The international series continues at Upton Park as the recovering West Ham take on Gallic visitors in the form of Noocasselle United – a game that has numerous interesting subplots but which the Hammers really need to win in order to move on from the recent traumas in the FA and Capital One Cup competitions.
Irritatingly for the Bubbles Boyz, the West Ham ‘welcome’ to Fortress Upton Park has been way too warm this season with a measly two home victories and 50% of visitors to date going home with all three points! Moreover, there can be no doubting that under De Pardew Newcastle have discarded their poor travellers label and have picked up an impressive 18 points on the road already this season.
In defence, Big Sam and his team can point to the black hole of injuries that has robbed his side of so many key players and in turn created a whopping big hole in the middle of the Hammers defence with all three of their first choice centre backs succumbing to injuries over the recent past.
The resulting ‘chunnel-like’ hole is exactly what the visiting French side will hope to exploit today. Alain de Pardew, no relation to Gerard, will be directing his foreign legion to jump on board the Eurostar that has provided Nottingham’s Florist and Manbag City such enjoyable trips over recent weeks.
Even worse for Big Sam, his side will also be missing Guy Demel their most consistent defensive performer so far this year. The tough tackling right back has an impressive 93% tackle success rate but has to sit this game out as he recovers from a concussion sustained in the victory away to Cardiff last week. Newcastle have plenty of pace and penetration down the wings and West Ham will need to counter that today if they are to avoid another defensive carve up.
On a more positive note, James Collins seems set to return and will add much needed organisational skills to what has been a headless back four of late. The unlucky James Tomkins is supended after his harsh sending off last week but Roger ‘Magic’ Johnson will be available and can hopefully build upon a steady performance at Cardiff.
The big talking point has been the return of Andy Carroll who is likely to start on the bench today but even with a 20 minute cameo was able to demonstrate to Hammers fans just what we have been missing up front as he dominated physically and had a big part in West Ham’s second goal against Cardiff. Hammer’s fans will be looking to see him linking up with unsettled starlet Ravel Morrison who will hopefully get the chance to demonstrate his commitment to the cause today and with his attacking prowess will enjoy the openings that Carroll’s presence generates.
An added incentive for the Hammers is to keep the boisterous Newcastle fans quiet, and although many will be too busy stuffing their faces with the Boleyn ground’s fantastically healthy pies, followers of modern music will be rooting for the Hammers to keep particular followers of the Magpies well silenced as a victory could lead to the tantric one composing a celebration song or other similar aural atrocities.
Oooh! Put that chicken away missus