There’s been echoes of discontent ringing around the Boleyn Ground for a large part of the season; even after West Ham United eased to a 2-1 win against Hull City, the boos still rained down from the stands following the final whistle with Hammers boss Sam Allardyce the main target of the jeering sections of fans.
The criticism from the crowd, abated a touch from the 2-1 win over Premier League strugglers Sunderland last time out, could be amped up in volume once again when Liverpool visit this weekend. The Merseyside outfit, currently sitting pretty at the top of the league, have hacked and burned almost everything in their path on their way to re-establishing themselves as a serious title contender, and though the Reds don’t have the most prolific record on the road against the Irons, that will come as little concern to the travelling Kop.
Liverpool has won a number of high profile matches on the road this season with resounding wins at Old Trafford, St. Mary’s Stadium and White Hart Lane at the pinnacle of the highlight reel. With the hoards of visiting Liverpool supporters expected to make an unholy racket on Sunday, Allardyce will be hoping their jubilant support for their team will drown out the boos and hisses for his. “At half-time players were talking more about fans booing them than the game” said the Hammers boss after the 2-1 win over 10-man Hull City. “Fans affect players. We don’t need them on the players’ backs when we are coming off three defeats. They have to stay and help them win.”
Following some early season struggles, Big Sam has guided his side clear of the relegation scrap and into eleventh place in the Premier League; a comfortable position considering the hurdles they’ve had to clear at the beginning of the season. “I started at 16, got into the first team at 18 and I’m 59 now and I have never been in place where we have won and got booed” he continued. “The players are frustrated. I get frustrated. I want the players to play better and take advantage more of the 10 men, but you don’t at this level.” With a number of injuries blighting their opening days, Allardyce is dumbfounded that some sections of the Hammers support still aren’t happy – even with their top-flight status almost secured.
The 2-1 win over Sunderland, though it barely affected the table, was another step towards cementing their place in the Premier League with former long-term absentee Andy Carroll playing a major role by scoring one and creating another. The ex-Liverpool forward, ruled out for extended swathes of the campaign due to different ailments, headed home within the first ten minutes to give the Hammers a deserved lead before providing the lay-off for Mohamed Diame to double up. Although the giant Geordie is yet to rediscover the kind of form that saw the Reds pay vastly over the odds to nail down promising striker, Allardyce believes that his side could have been challenging for Europe had the 25-year not spent so much time on the treatment table.
“It’s a possibility, yes,” he said of their missed opportunity to secure Europa League football. “Since the turn of the year, our change of form and results has got better and better and now we’re in the best run we’ve had since we’ve been back in the Premier League.” An alternate universe where West Ham storm the continent and Carroll stays fit for more than a week at a time aside, the ex-Newcastle man is expected to be joined by another former Liverpool player in Stewart Downing in the starting line-up this weekend as the London side try to halt the Reds run of eight straight wins. “The rest of the team, and those two lads particularly, will want to show how good they are on Sunday,” the Hammers boss continued. “Let’s hope they play very, very well, because we need them to.”
Should the Anfield outfit win their last six games, they’ll secure their first Premier League title in 24-years – a feat very few would have predicted at the beginning, or even in the middle of, the season. The race for the crown has been as tight as it’s ever been with both Manchester City and Chelsea retaining a good chance of pipping the Reds to top spot. It goes without saying that it’s been a bit of a topsy turvy campaign – something that West Ham striker Carlton Cole is keen to play a bigger part in.
The striker, released by the Hammers during the summer before being re-signed in October, has six Premier League goals in 20-appearances for the London side this season. Although he’s likely to keep his spot on the squad as Andy Carroll takes up his place in the starting eleven, the 30-year old is see some more action as the campaign winds down. “I had positive thought processes” said Cole when asked about his return to the Boleyn Ground. “The manager helped me through it to get back on track and catch up with the team fitness-wise and mentally.”
Few would be surprised if Liverpool continue their prolific run of form when they visit the Capital on Sunday, but we’ve seen a number of upsets befall the top sides in the Premier League this season and the Reds could be the next victim of top of the table complacency. Though he may not get a chance to do it this weekend, Cole is ready to take advantage if the time comes. “I repaid him with some goals” he said of Allardyce’s decision to re-sign him. “I am on the bench at the moment, but any time I get my chance I’ll try my best.” His best may not hack it, but if that intangible thing called luck comes into play, you never know what’s going to happen – even for Carlton Cole.
Be sure to pop in tomorrow for a full match preview and all the news ahead of the Reds trip to London on Sunday.