With the half way point of the Championship season now passed, the table is really beginning to take shape and the runners and riders for promotion have set out their stall in their bid for a shot at the Premier League. The bookies favourites at the start of the season, West Ham, have been solid up until now and sit level on points with league leaders Southampton who have surpassed many people’s expectations.
The business end of the season is now upon us and January will no doubt give the punters a very good idea who they could expect to see earn promotion to the top flight and I feel West Ham will definitely be one of them. The confident and brave owners have given the manager a decent amount of funds to spend in January and some tough fixtures coming up will undoubtedly show if the Hammers have the class and strength to return to where they belong.
Here are the five things that Sam Allardyce and his team have to do to ensure they achieve their aim:
1.) Beat the teams around them – The big games at the top of the table will not tell us who will or won’t win the league but they usually go a long way to showing the best teams. West Ham’s inconsistent form of late has seen them beat play off hopefuls Middlesbrough and Hull away from home, but so far this season have lost too three of the top five sides, Southampton, Reading and Cardiff. Fortunately for the Hammers they have the entire top six; apart from Cardiff; to play at home from now until the end of the season and so will fancy their chances of picking up some vital points in them games.
Big crowds and big atmospheres at Upton Park have not really helped the team yet this season as they look slightly nervous at home, but with teams all around the table now needing to pick up points to achieve their goals, not many will come and park the bus in East London in the way teams have so far this season.
2.) Sign a striker and a winger – Allardyce has; on more than one occasion; told the media that he is desperate to bring in new faces to Upton Park this month but has so far been rejected more times Luke Chadwick on a night out. Bids for Billy Sharp, Jordan Rhodes, Nicky Maynard and Jimmy Kebe have all been reportedly turned down as the Hammers look to add to their firepower with much needed reinforcement.
The likes of Carlton Cole, Freddie Piquionne and John Carew have not been good enough despite knocking in the odd goal and the injury stricken wingers have been sorely missed with players being played out of position in the majority of games. David’s Gold and Sullivan are backing the manager all the way to try and take their club back to the top flight and so as long as Allardyce finds the right targets, there could be a new look frontline in the next few weeks in the East End.
3.) The fans have got to get behind them – Upton Park has been a tough place to play for West Ham this season as it seems the fans are too quick to jump on the back of the players at every opportunity. The negative vibe surrounds the pitch if the team are not dominating their opponents and winning every game.
It is not because the fans are too demanding and impatient; it is just purely frustration; that at times the players seem to have an overconfident attitude against the lower teams that they struggle to overcome. The realistic supporters understand that it won’t be easy to reach the top flight but when they get the chance to sing up and create Upton Park an intimidating place, then the better chance the team have of succeeding.
4.) Give youth a chance – The likes of Kevin Nolan, Carlton Cole, and Freddie Piquionne have not been anywhere near their best in the opening five months of the season, which has resulted in the team dropping valuable points at times. It has been a while since the last youngster came through the ranks to make a lasting impression (James Tomkins 2008) but word is going around that a new crop are ready to hit the big time.
Young left back Danny Potts has impressed in his opening few games for the club after injuries and suspensions gave him a chance and the likes of Robert Hall, Frank Nouble and Cristian Montano have impressed out on loan leading Allardyce to possibly include them in future squads. Why not give them a go?
5.) Improve home form – The Achilles heel of West Ham’s season so far has undoubtedly been their home form this season, as teams arrive at Upton Park and play for a draw, with the Hammers lacking in the required creativity to break them down.
Home defeats to Cardiff City, Ipswich Town, Aldershot Town (Carling Cup) and Burnley have shown the vulnerability to the Hammers play at home and draws with the likes of Bristol City and Leeds United at Upton Park prove the lack of spirit and quality among the players when under pressure at their home.
Recent weeks have shown an improvement at Upton Park and if they can average two points a game from now until May they will more than likely be hosting the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at the home of football next season.
What do you think West Ham need to do in order to gain promotion? Let me know on Twitter: @Brad_Pinard
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