoon. With just a point separating the two sides in the npower Championship, a win on Saturday would see the Hammers leapfrog Reading into second place and put them back on track for automatic promotion. Manager Allardyce is demanding his team start the game on the front foot. With tickets available at the day at the Boleyn Ground, there is still time to ensure you are there to cheer the Hammers on. To do so, click the link at the bottom of the page. "We need to score the first goal, I believe, and get ourselves in front," said Big Sam. "If we get the early goal it will settle everyone down. A good start will see the crowd get behind us and then we can build momentum and hopefully go on to win the game."
At Peterborough United on Tuesday, the Hammers had 24 attempts at goal with ten on target; Allardyce is expecting more clinical finishing against the Royals. However, Big Sam is also aware of the threat Reading will pose when they visit east London. "We need to become clinical in our finishing. We always create chances here and now it's just a question of taking them when they arrive. "We have to be patient on Saturday. Reading won't make it easy. I'm not sure what type of game they will play. Maybe they will be full of confidence and take the game to us or they might decide to wait patiently and make life difficult for us. "Either way there will be chances for us in the match and we must make sure we take them."
With only seven games left to go this season, the pressure is on to secure promotion back to the Premier League. The manager expects the players to use this pressure to their advantage and claim an important victory. "We have to handle the pressure and make sure we can do our job properly and get the win we need. The players have to deliver their best on Saturday and make the pressure they are under work in their favour."
Carr targets strong finish
Tony Carr is aiming for victory in the U18s' final home game of the season
Academy Director Tony Carr is targeting victory in West Ham United U18s' final home FA Premier Academy League fixture of the season. The Hammers host Leicester City on Saturday at Little Heath - kick-off 11.30am - knowing three points could secure them a top-two Group A finish. With that in mind, Carr is aiming to sign-off the club's 2011/12 slate of home games on a positive note. The game will also mark a final Little Heath appearance for a host of second-year scholars, some of whom will remain at the club as professionals and others who will move on to pastures new after being released. "We host Leicester City in our final home game today and unfortunately it's an 11.30am kick-off so the traffic may prevent a lot of fans getting to the match and then driving to Upton Park. We've been looking forward to it and hopefully we can sign off with a victory in our final home match. "A number of the players will soon leave the Academy and go into the Development Squad, while others will be released at the end of this season, so for them it will be their final appearance at Little Heath. "The ones who are staying have to stake their claims in Ian Hendon's squad and push on towards the first-team squad."
Carr looked back on what has been a productive season for the Academy. Not only have the U18s done well in the league, but they reached the last-16 of the FA Youth Cup and saw three players make their first-team debuts. "We started off with a trip to Estonia in August and began the campaign with five straight wins, then we stumbled and picked up again and had a decent run in the FA Youth Cup before losing to Chelsea on penalties. "All in all, it's been a decent season. Three former youth-team players have made their first-team debuts in Callum McNaughton, Rob Hall and Daniel Potts, so in terms of development it's been a good season. "We're greedy and we want to increase that tally next season."
While the season may be coming to an end, Carr and his staff will continue the hard work behind the scenes as the club awaits its first Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) audit. The new criteria for youth football will see all clubs graded and Carr is aiming for Category One status, which will enable the club to spend more time coaching and educating schoolboys and scholars. "Our work towards the new Elite Player Performance Plan continues and it will be a busy summer at the Academy. We have expanded and recruited new staff in recent weeks to improve our player/staff ratio because we want to get Category One status. "We will be audited sometime between now and next season and hopefully we will reach that standard and move on from there."
*First-year scholar Leo Chambers has been in action for England's U17s as they seek to qualify for the UEFA European Championship finals in Georgia. England defeated Ukraine 1-0 in their opening Elite Round fixture before Chambers returned from injury to play as a late substitute in their 1-0 defeat by the mini-group hosts.
The Young Lions face Spain in Tbilisi on Saturday knowing only a win will give them a chance of qualifying for the final tournament in Slovenia in the summer.
West Ham United v Reading
Filed: Friday, 30th March 2012
By: Preview Percy
Preview Percy has spent his time in the sunshine this week queuing for petrol. He doesn't actually own a car - he just wants to lend a hand should riots start up in Croydon again. He's also panic buying beer in case brewery deliveries are affected by the tanker drivers' strike. Before he went to the pub he left us this. Or was it after? As usual John Northcutt supplies the history....
Next up Reading will be the visitors to the Boleyn for a glorious 3pm Saturday kick-off. Deep joy. Tubes in the general vicinity of E13 will be unburdened by works of an engineering nature so it'll be just the usual glitches and groans that'll be the cause of any delays. I expect there'll be some weather of some sort as well but you can look that up yourselves.
You're all aware of the current league positions etc so I won't bother to run through the usual stats. If you don't know what are you doing here.
Of our visitors, it is rare indeed that this column gets to award a club the full five Kermit marks to a club for its efforts towards Muppetry. However our visitors this weekend are almost the benchmark (along with Palace whose latest change involves a redesign of the club crest) for all things of that ilk.
The Reading checklist is full to bursting with examples of all that is annoying about the modern game. A change of nickname (no club should tell people what its nickname is – otherwise it's not a nickname), playing music after goals, listing "the fans" as a substitute in the squad list, trying to instigate rivalries with others because they're too insignificant even for Aldershot to be bothered anymore are all amongst the "things we thought that proper clubs do". I
n that respect they're a bit like that kid who hung around on the fringes of us trendy people at school and tried to copy us, usually missing the point by several miles. If one might be permitted to use an anachronistic metaphor, they were the ones who rushed out to buy a copy of "Invisible Touch" when they saw you carrying around a copy of "Selling England By The Pound".
Latest on the "things other clubs do that we ought to copy" list has been to acquire a rich Russian owner. Suspiciously-coiffeured owner John Madejski is currently in the process of bringing in Thames Sports Investments in as investors with a view to a takeover. Details are a bit sketchy but it is understood that the due-diligence process is currently in progress as we speak. Whatever happens, Madejski will remain as chairman until at least 2014.
Although Thames Sports Investments sounds nice and cuddly British it is in fact an investment vehicle for 29 year-old Russian moneybags Anton Zingarevich, which is a bit like discovering that there's no Mr Kipling and all his cakes are mass produced on an industrial estate somewhere. Zingarevich comes complete with supermodel missus who, presumably, fell for his looks.
The Zingarevich family made their money from timber and pulp products in post –Soviet Russia in amongst all the usual commercial wars that that entailed. Anton's Dad – the reassuringly Russian-sounding "Boris" - was linked with a bid for Everton a while back. Meanwhile, following the announcement of the proposed Reading takeover, Anton's PR machine went into charm overload, with heavy emphasis on his connections with the Berkshire town.
Some sources suggested that he'd been at university there, though this turned out to be a private school. Still he seems to have grasped some of the finer traditions of English football, his spokesman being quick to play the "he stood on the terraces of Elm Park as a kid" card. It took him a while to see his first official match as part of the new ownership set up though – unspecified "visa issues" prevented him from getting into the country, though based on my normal experience of Heathrow the delays were probably just a result of him being stuck in a queue.
Zingarevich will of course have to get past the current "fit and proper" tests before he can take over properly at Reading. After the debacle at Pompey these tests have been tightened up and the football authorities now demand that you complete the question "I think I should be allowed to own a football club because" in 12 words or fewer.
Whatever the outcome of the tests, TSI are said to have already made funds available to the club who duly went shopping in the January window. Our old nemesis Jason Roberts came in on an 18 month deal from the BBC for whom he was appearing more than for his actual club Blackburn. Roberts, who has an MBE for his services to sport in the UK and Grenada, has been an irritant to us for many years. He's one of those players that you'd see missing a succession of sitters on MOTD before turning up and playing out of his skin and picking up a couple of goals against us, before returning once more to his usual form a week later. He's had a spot of hamstring trouble of late but reports suggest that this may have cleared up, which is a pain as he always seems to score against us.
They also brought in QPR defender Matthew Connolly on loan for the rest of the season and the out of favour pole Tomasz Cywka came in on a free from Derby. Cywka famously upset Rams' boss Nigel Clough who called the player "not very bright". Presumably the player failed to respond to Clough's usual tactic of "shouting loudly at the foreigner in the hope he'll cotton on eventually." Another loan signing was Arsenal kid Benik Afobe who came in last week on another "until the end of season" deal. Dagenham kid and (allegedly) a Hammer he stood in for Roberts last week and may repeat the exercise if the veteran's hamstring hasn't healed yet.
There a couple of ex-Hammers to look out for. Jobi McAnuff seems to have found his niche at the Madejski and has been given the armband. Meanwhile, the meltdown at Fratton Park also enabled them to circle the carcass and carry away Hayden Mullins, a saving that will help us to hang onto the six points we picked up from Pompey.
The latest wheeze of their supporters involves the oh-so-hilarious idea of throwing socks on the pitch to commemorate Jimmy Kebe's infamous mime in the reverse fixture last December. You see they're actually not embarrassed by the idiot's antics which led to Collison giving him a deserved kicking. Though Collison's red was deserved it was hardly the "career threatener" their boss made it out to be (unless a place at RADA was at stake).
Going back a few years to my own playing days, had a team mate of ours done something as pathetic as that we'd probably have joined in with the opposition if they'd lumped him over the touchline. Kebe can at least think himself lucky that his career did not overlap with that of Julian Dicks, who would have put him into the crowd.
Now I'm not one to suggest or condone breaking the laws of the game and I'd urge caution on the part of our players, especially if they already have a yellow card. However, if we were to score at the STB end and the scorer were to come up with a sock-based celebration, I'm sure I could misappropriate some of the Rest Home's maintenance budget (£2.50) towards a foaming pint of ale in the Swan & Superinjunction by way of compensation for the inevitable caution that would come their way.
There's a three-way tie at the top for the title of top scorer with each of Church, Hunt & Le Fondre sitting on 7 goals each. Church & Le Fondre were both on the bench for last week's 3-1 defeat of Blackpool, with Church getting on as sub for the aforementioned Afobe who made his debut in that match, which might have been made a bit more interesting had Kevin Phillips not missed a sitter at 2-1.
And so to us. Well Tuesday was a bit of a game of two halves really. The first half saw us at our most tentative, or, alternatively, waiting until the opposition's energy levels had run out depending on your viewpoint. Fortunately we rode our luck in this period with Posh hitting the bar and us surviving a bit of a scramble late in the first half. Once we'd scored, however, we bossed it and could have won by far more than the 2-0 by which we eventually prevailed.
The win came at a cost. Abdoullaye Faye took a frightening crack to the noggin which was at one stage feared to be a fractured skull. Thankfully a trip to hospital proved that he had just sustained bruising and a spot of concussion which, while probably serious enough to rule him out of this one, is at least not as bad as feared. Joey O'Brien pulled up lame and is another doubt. On the credit side of the equation Papa Bouba Diop and Winston Reid are now back in full training and join Ricardo Vaz Te and Julien Faubert, both of whom turned up on Tuesday, in returning to the squad.
And now a historic moment as we announce the return to contention of the one and only Guy Demel. For younger readers, Demel came in during the summer window but injuries delayed his debut until the 2-0 win up at Middlesbrough. His second match lasted all of 90 seconds of the disastrous trip to Reading, a badly torn thigh muscle bringing his Hammers career to a stuttering halt. Three and a half months later he is now, once more, back and available for selection, which at least means that I won't have the bother of making up imaginary injuries and ailments for him every week.
It's good to have gotten back to winning ways as the three points on Tuesday which let's not forget, came against a side that had comprehensively outplayed this weekend's opponents not that long ago, will have relieved a bit of the pressure that was building up – though some of the manager's comments did him little credit in my opinion. His comments in reaction to the "we play on the floor" chant rather ignored the fact that Tuesday's win came as a result of our playing it on the deck in the second half.
There should be no problem with getting the players roused for this one. A video of Kebe's antics alone should be enough to get the blood stirring, though it would be wise of the management to ensure that the adrenaline is channelled to positive ends – as the usually docile Collison found out to his cost getting a red card for being wound up just lets everyone down.
Prediction – well if we don't win this we don't deserve automatic promotion. I reckon the injustice factor arising from the first match will prove decisive so I'll be putting the Rest Home Laundry Budget (£2.50) on a 3-1 win as our forwards finally discover the goal touch that has eluded them in recent weeks.
Enjoy the game!
When last we met: Lost 3-0, Demel injured after 90 seconds. O'Brien gets two yellows. Collison gets wound up and they get two late goals to give them a 3-0 win that flattered them a bit. Other than that it was a good day.
Referee: Chris Foy. They've sent down someone from upstairs who presumably will know what the sanction for unsporting behaviour is. Last time out he handled our trip to Cardiff before presumably cycling home to practice for the Olympics eh Spurs fans?
Danger Man: Jason Roberts – journeyman veteran striker who has a habit of scoring against us.
Daft fact of the week: Reading is another one of those places that applied to become a city as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Presumably they forgot that Her Majesty only lives up the road and therefore knows exactly what the place is like which is why their being passed over for that cottage in Wales for the title came as no surprise. It is also an often forgotten fact that the insult "berk", though considered to be very mild in the grand scheme of things these days, is in fact a very rude bit of rhyming slang arising from the phrase "Berkshire Hunt". Until now Matron was unaware of this fact, but she has now placed the word "berk" on the Rest Home's banned list along with ****, ****, ********, and Lampard.
Stat man John: Northcutt's corner
Head to Head
Pld 10; West Ham Utd 3, Reading 5, Draws 2.
1st September 2007: Reading 0-3 West Ham Utd (Madejski Stadium, Premier League)
1st January 2007: Reading 6-0 West Ham Utd (Madejski Stadium, Premiership)
11th September 2001: Reading 0-0 West Ham Utd (AET, Reading win 6-5 on pens) (League Cup)
Last Five Meetings
10th December 2011: Reading 3-0 West Ham Utd (Madejski Stadium, Championship)
26th December 2007: West Ham Utd 1-1 Reading (Boleyn Ground, Premier League)
1st September 2007: Reading 0-3 West Ham Utd (Madejski Stadium, Premier League)
1st January 2007: Reading 6-0 West Ham Utd (Madejski Stadium, Premiership)
1st October 2006: West Ham Utd 0-1 Reading (Boleyn Ground, Premiership)
1st September 2007: Reading 0-3 West Ham Utd (Madejski Stadium, Premier League)
With the Great Escape in the bag and following a summer of decent transfer activity, this win was the first sign that Alan Curbishley's cunning plan was finally coming together. Their fifth game of the season and unbeaten since the opening day - a 2-0 home defeat against a pre cash-rich Man City - West Ham blew away the Royals with a brace from Matthew Etherington and a 6th-minute opener from Craig Bellamy that set the tone. Curbs's side were that good (at both ends, centre half Anton Ferdinand picked up KUMB's MotM award) it could easily have been six, with a little more composure in front of goal. It was also one of those rare occasions on which Bellamy and Dean Ashton started up front together.
April 1970: Reading 3-3 West Ham Utd (Brooking, Bonds, Greaves)
August 1971: Reading 0-0 West Ham Utd
July 1996: Reading 1-2 West Ham Utd (Quinn, Morley)
August 2002: Reading 5-4 West Ham Utd (Kanoute, Cole, Defoe, Camara)
They Played For Both
Bill Robson; Jimmy Quinn; Jobi McAnuff; Ken Bainbridge; Tommy Dixon; Harry Kinsell; Sam Jennings; Trevor Morley; Ron Tindall; Rod Williams; Len Young; Steve Death; Shaka Hislop; Jim Holmes; Ray Houghton; Keith McPherson; Adrian Whitbread; Hayden Mullins; Steve Mautone.
Our former manager Alan Pardew was the Reading manager between 1999 and 2003.
Sam taking it on the chin(s)
Filed: Friday, 30th March 2012
By: Staff Writer
In a week when he's taken a virtual shoeing from a great number of fans, Sam Allardyce has admitted that West Ham's recent results have been below par. West Ham's boss has spent the latter half of the week fending off a volley of abuse and severe criticism after referrring to his doubters as 'deluded' in the aftermath of Tuesday night's 2-0 win at Peterborough. But speaking in a piece with the Daily Mail's Lee Clayton today, the man referred to by one of KUMB's fiercest critics as 'the Dudley Dinosaur' has held his hands up and admitted "we haven't delivered recently".
"You have to take it on the chin," he told Clayton. "In adversity, when we were down to 10 men, the supporters were magnificent. And the players responded. I want them to go home happy. If we are not delivering, they will criticise. Fair enough.
"[But] against Watford, we had 11 men, we were drawing and one guy ran down with five minutes to go and said, "F*** off back up north, you ****". I'm from Dudley in the Midlands. It's not the north!
"I am trying to turn around a relegated club quickly. We are a scalp in this division, teams come to stop us. If we can overcome that, we will get promoted. It may happen, it may not. But it has been exciting and, in a short space of time, I have started to enjoy where I work.
"When we won at Peterborough, the supporters were singing my name. Thousands of them went up there, took over the place. It was uplifting for the players and we gave them a performance, a win. That's what they want."
McAnuff: we'll make them boo
Filed: Friday, 30th March 2012
By: Staff Writer
Reading captain Jobi McAnuff says his team will be aiming to use West Ham's volatile home crowd to their advantage when the two sides meet at the Boleyn Ground tomorrow.
McAnuff, who briefly played for West Ham during United's last stint in the Championship back in 2004 told the Independent that the key to success for Brian McDermott's side will be to frustrate the Boleyn crowd, who have booed their own side a number of times already this season.
"If we nick a goal or even keep it 0-0 in the first 30 minutes or up to half-time, the fans will start getting edgy," he said. "'Of course that will be in our thinking.
"Hopefully [we can] ramp up the frustration a little bit. That will be the game plan. If we start well, maybe get the frustration and nerves going a bit, then hopefully we can use that to our advantage."
That opinion was backed up by team mate Mikele Leigertwood, who added: "There is a lot of pressure on West Ham, especially at home. They will be physical and we have to match them. If we do that, we can frustrate them and frustrate their crowd. That might work against them."
Meanwhile Royals boss McDermott believes that momentum will carry his team over the finishing line. "If you look at the last 33 games you'd see that we'd have 69 points, Southampton have 63 then West Ham with 59. Over 30-odd games we're top of the league, by a very long way.
"Apart from our start, our form has been top of the league form."
Big man set for return
Filed: Friday, 30th March 2012
By: Staff Writer
West Ham could welcome Abdoulaye Faye back into the starting XI against Reading tomorrow - just four days after the central defender sustained a suspected fractured skull. The 34-year-old central defender, who is firmly in the running for KUMB's Player of the Season award was replaced at half time in the 2-0 win over Peterborough having taken a knock after a clash of head's with Posh's Paul Taylor. Faye - who is currently one of the first names on Sam Allardyce's team sheet - spent several minutes on the deck with a stretcher being called for at one stage, although the former Bolton and Newcastle defender was able to walk off the pitch eventually. It was feared at the time that Faye may have sustained a fracture as a result of the collision, although scans later confirmed the damage was less serious that first thought. And with West Ham set to face their biggest test of the season against the Royals at the Boleyn Ground tomorrow, Sam Allardyce could be boosted by news of his return. "He had a big lump on his forehead and the doctor feared it may have caused more trauma than we first expected," Allardyce said on Wednesday afternoon. "But on X-ray it showed only a mild injury and an outer swelling and nothing too serious, so it's a minor injury. "Friday morning will give an indication of whether he feels good enough to be selected on Saturday."
In other injury news, Papa Bouba Diop and forgotten man Guy Demel have also trained with the first team this week whilst both Julian Faubert and Ricardo Vaz Te, who both made their return to first team action at London Road on Tuesday night, both came through the match unscathed.
Sam: drown out the negativity
Filed: Friday, 30th March 2012
By: Staff Writer
Sam Allardyce has appealed to the majority of Hammers fans to drown out any negativity that may arise when West Ham take on Reading at the Boleyn Ground tomorrow afternoon.
Allardyce, speaking on Talksport this morning pleaded with all Hammers fans to get behind the team when they take on the Royals in what will be the club's most important game of the season so far.
Should West Ham manage to overcome the challenge on the in-form Berkshire side they will find themselves just three points behind current leaders Southampton, who face a difficult trip to Blackpool in tomorrow's late kick-off (5:20pm).
However Allardyce is concerned that an element of the home crowd may put a spanner in the works by voicing their disapproval should all not go to plan during the game - something that he is keen for the rest of the crowd - the vast majority - to shout down.
"We've got to try and drown out the negativity if we can," he said. "If we see the team struggling, cheer it on to try and get over the particular difficult period.
"If Reading are going to come and sit back and sit in then you can't play a fluent game of football no matter who you are. I watched Manchester United and Fulham this week and there were spells in that game where they [Man Utd] couldn't get the normal flowing football that they wanted going.
"But they still achieved the ultimate [aim] at the end of the day and won the game. You've got to win the game - and if you can win the game and you've been fantastic with great entertainment that's fine. But it's about winning and getting over the line now."
Allardyce admitted that supporters may have to show a degree of patience - as happened in midweek at Peterbough when an insipid first half display was followed by an outstanding second period.
"If you look at the Peterborough game, Peterborough had the early stages of the game," said Sam. "They shut us down from the front and we couldn't get the ball out and get the ball down - but we knew they wouldn't last.
"They tired, spaces opened up and then we completely outplayed and outpassed them and beat them quite comfortably - and that's what might happen on Saturday.
"But the best way to get the game flowing is for us to score as early as we can, because if there's any negative tactics then of course the opposition can sit in and frustrate you, they're quite entitled to do that. I used to do that myself when I played away from home.
"If you can score first and score early then that changes the way the play and you get a more open and more game where you can perhaps provide more entertainment. At the end of the day we want to win and most West Ham fans want to win. I don't know a West Ham who says 'we don't want to win'."
West Ham v Reading preview
Last updated: 30th March 2012
Team news ahead of the Championship clash between West Ham and Reading at Upton Park on Saturday. Sam Allardyce will leave it as late as possible to assess Abdoulaye Faye's fitness. Faye was withdrawn at half-time during the Hammers' victory over Peterborough on Tuesday due to a head injury, but an X-ray has revealed he has not suffered a fractured skull as first feared. Allardyce will wait until the morning of the game to determine whether the Senegalese defender is fit.
Danny Collins replaced Faye on Tuesday night and will deputise should he be deemed unfit. Joey O'Brien was also substituted at half-time during the Peterborough game as a precaution, but is expected to be fit to face Reading. Julien Faubert is on standby should O'Brien miss out. Winston Reid and Guy Demel are back in training following spells on the treatment table, but neither are expected to be involved.
Reading are hopeful that striker Jason Roberts will be available. The former Blackburn forward suffered a hamstring injury during the 3-1 defeat at Peterborough last week and missed the victory over Blackpool. On-loan Arsenal starlet Benik Afobe deputised for Roberts against the Tangerines, but he may drop to the bench if the veteran hitman recovers in time. Full-back Matthew Connolly continues to miss out with an ankle problem, with Shaun Cummings likely to continue on the right of defence in his absence, while Joseph Mills is also sidelined through injury. Reserve goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen will be unavailable to manager Brian McDermott because of a knee problem, and the Royals have recalled Alex McCarthy from his loan spell at Ipswich to provide cover to regular number one Adam Federici.
Allardyce - no 'West Ham way'
Hammers boss responds to criticism of tactics
Last Updated: March 30, 2012 1:13pm
Sam Allardyce has defended his side's style of play after West Ham fans criticised the manager's tactics. Hammers supporters have been quick to voice their displeasure this season with what they have seen as some less than attractive football played by their side. They were in full voice at Peterborough earlier this week with some heard to sing "we're West Ham, we play on the floor" during the Irons' 2-0 win at London Road.
Allardyce bites back
When asked about a perceived 'West Ham way' of playing by Sky Sports News' Gary Cotterill, Allardyce responded: "It sounds like not winning." He continued: "There has never been a 'West Ham way' shown to me, not by anyone who has worked at the club. I've spoken to a lot of people at the club and no one can tell me what it is, so it is a bit of a delusion."
Victory over second-placed Reading in a massive game at Upton Park on Saturday will lift the Hammers back into the Championship's top two with only six games remaining. Before the club's biggest game of the season, the Irons manager has called for fans to back his side's bid for an immediate return to the Premier League.
"Come and enjoy yourself - that is what it is all about," he told The Mirror. "If you don't want to come and enjoy yourself, I am not sure why you want to come at all, really. "We are in a winning environment. This club has not been in a winning environment for donkey's years. Last time they got up [to the Premier League] by scraping up in sixth spot by the play-offs. I can understand if you are losing and at the bottom of the league and not playing well. I can't understand it if you are playing the opposition off the park. "I am a little bit sick of defending myself because it is something I shouldn't have to do."
The Hammers entertain the Royals on the back of a solid unbeaten run but Allardyce admits his side need to be winning more games at Upton Park. "We're not winning as many as we like at home. But we've just equalled a club record for most away wins and we're likely to beat it. We're performing away frm home and if we get the winning streak back at home then we'll be OK. "There's nothing to be negative about. We've not won some of the games but that happens in football. If we'd lost five on the trot then fair enough but we've only drawn five on the trot. "No matter how well you're doing not everyone will be behind you. The game is about opinions and everyone is entitled to theirs. You've got to accept theirs and keep on doing what you know is right."
West Ham v Reading: Mark Noble keeps the ball rolling in the quest for automatic promotion
By Jason Burt, Deputy Football Correspondent8:35PM BST 30 Mar 2012
What nefarious messages does Big Sam convey to the midfielder whose style would be described in the game's parlance as "cultured"? "The manager just says to me, 'Mark get on the ball as much as you can'," Noble explains. "He doesn't ask me to do anything that is strange to me. He wants me to get the ball, play and make the right decisions." But surely he is a betrayer of the so-called 'West Ham way', isn't he? "There is a West Ham way," confirms the Championship club's longest-serving player, at just 24, and a product of the famed youth academy. "And we play football on the floor But we've got really good footballers in our team now, we've brought in good footballers and it's about doing it at the right time. "If we had come away with two or three more wins from the homes games [four successive draws] then it would be a completely different story. We would be top and I don't think any of this would have been said."
"This" refers to the criticism by supporters — which has spilled into frustrated chants of "we play on the floor" and "Paolo Di Canio" — that Allardyce's team are not playing good enough football; that it is a long-ball game; that he is betraying the traditions of the club. "I think there was a statistic last year that Manchester United played the highest number of long balls in the Premier League," is Noble's reply. "He's the manager and he plays exactly how he wants to play. He's experienced so he's not going to change simply because some people disagree with it. There have been times this season when we have played fantastic football."
Noble insists that in the 2-0 win at Peterborough "we kept the ball for 45 minutes and made them chase and run and burn out. The manager has his way and his statistics that he follows and it's why he's been so sought after and been successful". Success this season is simply defined. Promotion. It is the only stat that matters. It consumes Noble 24 hours a day. "I can't think about anything else," he says. "Whether that is good or bad. Sometimes you do need to get anyway from it because everyone you see asks you what is going on and sometimes it just drives you mad."
West Ham are at home to Reading on Saturday. Win and they leapfrog their opponents into the second automatic promotion place; lose and the dreaded play-offs beckon. It is, Noble says, a contest that will define West Ham's season. Despite the stakes, it is not sold out. Tickets are available at the turnstiles and a full house is needed. The encounter will, Noble adds, "sort out the men from the boys".
"We are only thinking about automatic promotion, it's what all our meetings are about, it's what the lads are talking about and you need to have that vibe. "You need to believe it. Some people react differently to that pressure. Some thrive on it, some go into their shells." Noble is pumped up. He understands the fans' irritation. But he wants it shelved. "Obviously the West Ham fans chant and sing what they want and they always have done. "They are passionate fans, they pay their money and they have a right to, but this is the point in the season when they need to rally and really get behind us," he says. "You sense their anxiety and it affects players in different ways. But with the crowd behind us it helps massively — and vice-versa. It can have a negative effect."
No one at West Ham is more ingrained in the club than Noble. He was born in Canning Town, he grew up a supporter, he joined the club's academy, he is West Ham and, to such an extent, that he has become the 'go-to' man for new players asking advice on such things on where they should live. "I know the club inside out," he says. "People see me as a leader and I like to feel that. I like that responsibility."
It is why, when chairman David Sullivan came to him last summer after the trauma of Premier League relegation and asked him to stay, he stayed. "There was a strong possibility I would leave," Noble says. "Everyone was talking about it and there were players on big wages who had to go first to keep the club afloat but the chairman said 'you're an important part of our plans and I want you to stay'. "After that, and with the players being brought in and the money spent, it was a big thing to stay. And automatic promotion has been our aim the moment we got relegated. We want to play in the Premier League, I do. "I was at that level for five years of my career and I want to get back there as quickly as possible. I'm desperate to get back there. "No one likes failure and when you do get relegated, no matter what anyone says, it's a failure. It was a horrible time and with the players we had here it was unbelievable. "It should have never been the case. One hundred per cent we had a good enough team with Scottie Parker, Demba Ba, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Matty Upson, James Tomkins, but we didn't do it. "I personally swore to myself that if I stayed at the club I would take us straight back up."
Despite being in the Championship, West Ham feels, to Noble, like a more "stable" club under the ownership of Sullivan and David Gold. He winces when reminded of the doomed Icelandic regime of Eggert Magnusson. "I have seen them all," he says. "Managers, chairmen, directors of football - some crazy stuff at times. It was never stable and that's why what happened, happened."
It is another reason why, with the club on a sounder footing, promotion matters so much. Noble says: "This club, the way it is run, the size of the fan-base, it shouldn't be in this league it should be in the Premier League."