Matchday: Hammers travel south to St Marys

West Ham travel to St Mary’s in Southampton in search of a maiden victory.

Southampton West HamOne of several players who have featured for both West Ham and Southampton is ‘old fashioned centre forward’ Iain Dowie.  In addition to scoring one of the finest own goals ever, in a League Cup tie at Stockport, Dowie’s legacy to football is the concept of ‘bouncebackability’.  Today is a chance for the Hammers to demonstrate their aptitude for resurrection as they travel to Southampton on the back of midweek humiliation at the hands of Manchester City.

Ask most West Ham supporters and they will be adamant that the Hammers are a far bigger club than Southampton, yet in reality they are currently part of a small group of teams, along with ourselves and Everton (plus Newcastle when they come back up), who have aspirations of nicking that spare Europa League spot and enjoying the occasional jaunt into Europe.  Southampton have the appearance of a very organised and well run club with a modern compact stadium, excellent training facilities (I wonder how Jose Fonte compares them to our own Rush Green base) and a recruitment system that has shown great stability in an environment where talented players and managers have come and gone in search of what they felt were greater things.

“They have some new players and some injuries, and it will be a tough game for us and for them.  It is an important game because we are only one point above them and we want to make that gap bigger.”

– Slaven Bilic

Since experiencing severe financial difficulties and entering administration, in the wake of the Redknapp curse, the Saints have demonstrated their own bounceback proficiency and during the past five seasons they have pipped us for automatic promotion from the Championship and finished above us in three of the last four Premier League seasons.   The current manager and team have not pulled up any trees in the League this season but have still managed to make it to the League Cup final.

Head to Head

Matches between West Ham and Southampton date back to the Southern League in 1899 with a first Football League Division 2 encounter taking place in 1922.  Since then there have been a total of 95 games of which West Ham have won 35, drawn 28 and lost 32.  The record away from home in 48 matches is won 10, drawn 16 and lost 22.  West Ham have yet to win at the St Mary’s Stadium which has seen 3 defeats and 4 draws in 7 games,

The last win on the road was a 3-2 success in November 2000 with goals from Kanoute, Pearce (S) and Sinclair.

Team News

Very few of the players who turned out against Manchester City have reason to qualify as the first name on the manager’s team-sheet this afternoon.  However, with a fairly limited number of viable juggling options available to him it is likely that the manager will plump for the largely similar personnel once again.  Cheikhou Kouyate has returned from the ACON and would be straight back in, for his athleticism alone, if I was picking the team .  Reports suggest that Sam Byram may be doubtful with a hamstring injury and so it could be a return to a back three with either Kouyate or James Collins linking up with Winston Reid and Jose Fonte.  If Kouyate is selected in midfield expect the manager to do this at the expense of Pedro Obiang, who despite being our best player for most of the season will be penalised for his poor show on Wednesday.  The more reasonable decision would be to bring in Kouyate for Mark Noble who looks to have even more treacle in his boots as each week goes by.  Robert Snodgrass will surely start in place of Sofiane Feghouli.

“We know this team, they have come back well in the table lately. They are a good opponent with confidence and we have to play a strong game.”

– Claude Puel

Interesting to see what type of reception Fonte receives from his former supporters and whether he is able to help the coaching team plot Southampton’s downfall.  Fonte was quoted as saying that the players did not follow the manager’s instructions during the midweek game and hopefully he can provide some on-field leadership in that regard.

Southampton are missing leading scorer Charlie Austin and best player Djik Van Dijk and with doubts over Rodriguez and Ward-Prowse they are close to what a fromer manager might have called the ‘bare bones’.  Bertrand and Tadic always seem to play well against us and manage to exploit our generosity on the flanks.

It is improbable that we have been able to address the lack of relative fitness in our squad over the past three days but it is fingers crossed that we go into the match with some sort of game-plan that is then executed with hard work, effort and commitment.

Man in the Middle

A rare Premier League appointment today for Graham Scott from Oxfordshire.  Scott’s only previous encounter with the Hammers was the League Cup defeat at home to Aldershot in August 2011 when he sent off Callum McNaughton, playing his one and only game for West Ham.  In a total 19 games this season Scott has awarded 67 Yellow and 3 Red cards.