Just a few short months ago you couldn’t move for hearing a story on West Ham’s troubles and the seemingly inevitability of Avram Grant’s sacking. Remember the symbolic throwing of his scarf into the crowd? All the signs pointed towards a change of management. A couple of good results later, coupled with some fine performances on the pitch, and suddenly there were smiles again. Saturday’s defeat to United was an overdue reality check. There is still much work to be done if the Hammers are to beat the drop.
Defeat to United followed in the wake of a goalless draw with Spurs and FA Cup defeat at Stoke, leaving the Hammers just their Premier League status to fight for. Cup glory would have been a beautiful moment in a dismal period for the club, but not having the distraction could prove to be a blessing in disguise, as Grant’s men find themselves in the relegation zone with seven games to save their season.
So how many points do teams need to beat the drop? Blackpool boss Ian Holloway is adamant that his side need just two more wins to survive. These victories would give the Tangerines 39 points. Grant will need to lead his side to at least two more wins and a draw to achieve the same tally, but where are they likely to pick up these points?
The fixture Gods have not been kind to the Hammers for their upcoming games. Saturday sees them travel to a hugely improved and enormously underrated Bolton. The Trotters have been a completely different team this season under Owen Coyle and the loan capture of Daniel Sturridge has proved a masterstroke. If West Ham can leave the Reebok with a point they will consider it well-earned and a good return. A proverbial “six-pointer” at home to Aston Villa follows before tricky trips to Chelsea and Manchester City.
West Ham’s final three games, however, are where they will really want to be at their best. The Hammers welcome Blackburn to east London before a trip to Wigan and closing the season at home to Sunderland. The Black Cats should be safe by this time and Rovers and Wigan could prove to be West Ham’s closest rivals. These games are must wins but in the meantime, Grant will need to keep his squad motivated after the heartbreak of last Saturday’s reversal. Heads cannot afford to drop.