West Ham’s relegation battle and the similarities with the 2007 Great Escape
The Hammers have five games to save their skin, just as Alan Curbishley did four years ago at Upton Park.
West Ham boss Avram Grant insists that nine points from the last five games will be enough to keep his team in the Premier League and he is convinced that they will achieve yet another ‘Great Escape’.
Back in 2007, Alan Curbishley’s team were also second from bottom going into the final five games of the season, though they stood five points from safety instead of two as Grant’s beleaguered team does today.
Another coincidence was that the first of Curbishley’s last five games was a clash with Chelsea, while they also had to make the trip to Wigan as they looked to overturn the odds and stay in the Premier League.
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Few gave the 2007 vintage team a hope of surviving, but despite being crushed by Chelsea at Upton Park 4-1, they bounced back to win their final four games, including a 1-0 win in Manchester – at Old Trafford – on the final day, to take 12 points from their last 15 and finish with 41 points.
Again coincidentally, Grant is aiming for the same points score this time round.
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“I think we need nine points more or less to stay in the league,” said the manager of his 32-point Hammers team. “It will be difficult, but still possible, we don’t have any intention of giving up, we will fight.”
Curbishley’s side memorably won at Old Trafford against champions Manchester United to stay up, and Grant’s team face the equally daunting tasks of travelling to both Stamford Bridge and the City of Manchester Stadium before this season is done and dusted.
They look to be unwinnable matches, but Grant insists that the team is still targeting going there to get points.
“We are not going to give up on the next two games,” he said. “We have won against big teams this season, so we can do it, even though it is difficult, we will fight for the points.”
Grant admitted his team looked nervous against Aston Villa on Saturday, but he is convinced that they can deal with the pressure over the next five games.
“I think we dealt with pressure very, very well in January,” he said. “We were the last team in the table and many points behind, it was a big pressure and everybody thought we were already relegated.
“I think we need to deal with this situation again. We have been here since the beginning of the season.
“We went on a good run after January and then we have lost points in the last games, so we don’t have such a long time to recover and we need to be strong – we will be strong.”
Curbishley’s battlers beat Everton (1-0), Wigan (3-0), Bolton (3-1) and Manchester United (1-0) in those last four games and though Grant believes they only need three wins instead of four, it is likely to be just as difficult for the 2011 team.
“There is a psychology problem, but we need to deal with this and there is a solution,” admitted the West Ham boss. “I think first we don’t need to give up. We need to deal with this situation, not be nervous too much and know that there is still an opportunity to stay in the league, we need to give everything to that.
“The good thing is that it is still tight. We can do it and I still believe in this.”
Back in 2007, West Ham had a certain Carlos Tevez to inspire them. Which of the 2011 team is likely to do the same thing?
We shall see.