Cresswell: I'm enjoying my new defensive role
Back around the turn of the century, a smart transfer target on the legendary management simulation computer game Championship Manager was a ‘LB/LCB’ named Stuart Pearce.
As a younger player, Pearce had been a standout left-back; strong in the tackle, keen to get forward and in possession of a thunderous left foot capable of delivering pinpoint crosses and rapier-like shots.
Later, Pearce returned to the position he had played as a teenager, centre-back, playing out the final season his West Ham United career on the left side of Harry Redknapp’s experienced three-man defence alongside a combination of Christian Dailly, Igor Stimac or Ian Pearce.
Fast forward 16 years and the Three Lions legend is back in Claret and Blue, this time as a first-team coaching assistant, overseeing the transformation of another England left-back, Aaron Cresswell, into a central defender.
Cresswell has played on the left of David Moyes’ own three-man defence in each of West Ham’s last three Premier League matches; matches in which the Hammers have looked strong, organised and resilient in taking on three of the best teams in the country.
The No3 himself has enjoyed his new role, although he admits he was surprised when Moyes and Pearce suggest he move inside from the position he has played for his entire career up to this point.
I definitely feel I’m improving under the manager and his staff
“I’m enjoying it,” he confirmed. “When the gaffer asked me to play there against Manchester City, sometimes you have to fill in when we have a few injuries, but we’ve picked up from there and we’ve kept two clean sheets in a row, so hopefully we can keep that going.
“I definitely feel I’m improving under the manager and his staff. Anyone who watches his training sessions will see organisation, set pieces and defending as a unit are his main things and that’s what we’ve done.
“Defensively, it hadn’t been good enough, so to get two clean sheets against two of the best teams in the league, defend really well and be unfortunate not to get something out of the game at Manchester City was very good.”
With Winston Reid suspended, Cresswell is likely to remain in the centre of defence at Stoke City on Saturday, should Moyes stick with the five-man defence that has served him so well in recent weeks.
“We’re looking forward to it and relishing it as we’re certainly feeling full of confidence after playing against three of the best teams in the league and taking four points from the last two. We just need to continue that now and take it into Saturday.
“It’s very demanding at this time of year. Some of the front boys put so much effort in, as they run the most sprints, whereas the back five are sitting in deep and defending. They really put a shift in and credit to them for putting that effort in for the team.
“It’ll be a different type of game at Stoke, but we’re still going to be focused on keeping that clean sheet and, with the midfielders and attacking players we’ve got in the team, I’d fancy us to get some goals.”