West Ham v Stoke Preview
I must confess that Monday night games are not my cup of tea!
Sitting around all weekend, twiddling the thumbs, is a bane and something, in all honesty, I could do without.
However, the television companies rule the roost and we jump, nowadays, to their particular tune.
But, still carping on, does a fixture involving Stoke City stand much chance of enticing viewers to tune in?
As a Hammer I`d reckon it could but think of it from a neutral`s point of view, especially those poor souls who are tormented, courtesy of their wives, with an abundance of soap operas on a Monday evening.
Nevertheless, whilst the two teams who got automatically promoted from the Championship (Southampton and Reading) continue to struggle in the relegation zone, we`re in the wonderful position of knowing that a win, against Tony Pulis` side, will catapult us to 5th in the Premier League, who`d have thought that back in the days when it really was do-or-die against Blackpool, at Wembley, in May.
There`s no doubting that Big Sam has done well, his unique style of management has served us well and with an offer of a new contract, supposedly, on the table, in January Sam is honest enough to admit that his style doesn`t convince everybody, remarking ahead of the clash,
"I don`t suppose you ever win over all the fans, I`ve never won over every fan I`ve worked for. What really matters is we`re selling out. People are enjoying watching us."
"The fans stayed with us against City because they understood we couldn`t be quite as adventurous as we might have been against Fulham and Sunderland."
Our form going into this fixture is good, a 0-0 draw at home to the current champions (Manchester City) followed by a win up at Newcastle would suggest that we shouldn`t fear a physical Stoke City side described as 'jolly green giants` by Sir Alex Ferguson recently.
But to dismiss Stoke would be foolish, they`re a tough, uncompromising side that give very little away and have some strong characters, in the side, that could provide us with a few problems,
Amongst their ranks are two ex-Hammers in Matthew Upson (remember him?) and Matthew Etherington, although we doubt if both will actually feature; up front they have Peter Crouch (always fancied his wife) who is always capable of the unexpected and a decent keeper in Begovic.
But form, on the road, doesn`t bode well for Stoke. The Potteries side haven`t won away from home since January 2nd, a run of 16 matches whilst The Hammers have only lost 2 in 18 this year at home.
Therefore, I`m going for a home win with the roof being lifted clear-off when Andy Carroll nets the winner; remember where you read it first.