Big Sam on: Cardiff City
Sam Allardyce was in determined mood as he faced the media ahead of Sunday’s npower Championship game with Cardiff City.
The West Ham United manager and his squad returned to Chadwell Heath this morning following a few days of warm weather training in Dubai. A tricky afternoon in Cardiff now awaits, although the Hammers will be boosted by the return of captain Kevin Nolan from suspension.
Firstly how was the warm weather training in Dubai?
I think getting a bit of sunshine in at this time of the year is always very important for the squad in order to prepare them for the final end of season push. Being a manager who, for the last ten years, has always been an advocate of a winter break I’ve always made sure that whatever club I’ve been at I’ve always found the time to give the lads a little break both physically and mentally from the stresses and strains of playing football. Hopefully it will get them ready for the final push and the big 14 games we have left in our season so that we can achieve our goal of promotion.
Next game is Cardiff; they took Liverpool to extra-time in the Carling Cup on Sunday evening. What are you expecting at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday?
It was obviously a massive effort by the Cardiff players to take Liverpool to extra time and I’m sure they’ll be very disappointed they lost in the manner that they did. It was a valiant effort by Malky and his players so there may be a hangover from that. It will depend on what the management staff have done with the players this week; whether they are still hungry or not to achieve what was their main goal at the beginning of the season – promotion. They are still in a very good position to achieve that so it’s expected from my point of view to be one of the most difficult away games we will face this season even after their disappointing defeat last week.
Cardiff won 1-0 at the Boleyn Ground on the opening day of the season. Just like West Ham, they have kept that momentum going all season haven’t they?
Yes they’ve been there or there abouts all season just like us. When you’re in for the long haul, right from the start of the season, then you want to maintain it and finish the job off. That’s the main reason we took the warm weather break, to keep the minds and the legs of the squad fresh. If we can find any weakness or tiredness in Cardiff as a result of their Carling Cup exploits then hopefully we can capitalise on that.
Both teams are going to be fired up for this game; even though it’s an early kick-off on a Sunday I’m sure we will have our usual fantastic away support tripping down to Cardiff with us. We want to deliver a similar performance to the one away at Blackpool but with eleven men and not ten. Blackpool was our best performance of the season, even when we went down to ten men. Let’s hope we can achieve that type of performance once again away from home and if we can then we will make ourselves very difficult to beat.
Kevin Nolan is back from suspension, what difference do you think this will make to West Ham?
I hope it will have a positive impact. It’s fair to say we haven’t missed him results-wise which is a great achievement for everyone else in the squad. We have had some real trauma to deal with since Kevin’s red against Millwall but we have maintained an unbeaten run under extraordinary circumstances. It’s good to have him back and if there is one thing I would love for him to do is to get back in amongst the goals.
We want to see him getting into the box again and scoring the goals we know he can because that has been one area in which we’ve lacked in the games he has missed. Against Crystal Palace, after achieving such great goalscoring form against Blackpool, we couldn’t find the same against Palace and that was a great disappointment. Kevin gives us firepower in front of goal as well as the other strikers we have at the club.
In terms of goals, Henri Lansbury scored two great goals for the England Under-21s on Wednesday evening didn’t he?
Yes, from a goalkeeper keeping a clean sheet to goal hero for the Under-21s! It’s a measure of Henri’s good attitude and it will give him a lot of confidence playing for the Under-21s and scoring two goals. Hopefully when he plays for us again he can show the same sort of scoring form. He will certainly be playing for us in the very near future, if not at Cardiff, due to the heavy schedule we have to deal with in March.
Portsmouth are in a lot of trouble at the moment financially and may not be able to fulfil their fixtures. This could lead to West Ham being deducted the six points they have gained from Portsmouth this season. What impact do you think that could have on the race for promotion?
Massive. It’s a very concerning situation when you’re in a position like ours. When you have worked so hard all season and then by default you may lose out on what you should actually get, I think is totally unfair. The Football League generates enough revenue to make sure all clubs should be able to fulfil all fixtures. We shouldn’t let this deduction happen, not just for the sake of this football club but for football in this country.
If it did happen, other clubs around the top, Southampton, Birmingham and Reading, have only played Portsmouth once meaning West Ham stand to lose more points than their rivals?
That’s the unfairness of it all, you work so hard during the season and Portsmouth isn’t an easy place to go. To get a victory there was a big result for us so to have those ripped away from us would be devastating. If you’re going to lose out on promotion you need to do it by your own failings not by somebody else taking it away from you.