It may annoy most of the West Ham support, but unfortunately for them, tonight is just another Premier League match. There is no rivalry; there is no hatred, from our direction at least, it’s a game of football with three points at stake. It’s a big game for us, but then we have another 11 big games after this. The importance of this fixture lies solely in the fact that there are three points available. We are looking to achieve something beyond the average hammers fans comprehension. It’s a big game, but this isn’t our cup final.
When Santi Carzola, struck late at a rapidly emptying Emirates on Saturday, our four point gap was slashed to just one. With the London derby on Sunday, our game versus West Ham has grown in significance but because of our needs not their obsession with us.
Should Spurs dispatch our pseudo rivals then our true ones next week, a healthy seven point gap with only 10 games remaining will be in place. That is a carrot of epic proportions.
This weekend was the 20th anniversary of Bobby Moore’s death, a man who is rightly recognised as the greatest captain in England’s history. At Upton Park tonight though there will be only one team attempting to play the football that his achievements deserve, and it isn’t the one that apparently won the 1966 World Cup. West Ham have sold their soul in pursuit of Premier League status and the financial trappings that brings.
At White Hart Lane last year West Ham were dispatched 3-1 with relative ease by AVB’s charges. The vile abuse spouted by the travelling support ended up a being a fitting accompaniment to the dross they delivered on the pitch. Stoke’s football is sterile, but at least you can appreciate the vigor and enthusiasm they muster when delivering it. West Ham are an East-End poor quality replica of the Britannia Club.
[authquote text="The vile abuse spouted by the travelling support ended up a being a fitting accompaniment to the dross they delivered on the pitch."]
West “The Team that Big Sam built” Ham have immersed themselves into the Allardyce ideology of hitting the quick long ball, playing the percentages and hoping for something in the ensuing melee. Its not pretty or eye catching but at least it explains why they have to advertise tickets in the London Evening Standard.
Tottenham Hotspur meanwhile may no longer be the cavaliering darlings of the Red Tops, but there is no denying that even the more pragmatic AVB approach is Natalie Portman to their Barbara Windsor. Under the former Porto man we have had to come to terms with the word patience, but even this is based on an aesthetically pleasing brand of football.
When Redknapp was at the helm, we came crashing through the door all guns blazing, we went toe-to-toe with some of Europe’s biggest hitters, sometimes it worked, other times it backfired, spectacularly. This season we have started securing points in games late on and have stopped conceding goals in the first 15 minutes. AVB understands that you can’t win a game in the first 15 minutes, but you can lose it.
For the game tonight, there will be very few surprises in the Tottenham starting XI. Injuries and a trimming of the playing staff have left AVB with a small, but undoubtedly talented squad.
[authquote text="It’s a big game for us, but then we have another 11 big games after this. The importance of this fixture lies solely in the fact that there are three points available."]
The biggest question is: Who plays the supporting role to misfiring Emmanuel Adebayor?
Lewis Holtby has proven himself to be a technically gifted one-two touch footballer, but against a team with panache for the long ball, I think the more aerially dominant Clint Dempsey will get the nod. The American’s ability to help out in defensive situations and the fact that he had arguably, his best game for Spurs in the first encounter with the Hammers, will weigh in his favour.
In defence we will thankfully see the return of Hugo Lloris and Michael Dawson. These two are far better equipped for West Ham’s direct approach than William Gallas and Brad Friedel. We may also see Jan Vertoghen deployed at left back, in place of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, with Steven Caulker in along side Dawson to further increase the average height of our backline.
There is no denying it’s a big game tonight, but it’s no cup final. Spurs have another 11 big games after this one and tonight has nothing to do with rivalry, location, chanting or history. If Tottenham are professional, determined and focused, they should claim the three points.
For the Hammers fans, what will hurt them even more than us claiming three points, is the knowledge that deep down, we don’t really care about them.
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