Pards Gets Cup Fever

DESPITE being engaged in a tough promotion battle, Alan Pardew is looking forward to the distraction of FA Cup weekend, when his Hammers take on Norwich at Upton Park.

And after a week that saw the highs of a 2-0 win at Ipswich Town and the lows of a 2-0 reverse against Sheffield United, Pards admits that his side will benefit from the change of focus.

"The glamour and excitement of the FA Cup certainly gives the players a lift," said Alan, "and we need that after a disappointing result against Sheffield United.

"It's a fantastic competition, watched and admired all over the world, and players and managers alike are all desperate to do well in it.

"It also allows for a slight shift in emphasis away from the League programme.

"The pressures of the promotion race are intense and it's been good for us to be able to get away from that this week.

"But there is still a tough FA Cup tie to be played and nobody is taking it for granted. We go out determined to win every game and we are focused on trying to progress as far as we can in this season's FA Cup.

"The financial rewards for doing well in the Cup are obvious, but that will only be a small part of it for us this weekend.

"We really want to put in a good performance for the fans and pay them back for their support against Sheffield United. We had a disappointing result on Monday and it would be fantastic to put that right with a win against Norwich."

Hammers emerged from the gruelling holiday schedule with one of the better records among the promotion chasing teams - taking seven points from four games. However, they have paid a price for those points and will go into Saturday's Cup clash shorn of senior personnel.

Teddy Sheringham(ankle), Steve Lomas(calf), Matty Etherington(groin) and Christian Dailly(knee) are confined to the treatment room, while Bobby Zamora is suspended for picking up five yellow cards and Gavin Williams is cup-tied.

As a result, Hammers fans may be treated with a glimpse into the future, as Academy graduates like Mark Noble, Chris Cohen and Trent McClenahan push for first-team places.

"This could be a good opportunity for some of the younger players to impress," hinted Pards. "We are short of some first-team players, but there are some very promising young lads desperate for their chance, and they just might get that against Norwich.

"Teddy Sheringham and Steve Lomas both picked up injuries at Rotherham, while Matty suffered a groin injury against Sheffield United and had to come off at half-time.

"Those players definitely won't be involved and it will also be a blow to lose Bobby Zamora from the squad, who is suspended, and Gavin Williams who is cup-tied.

"Gavin has come into the side and been asked to play in a more central midfield role, where he has done extremely well so far. He's shown a lot of promise since joining the Club and could have a bright future here.

"This week we've tried to get some rest and recovery in, because it's been a very intense period for us.

"A flu bug went through the team last weekend, which lowers the metabolism and really saps the energy of the players.

"That possibly showed in our performance on Monday, when some players looked like they were suffering.
"But hopefully we've got through that now and we can go out on Saturday and put in a fresh and enthusiastic performance."

West Ham's desire for a good run in the FA Cup is undiminished by the heavy toll the backlog of matches might take on Pards' squad going into a crucial period of the season.
"The burden of an additional Cup programme isn't something that has entered my thoughts during the build up," he insisted. "The prestige and rewards associated with doing well in the FA Cup are vast and we want to go as far as we can in the competition.

"Admittedly, with the pace of the game today, I think that the League programme of 46 matches is very demanding, and the Cup only adds to that.

"It's particularly strenuous over Christmas and New Year, but every team has to cope with that and just get on with it.

"There is a very tough Cup-tie coming up for us on Saturday and we're focused on giving the best performance possible and hopefully earning a place in the Fourth Round."