West Ham’s Sears eager to play a part in survival battle

Hammers youngster Freddie Sears returned to the starting line-up at Chelsea last Saturday and showed that he can still play an important part in the remainder of the season.

It was one of Avram Grant’s few great tactical moments this season when he hauled Freddie Sears back from his loan spell at Scunthorpe United and plunged him straight into the first team at Fulham on Boxing Day, playing on the right side of midfield.

The 21-year-old took his chance with glee and helped the Hammers to a 3-1 away victory and Grant at last seemed to have pulled a masterstroke that would haul the team up the division.

And so it was a surprise to everyone, and especially to Sears himself, when he was discarded from the first team following a goalscoring performance against Burnley in the FA Cup in February and hadn’t been seen again until Saturday’s trip to Chelsea.

“I’ve not been playing and it has been frustrating,” admitted Sears, who has now made 43 appearances in claret and blue. “My last game was against Burnley, but I feel that I have been doing well and impressed in training and been working on my game and hopefully that was my reward for the gaffer to give me the nod today.”

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It does seem to have been a harsh exclusion for the Romford-born West Ham fan. There seemed little reason for being discarded except maybe for his lack of experience, as Grant gave the nod to Gary O’Neil or Freddie Piquionne on the right-hand side of midfield.

His exclusion certainly hasn’t affected his confidence.

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“I feel that I can stretch teams,” he said. “The gaffer looks at me as having a bit of pace and I am a young lad and he knows that I have high energy levels and that I will work hard for the team.

“Gary O’Neil has been doing very well on the right, but he has got injured, so this is my chance to get in and stake my place.”

He certainly did that at Chelsea. He almost found himself through in the opening couple of minutes, while he was a thorn in the side of the Blues defence on that right hand side whenever he got the ball, until he ran out of steam in the second half.

“It was a bit of a surprise not to play for eight weeks and then to be told I’m starting at Chelsea is something to get excited about,” he said.

“I could have gone out there and not been up for it, but I went out and enjoyed myself.

“Going up against players like Ashley Cole is a real privilege, but I think I did all right.”

He did, but neither he nor the team got their reward as Chelsea ran out 3-0 winners.

“It was a bit disappointing,” he said. “We matched them for 80 minutes, we created the better chances, some clear-cut chances and we are disappointed the game ended the way that it did.

“It doesn’t reflect the scoreline. They did take their chances, but we can take plenty of positives from the game.

“You come to places like Chelsea and it can go one of two ways. You either lay down and get beat, or you give it a right go and that is what we did,” said Sears, who is now eager to play his part in the rest of the campaign.

“We have four games to go and I want to play in all of them,” he said.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t and I feel I have something to give.

“The gaffer knows what I can do and how I can help out the team and it would be nice to feel that I can.”

So how does Sears rate West Ham’s survival chances? He certainly knows that it is going to be tough.

“We need to win the last three games and even in the Manchester City game we are looking now to go there and try to get one or even three points,” he said.

“If we play like we did against Chelsea then we will pick up points. We need that self-belief because we know we can do it.

“Blackburn and Wigan are the big games and we are in a difficult position, but as long as we are in with a chance, we will do it.”

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