West Ham boss impressed after fitting ‘Wardrobe’ into his team

Hammers managaer Sam Allardyce did not think Papa Bouba Diop would last 60 minutes at Selhurst Park, but he got a delightful surprise

West Ham new boy Papa Bouba Diop is not nicknamed ‘The Wardrobe’ for nothing.

The giant central midfielder made his first West Ham start at Crystal Palace on Saturday and immediately made an impression with his strength and tackling ability.

Manager Sam Allardyce was certainly not expecting too much from the former Portsmouth and Fulham man, but was staggered by what he saw at Selhurst Park.

“I was expecting that I would have to give him oxygen after 60 minutes in the heat,” laughed Allardyce, who seemed to be suffering from the temperature more than the Senegal international.

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“I thought he was masterful in front of the back four, breaking things up, starting us off on more and more attacks as the game went on, so I was really pleased with him.”

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The 33-year-old was pleased to be back too. He hasn’t played a competitive game since helping AEK Athens to the Greek Cup last season.

“I enjoyed the game because it was my first match in three months,” said Diop, who was picked up by West Ham as a free agent.

“Now I’ve played my first game at this level I am happy. I probably need one more game after this to be fully fit.”

Diop has had to be patient before making his West Ham debut. Problems with his work permit took longer to be sorted out than expected, while he has had to wait until injuries hit the side before he got his chance.

“I have worked very hard in training because if you don’t play it is very hard,” admitted the midfielder, who played over 100 games for Fulham and Porsmouth in the Premier League.

“But when you get the call to play then you must be ready because you never know when you will be needed.”

Diop was certainly needed on Saturday. He provided a barrier between the midfield and the back four and it is partly down to him that Palace only managed three shots on target all afternoon – though they did manage to score from two of them!

“The team are happy to take a point from here,” admitted Diop after Saturday’s 2-2 draw. “The Championship is good because it’s physical and quick so this makes it more difficult than the Premiership.

“In the Premiership, it’s more technical and here you have to fight more.”

That should be right up Diop’s street then, because he seems to be designed for the physical side of the game. Watching him battle against the tiny Palace midfielder Jonathan Williams made the match look like men against boys at times.

Diop is hoping Saturday’s performance cements his place in the starting line-up.

“I hope so,” he admitted. “I’m happy and I’m here to work. I’m ready and when the coach says I can start then I just do my best every time.”

After a tough battle against Palace though, he knows that it will not be plain sailing for the Hammers.

“I think West Ham are not a Championship club,” he insisted. “Now everyone wants to beat West Ham – everyone. You saw that against Ipswich and also here against Crystal Palace.

“Now we go and have a rest with family because we have two big games when we come back. If we want to go back to the Premier League then we have to do better.”

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