West Ham thank Jon Moss for the moment when safety for another season was guaranteed

With just two games of the Premier League season to play we were safe – following the point gained against Manchester United, how high can we get in the table with a win today?

Sunday 22 February 2015. West Ham playing at White Hart Lane. Ten minutes to go and we lead 2-0. Being West Ham you have a good idea what can happen. A mis-hit shot brings it back to 2-1. The referee Jon Moss adds on five minutes of extra time. The time passes slowly but we hang on. The five minutes are up but Tottenham are attacking. The ball goes into our penalty area, Harry Kane goes down, penalty. You could see it coming, but it was very soft. Just time for the penalty kick to be taken and then the final whistle should blow. Kane steps up and the kick is saved. Moss should blow the whistle for full time straight away. But he doesn’t. He just allows time for the rebound from our keeper to be put back into our net. 2-2. Poor refereeing. We were robbed.

Sunday 17 April 2016. West Ham playing at Leicester. The ninety minutes is up and we lead 2-1. Being West Ham you have a good idea what can happen. The referee Jon Moss adds on four minutes of extra time. Three minutes 35 seconds have elapsed and Valencia has the ball. Just keep the ball in our possession and the game is won. Oh dear. Valencia fails to keep the ball under control and Leicester regain possession and move towards our penalty area. Three minutes and 56 seconds have gone, and Andy Carroll lightly brushes against a Leicester player who throws himself to the ground. Book him for blatant diving! But Mr. Moss has other ideas and awards a penalty. Leicester score. 2-2. Poor refereeing. We were robbed.

Saturday 5 May 2016. We beat Leicester and reach 38 points. Everton playing at home to Southampton. If Southampton do not win the game then we are mathematically safe from relegation. Southampton had a midweek fixture at Swansea to look forward to after this game. Therefore only one of them could overtake us. Stoke and West Brom both could not. Southampton take the lead in the game and hold on to the slender goal advantage as 90 minutes is up. The board is raised and indicates an additional four minutes. At this time a Southampton player suddenly goes down with an injury. Teams know that injuries in time added for injuries rarely get fully added. He stays down for about a minute.

The ball is pumped deep into the Everton half close to their corner flag and an additional five minutes has now elapsed. The referee is a long way away as he is struggling to keep up with play. Redmond tackles an Everton defender. The linesman who is standing close by sees nothing wrong with the tackle. Jon Moss from some distance away does though, and awards a free kick which is dubious to say the least. Everton take the kick about 15 yards ahead of where the alleged infringement took place. About a minute later the ball ends up in the Southampton net via a wicked deflection. Mark Hughes is furious. All Southampton fans cannot believe it. But thanks to Jon Moss West Ham are safe. Of course the result of one match on its own isn’t the reason we will be playing in the Premier League next season. But this was the moment when safety was assured. Poor refereeing. Southampton were robbed. But we don’t care. Thank you Jon Moss.

And who was the referee appointed for our Thursday night game at home to Manchester United? Of course you know the answer. Mr. Moss refereed a tedious game but kindly refrained from sending off Mark Noble when many referees would have done so when he raised his arms to Pogba.

The point against United moved us up to 39 points and we remained in 15th place in the table, just two points adrift of tenth placed Newcastle. None of the teams from 10th to 15th are playing each other, so theoretically we could still end up in the top half of the table with the right set of results. With a difference of around £2 million for each additional place in the final table at stake, then a rise of 5 places could add £10 million to the “kitty”.  For this to happen we need to beat Everton and then hope that Chelsea beat Newcastle, West Brom beat Palace. Burnley beat Bournemouth, Manchester United beat Watford, and Liverpool beat Brighton.

The accumulative odds against those six results occurring is around 56-1, so of course the chances of us finishing tenth are very slim. Nevertheless it is not impossible and worth a couple of pounds of my money as a fun bet. I don’t honestly believe it will happen as Newcastle and Palace will win their games in my opinion. But switching the accumulator by just one result and predicting Newcastle to beat Chelsea lengthens the accumulative odds to 200-1, and this has produced another fun bet for me.

Of course when you place an accumulator bet there is always one shock result that ruins it. Nevertheless if we do beat Everton, the other fixtures are such that we stand a decent chance to rise in the final standings. Of course this shouldn’t mask the deficiencies of a disappointing season and a complete overhaul is necessary to avoid a repeat next time around.

So this is my penultimate visit to the London Stadium for a while. I’ve got one more which is a present of a tour of the stadium. I did the Upton Park tour shortly before we left there and it will be interesting to see how the behind the scenes facilities compare. I renewed my season ticket some weeks ago when our future was still in the balance. I will continue to follow the club whatever league or division we are in, but I am relieved that we are still in the top flight.

Three seasons ago Everton came to Upton Park on the final day of the season, and despite us taking a lead on the hour mark through Stewart Downing, Everton equalised and then snatched the winner in time added on. The fans deserted the stadium on the final whistle and not many remained to watch the “lap of honour” that is traditional at the end of the final home game of the season.

Today let us hope that we can end the season in style and see off a very average Everton side who will probably finish eighth in the final table. It would be good to think that we could finish that high next season. A lot of changes will be necessary for that to happen.

West Ham face the Foxes, the Red Devils and the Toffeemen to round off a disappointing season.

With just three games of the Premier League season to play we are still heavily involved in the relegation dogfight. Have we got enough points already, or do we need more?

We now enter the final week of the Premier League season with three games to play that could decide whether or not we return next year. Results could still go against us in the final matches meaning that we need to pick up more points, or we might already have enough. Whatever the outcome, it has been a disappointing season, and at this stage it is hard to look beyond another struggle in 2018-19.

The performance against Manchester City last weekend was dismal in many respects, even though the result was inevitable. The problem was that the players looked beaten before the game began, and showed the worthy champions too much respect. Apart from a few minutes at the end of the first half we just didn’t show enough positivity to compete with them.

If you read the press and social media then there are many who think that we are down already. That is most definitely not the case. Our form hasn’t looked great, but if you look at a “form” league table for the last five games, we have picked up five points. It is more than any other team from twelfth downwards in the “season to date” league table (with the notable exception of doomed West Brom), and it puts us in twelfth place for those fixtures. Our key rivals in the fight to avoid the drop are Huddersfield and Southampton who have collected four points each, Stoke three, and Swansea two from their last five games. Of course (as they say in the financial planning world) past results are not a guarantee of future performance, but nevertheless they do give an indication that other teams are struggling like ourselves.

And whilst we do not have the easiest of run-ins, I would not swap places with Huddersfield (who are below us on goal difference) who face tough away games at Manchester City and Chelsea, before a final game at home to Arsenal. Swansea, who have collected just two points in their last five games (no team in the league have less), have potentially the easiest task on paper with an away game at Bournemouth before home games versus fellow strugglers Southampton and Stoke.

I listened to the Soccer Saturday panel talking up Southampton’s chances of avoiding the drop, and although they have the best goal difference of the teams involved, they are still in the bottom three and face trips to in-form Everton and fellow strugglers Swansea, before the final game at home to Manchester City. Stoke will probably need to win their final two games (at home to Palace and away at Swansea) to have any chance. Despite picking up eight points from their last five games, West Brom would need to beat both Tottenham and Palace in their last two fixtures and hope for a miraculous set of results to escape. Brighton (almost certainly, although not mathematically safe) will be glad they have 37 points in the bag, as they are at home to Manchester United, before visits to Manchester City and Liverpool.

Much has been written about the number of goals we have conceded, and it doesn’t make for good reading. Whilst this highlights a big problem, you don’t go down based on goals against alone. If we did then the teams in biggest trouble would be West Ham (67 conceded), Stoke (65), Watford (62), and Bournemouth (60). Both West Brom and Southampton in the bottom three have conceded the same number of goals (54) as Everton who are eighth in the table.

Goals scored is a much better statistic for us, and if the league table was based on this alone then with 43 goals we would be sitting in eighth place, with only the top six teams and Leicester (9th) having scored more.

But points are the important factor, and regrettably we are not safe as we enter the final week. The trip to Leicester may not be as daunting as many would think as they seem to believe that they are on the beach already. They have only four points from their last five games and were hammered 5-0 by Palace last weekend. But conversely, that result could shake them into a big performance against us.

After the less than ideal set of results last weekend, in this round of matches we will be looking for Manchester City to beat Huddersfield (surely they will?), Swansea to lose at Bournemouth, Southampton to be beaten at Everton, and Stoke to fail to beat Palace (a draw will do from our point of view). Whatever the outcome of our game, the position should be much clearer by Sunday evening.

It would be good to believe that we will go into the Leicester game in a more positive frame of mind with greater attacking potential, but the baffling selections of the team in recent games would indicate otherwise. At this stage we have no idea if the manager will still be here next season, nor many of the players. We need a massive shake up from top to bottom of the club if we are to avoid a repeat of this season.

We don’t yet know if we will be playing in the Premier League or Championship next August. If you look at bookmakers odds then West Brom and Stoke are as good as down, with the other place closely fought out by Swansea, Southampton and Huddersfield. We are only on the fringes of the betting, and pessimists among you can get odds of up to 14/1 on us being relegated.

I have a feeling that we have enough points already, and if not, then I think we can scrape together what we need from these final games. It would be awful to go into the final game with our destiny still in the balance, and the sight of Big Sam on the touchline cupping his ear to listen to the reception he might get if things go horribly wrong would be too much to bear.

However, even if we avoid the drop, the negativity surrounding our club at the moment is a worrying thing and does not bode well for the immediate future.

West Ham v Man City Preview

With the success yesterday of teams who can still be relegated this season, we are still in potential danger

Yesterday’s results were not the best from our point of view. With just a fortnight of the Premier League season to go there is still a lot to play for by the teams at the foot of the table. Even West Brom who have looked doomed for a long time are not yet mathematically relegated, but surely they have left it too late? They are the only team who cannot overtake us. Stoke managed an unexpected goalless draw at Anfield, perhaps something to do with Liverpool’s continuing participation in Europe and their return match in Rome this week? Had Liverpool won the game we wouldn’t really be worrying about Stoke any more in view of their poor goal difference. But they have two winnable games left and can reach 36 points, one beyond our current total.

The other three teams below us, Southampton, Swansea and Huddersfield can all overtake us. Swansea and Southampton in particular have winnable games, but it could be a blessing that Swansea still have to face both Southampton and Stoke, and can take points off each other. I certainly wouldn’t want to change our position with Huddersfield who are level on points with us, but with an inferior goal difference. Their three remaining games are away at both Manchester City and Chelsea, with a final day at home to Arsenal.

It could be that we have enough points already, and I think that just one more will probably be enough, but that may not necessarily be the case with an unfortunate set of results. I just hope that we can achieve safety sooner rather than later, and I certainly wouldn’t want to go into the final fixture at home to Everton with the possibility of relegation still there. Everton have picked up in recent matches and have taken fourteen points from their last seven. Just imagine how Big Sam would relish that situation.

So where can we pick up any points in our final four games? Today will be the toughest task of all with bookmakers odds at 9/1 for us to win, and as long as 9/2 to even get a draw. If we do lose, and even wearing my optimistic hat I am afraid that is a likely outcome, then I hope that unlike their two most recent visits to us, they don’t inflict too much damage on our goal difference.

It would be absolutely brilliant to be walking back to Stratford station at 4.15 today with three points under our belt and almost certain safety. Stranger things have happened but if offered a draw now then we would surely bite the hand for it. But it is the most unlikely outcome of the game, and it looks as though we will need to get something from the last week of the season, either from our visit to Leicester, or from our final two home games against Manchester United or Everton.

Trust me, we will be OK.

Arsenal v West Ham Preview

Will the announcement of “Wexit” this week inspire Arsenal to victory or can West Ham edge closer to safety?

After the disappointment of our failure last Monday to beat a Stoke side that look doomed to spending next season in the Championship, we can take heart that as we go into today’s game against another of the top six elite sides, we are still in fourteenth place in the Premier League. A victory over the Potters would have virtually seen off the threat of relegation, albeit not mathematically, but nonetheless the point gained was also a point that ensured a single point for Stoke that leaves them with an uphill task of catching us as they are seven points behind with only four games to play. Similarly, Southampton who also have four games remaining are six points adrift of us. Of the six teams below us in the table, only Swansea have five games to play like ourselves. The others only have three or four games to save their season. Surely we can do enough in these remaining matches to ensure top flight football for another season, even though all of our outstanding games are against teams in the top nine of the table.

Before the announcement of the impending departure of Arsene Wenger this week I was of the opinion that this was as good a time as any to face a trip to the Emirates Stadium. So many ungrateful Arsenal fans have been staying away in protest against their manager of 22 years, who has only brought them three league titles and seven FA Cup final victories during his tenure! In 20 of those years Arsenal have finished in the top four and qualified for the Champions League each time. Virtually every other club in the country would be happy with such a record. But Arsenal fans, like all the other fans of the top six clubs, believe they have a divine right to be at the very top. When “Wexit” hit the headlines on Thursday there was some relief among the Gunners faithful and perhaps a renewed enthusiasm to follow the team, a situation that might add something to the Arsenal performance today.

Of course, Arsenal have a Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid next week, and some might believe that they could take their foot off the gas and rest some key players today, but I doubt that this will be the case. They are certainly not the invincible team that we have faced so often in recent years, and they lack the pace up front that was so regularly our undoing against them, but nevertheless they still play with a certain style that can cause us problems.

Unlike so many of our fans I would like to see Joe Hart retain his position in goal, even though he will be forced to step down in the forthcoming fixture against Manchester City. Yes, he dropped a clanger for the Stoke goal, but I was interested to read some statistics that showed he has made fewer errors that have led to goals this season than either Cech for Arsenal or Lloris for Tottenham. There has been much speculation this week that Moyes wants to sign him permanently, which has led to some fans taking to social media to express their displeasure. At his best he is a fine keeper, although I accept he has not been at this level this season. Three other goalkeepers who have played for England could also be in sides that are relegated this season, Forster, Butland and Foster. Perhaps we could be interested in one of those, although only Butland would perhaps be better than Hart in my view. Depending on whether or not Fulham are promoted to the Premier League, their highly rated custodian Bettinelli is another we might fancy.

I expect an unchanged back three of the ever-impressive Rice alongside the in-form Ogbonna and Cresswell. Zabaleta and Masuaku will probably continue as the wide players, but I fear for Noble and Kouyate being over-run in the middle. It will be interesting to see who is selected in attacking positions, with only the Hammer of the Year elect Arnie being certain to start. Mario, Lanzini, Hernandez, Carroll and Fernandes will all be vying for a place in the starting line-up. I thought that the manager was too negative with his selections for the Stoke game leaving Arnie too isolated, but I doubt that he will change for this game until we fall behind. Fernandes will be a fine player in time, but I don’t see him as an offensive threat, and if selected for today I would like to see him bolstering the middle alongside Noble and Kouyate. Carroll has a fine record against Arsenal, and thinking of horses for courses perhaps this is one game he should start. But I suspect he will once again be on the bench alongside Hernandez. Perhaps Lanzini will play in a more advanced role alongside Arnie?

But whoever is picked I am hoping that we can pick up another point to edge us closer to safety. The bookmakers don’t have us as such big outsiders as they have done against other top sides recently. We are only 5/1 to win the game and 7/2 to share the spoils. But whatever happens today we should retain our league position unless Swansea win unexpectedly at Manchester City. I’m going for 1-1.

Reminiscing about some West Ham v Stoke fixtures in the past

If it is not exactly a “must-win” game for the Hammers then it certainly is for the Potters if they are to have any prospect of playing Premier League football next season

Being of a certain age I can fondly recall the days when the prospect of a visit from Stoke City was one of the highlights of the season. For those of us who remember watching top flight football in the 1960s and early 1970s there were some epic fixtures against the Potters, who at the time were an attractive team that played entertaining football.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in early October 1967 with a crowd of 24,000, we took our places on the “big step” on the North Bank at Upton Park about half way back slightly to the left of the goal. The Bee Gees were about to take over from Englebert Humperdinck at the top of the charts with Massachusetts. We were looking forward to the game and the first half didn’t disappoint us. Our first goal arrived when Geoff Hurst volleyed home a cross from the left from Peter Brabrook wearing the unfamiliar number 9 shirt. We had gone into the game with three out and out wingers in Brabrook, Sissons and Redknapp. The second goal was a spectacular overhead kick from Martin Peters following a cross from Redknapp. Shortly afterwards Bobby Moore sent Redknapp hurtling down the right wing, and he crossed from the bye-line to Hurst who headed home from six yards. Game over. Or so we thought!

Stoke had nothing to lose and came out attacking in the second half. When they pulled one back we weren’t unduly worried, but when a second went in we could see how the game was turning. Then our keeper Bobby Ferguson badly fumbled a weak shot and the rebound was turned in to bring the scores level. Stoke were now rampant and scored again to win the game 4-3. It is over 50 years ago now, but I remember the game very clearly. I’m not sure of the exact timing of the Stoke goals but my recollection is of them going in one after another in a very short period of time, a complete defensive collapse.

A couple of seasons later, almost to the day, a record which was banned by the BBC for its overly sexual content, Je T’Aime, Moi Non Plus (Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg), was about to hot number one in the charts. If anything could be guaranteed to enhance the success of a song, being banned by the BBC was it. On a cold October Monday evening in front of a crowd of 27,000 we met Stoke again and raced into a three goal half time lead with strikes from Best, Brooking and Sissons. I can’t remember why, but Moore, Peters and Hurst who played in virtually every game at the time, were all missing for this fixture. From our customary North Bank vantage point we joked that we would probably lose 4-3 just as we had two seasons earlier. And we very nearly did! Once again Stoke came storming back to equalise the game at 3-3, and with almost the last kick of the game they struck the post.

Two seasons later we met Stoke in a League Cup semi-final that went to four games. In those days there were replays rather than penalty shoot-outs. On a Wednesday evening in December the first leg was away in the Potteries and we won the game 2-1 with goals from Best and a Geoff Hurst penalty. We were getting ready for a trip to Wembley! Almost 39,000 crammed into Upton Park for the second leg a week later. Stoke scored to bring the tie level at 2-2 before very late in the game we were awarded a penalty right in front of us in the North Bank. Geoff Hurst powered the spot-kick to the keeper’s right (as he always did), but the legendary Gordon Banks pulled off a magnificent save, and we went to a replay at Hillsborough in early January. That game ended goalless, so the tie went to a second replay, this time at Old Trafford three weeks later. For the whole of January the New Seekers were topping the charts singing (in Perfect Harmony!) that they’d like to teach the world to sing, a song made even more famous when it was used as a TV advertisement for Coca-Cola.

This second replay was incident packed, and one of the all-time great cup ties. It is remembered for Bobby Moore going in goal to replace the injured Bobby Ferguson who was concussed from a kick in the head early in the game. Incredibly Moore saved a penalty, although the rebound was turned in to put us 1-0 down. Incredibly we fought back and scored twice with goals from Billy Bonds and Trevor Brooking. Ferguson returned to the game to resume in goal seemingly still concussed (it couldn’t happen today!), but we conceded two further goals, and Stoke won the game 3-2 to reach the Wembley final, where they beat the strong favourites Chelsea to win their first ever major trophy. They haven’t won another since.

Those heady football (and charts) memories are distant now, and neither Stoke (nor ourselves for that matter) are renowned these days for the entertaining style of our play. In recent years beginning with the Tony Pulis era, Stoke have become a team that I particularly dislike to watch. Their time wasting, blocking off the ball (American football style), and long throw game made them one of the most unattractive fixtures of the season. They regularly played the game to achieve throw-ins in the opposition half, and then Rory Delap would spend an age wiping the ball with a towel before launching the ball towards the penalty area to meet the head of one of their giants. One game I remember in particular was in the 2008/9 season when Stoke had returned to the top flight. Abdoulaye Faye (who later played for us in our promotion season three years later) scored for them in the first five minutes and then they killed the game stone dead with their tactics. We attacked them relentlessly and Carlton Cole scored an equaliser in the second half. The recriminations amongst the Stoke players led to Ricardo Fuller hitting one of his own players and getting sent off. With ten men, their time wasting went up a notch (if that was possible) whilst we continued to press for a winner. In the very last minute a Cole shot hit Diego Tristan (remember him?) and it fortuitously went into the goal. Stoke got exactly what they deserved.

So now we meet them again on a Monday night with a lot at stake. Our point at Chelsea last week took us closer to safety, and I hope that we can put another nail in the Stoke relegation coffin with a victory that would almost certainly mean we will retain our position in the top flight. With most bookmakers we are around even money to win the game which I believe to be very generous odds. Hopefully we can unlock the Stoke defence, which has conceded more goals than any other Premier League team this season (and they have the worst goal difference). In their position, with games fast running out, they surely will not sit back and play for a point as they really need to win most of their final games to stay up. After the game here they face Burnley, Liverpool, Palace and Swansea.

We have some tough fixtures ourselves after this game, so let’s hope we can put further daylight between us and the bottom three with three more points. A three goal lead by half time would be good! When we raced into a three goal advantage at half time in our last home game against Southampton it got me thinking as to how many times we had been three goals ahead just half way through a game in the sixty years I have been following West Ham. I couldn’t think of many, and with Stoke being our next home fixture, it reminded me of those two classic fixtures from the late 1960s. Of course this game will be nothing like those; it will be a tight, tense affair. Or will it?

Chelsea v West Ham – Saturday’s results could hardly have been better for the Hammers

With the relegation field narrowing each week can the Hammers return from their trip up west with some much needed survival points?

On Saturday morning we were in 14th place in the Premier League, and with no game until today, there was every chance that we could have slipped down the table with most of the teams still involved in the relegation scrap having the opportunity to pick up points. But none of the teams below us managed to win a game which was probably the best we could have hoped for, so we go into today’s game with little to lose, and everything to gain. An average of a point a game has kept teams outside the bottom three all season, and it is looking increasingly likely that 38 points will be more than enough to achieve safety. It may only take 35 or 36.

Newcastle reached that level (38) yesterday with an important win at Leicester, as did Bournemouth who once again managed a late equaliser to deny Crystal Palace an away victory. They should both now be safe, as Watford almost certainly are with 37. I think that we can now narrow down the potential relegation candidates to eight teams as set out in the table below. Stoke lost to Tottenham, Brighton drew with Huddersfield, and Swansea could only manage a draw at doomed West Brom. I don’t think we could have wished for better than that.

Southampton play at Arsenal today, so I’m hoping that they will not gain on us, and they won’t have a hope of doing so if they replicate their woeful performance against us at the London Stadium last week.

The bottom teams in the Premier League Points Goal Diff. Games Played Games to play
13. Brighton 35 -14 32 6
14. West Ham 33 -18 31 7
15. Swansea 32 -19 32 6
16. Huddersfield 32 -28 33 5
17. Crystal Palace 31 -19 33 5
18. Southampton 28 -18 31 7
19. Stoke City 27 -33 33 5
20. West Brom 21 -26 33 5

It could be that Brighton have enough points already, but three more points will almost certainly see them safe. It is just as well that they have 35 points in the bag, as I doubt that they will get many more in their six remaining fixtures, two games at home to Tottenham and Manchester United, and four away games at Palace, Burnley, Manchester City and Liverpool. Our remaining fixtures are not the easiest but a home win against Stoke in the next round of matches should see us virtually safe with five games to go. Looking at the outstanding games, Palace have the easiest run-in on paper, and Swansea have a tough run of games before meeting Southampton and Stoke at home to round off their season. Huddersfield’s next game at home to Watford is a big game for them, as their final four fixtures see them play Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City and Arsenal.

At this stage I reckon that West Brom and Stoke are as good as down, and they will be joined by Southampton or Huddersfield. Bookmakers tend to agree with my assertion with both West Brom and Stoke at massive odds on to be relegated, and Southampton / Huddersfield both around even money. You can get around 5-1 on Swansea, 8-1 on Palace, and 10-1 on ourselves to be playing Championship football next season.

So what chance do we have in today’s game? Very little based on recent visits to Stamford Bridge. The last time we won a Premier League game there Di Canio netted the winner so you can see how long ago that was. Unsurprisingly Chelsea are massively odds on to collect three points, whereas you can get upwards of 10/1 on a West Ham win.

I’m hoping that we can upset the odds, but more than that looking for us to put in a good performance in the game. We beat them in the reverse fixture at home when Arnie scored the only goal of the game, so what chance we can do the double?

West Ham v Southampton – the archetypal six-pointer

West Ham have just eight games remaining to collect sufficient points to ensure their six-year stay in the top flight of English football continues for at least one further season.

It seems ridiculous on the face of it, as the football season is approaching its climax (we are only six weeks away from the final game), that we should have a gap of three weeks between games. This is, of course, due to the later rounds of the FA Cup and the international break taking precedence. In view of our dismal form prior to the break, then perhaps in our case it is a welcome chance to re-group, work hard, and re-charge our batteries for the run-in. We have just eight games remaining to collect sufficient points to ensure that our six-year stay in the top flight of English football continues for at least one further season.

Whilst all of the remaining games are likely to be important, this match against Southampton is a particularly crucial one. Looking at the other fixtures in this round concerning other teams involved in the relegation scrap, Stoke are playing at Arsenal, whereas Newcastle are at home to Huddersfield, Palace face a tough game with Liverpool visiting Selhurst Park, and Swansea travel to Old Trafford. If (and it is a big if) we can win the game, and if other results go our way, then the league table could look a lot healthier at the end of this group of matches. The table below represents the current position of the bottom eight, who I believe are the only realistic candidates for the drop. Brighton, Watford and Bournemouth on 34, 36, 36 points respectively, have probably done enough already but are not entirely safe yet.

The bottom teams in the Premier League Points Goal Diff. Games Played Pts in last 5 games Home games to play No. of top 6 teams to play
13. Newcastle 32 -10 30 8 4 3
14. Swansea 31 -17 30 8 4 3
15. Huddersfield 31 -27 31 7 3 3
16. Crystal Palace 30 -18 31 3 4 1
17. West Ham 30 -21 30 3 5 4
18. Southampton 28 -15 30 5 3 3
19. Stoke City 27 -29 31 3 3 3
20. West Brom 20 -25 31 0 4 3

A victory, with the other results going to form in our favour could see us climb as high as 14th place in the table on 33 points. If that does happen then we could be five points clear of the drop zone with seven games to play, whereas some of the others would only have six matches outstanding. When you look at the table, then the bottom five have the poorest form in the last five games. We hold a bit of an advantage in that we still have five home games to play, which is more than any of the others, but on the other hand we have more teams in the top six to play in our remaining fixtures.

A draw would still leave us well in the mix with a lot to do, whereas a defeat would be almost unthinkable as we would drop into the bottom three. It is still not clear exactly how many points will be needed to stay up, but any team averaging a point a game continues to be outside of the bottom three. If this remains to the end of the season, and I believe it will, then 38 should be a safe figure. At this stage my money would be on West Brom, Stoke, and Huddersfield to go down, but things can still change. The bookmakers’ odds concur with my prediction, as these are the three favourites, with Southampton and ourselves neck and neck just beyond them. West Brom look as certain as can be, whereas Stoke could join them adrift of the pack with their next two games against Arsenal and Tottenham, before they face us at the London Stadium on April 16. We have a fairly difficult run-in ourselves, but Southampton could also find themselves in a difficult position if we beat them, and then their next three games see them facing Arsenal (A), Chelsea (H) and Leicester (A).

Huddersfield face two tough away games at Newcastle and Brighton before a home fixture against Watford. Their run-in then sees them playing Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City and Arsenal, and with their very poor goal difference I can see them joining West Brom and Stoke in the Championship next season.

I see that a demonstration is planned at Stratford prior to the game, but I hope that the support is right behind the team when the game gets underway, and that we don’t see a repeat of the despair that was evident when we went a goal down against Burnley last time. I’m hoping that the sight of Mark Hughes on the touchline will once again inspire Arnie into a match-winning performance, but I’ve given up on trying to predict the team that our manager will select for this crucial game, as I am unable to read his mind.

The most recent games between West Ham and Southampton have seen a glut of goals, including the fixture earlier in the season when we went down 3-2 to a late goal from a soft penalty, after pulling back from a two goal deficit. If our visitors win the game it would be the first time that they had completed a double in the league over us in a season for 20 years, and by doing so they would apparently inflict upon us our 1000th defeat in the top division in our history. And if they beat us by three goals then that would be our fourth consecutive league defeat by this margin or more, an unfortunate “feat” that hasn’t happened in the top flight of English football for 50 years! You know what happens with statistics like these when West Ham are involved!

There are concerns over the fitness of Lanzini who was on international duty in the break, but Masuaku can return after his six game suspension, and apparently Fernandes, who hasn’t been seen for some time, is fit once again. Rice received some excellent reviews for his performance for Ireland and must start to get a permanent run in the team soon. But whatever happens, all will not be decided this weekend with a lot of football still to be played this season.

Although there are still five home games to go, this will be the last Saturday 3pm kick off at the London Stadium. I fancy a surprising and unexpected 4-1 win for us. Of course what I fancy is extremely unlikely, but you can always hope!