In his latest exclusive offering for whufc.com, Lucas Neill reflects on a good week for West Ham United that saw notable contributions from Robert Green and Carlton Cole in the 0-0 draw and 2-1 win at Portsmouth and Coventry City respectively. He also turns his attention to the Carling Cup quarter-finals and looks ahead to the visit of Bolton Wanderers this Sunday.
Fratton Park as we know is a tough place to go and on the whole we probably could have walked away with three points. But, thanks to Greenie's last-minute save, he turned what would have been a harsh defeat into a draw and the reaction from both fans and players was a real morale-boosting one which made us feel like we had won.
In particular our fans' reaction was one of pandemonium and it was great to see them sticking with us till the end for both that game and at the Ricoh Arena. The win gave us the boost and confidence to go into that next game which we always knew was going to be tough away from home against a team who had already taken a big scalp.
We have been thrown a lot of tests with team selection at the moment with players trying to find form and players trying to find fitness. We came up against a Coventry team who were obviously up for the game and who probably played the best they have played all season going off the clips that we watched. It ultimately doesn't matter how you play in the cup, if you come away knowing you showed the mental toughness and resilience to keep going till the end and get into the next round, you deserve to be there.
Our objective for the four games after Sunderland was to get at least seven points and get through to the next round. So far we have ticked off a point and a cup victory so now we are looking to get two wins to achieve our target. This would leave us in a strong position in the top half of the league and, with everything that has been going on of late with the run of injuries and a couple of inconsistent performances, to be in the quarter-final of a cup and in the top half of the table a third of the way into the season is a great platform to build from.
Even though we are eleventh in the league and in the quarters I don't think we are anywhere near where we want to be in terms of performances on the pitch. But, if we are not playing well and still picking up points, the signs are good that sooner or later we are going to hit a patch of form that will see us both playing and winning well. It may not be pretty or entertaining for the fans to watch but through the course of the season we are always going to hit a purple patch like we did last season. If you go into that patch already in a strong position then things are looking good for our target of a top-eight finish.
At one stage on Wednesday night, it looked like there could have been a few potential upsets in the last 16, but now we have an all Premier League last eight. In the first few rounds, we were always the favourites to win but now the bookies have us as the underdogs to go on and win the whole thing. I on the other hand feel that last-minute goals against Plymouth and Coventry show just how much hunger we have to progress in this competition and that if we get a home draw we will be in a strong position to make the semis. There is no team now left in the competition that would scare anyone and on their day any team can win so why not let it be us that gets into that last four?
Congrats to Coley on a great performance and goal the other night, he has had his critics at the start of the season but always maintained his own self-belief. He has really answered the call and led the line, and is starting to score goals which will no doubt do his confidence good and change the opinions of those that have doubted his ability.
We welcome the staff, fans and players of Bolton, this is a must-win game for us against a side who find themselves at the wrong end of the table with some very good players. We hope to emulate the home performance against them last year when we were very dominant and raced into a comfortable lead which we held on to for the second half to get a well deserved victory.
I have read the comments made by the sports minister about players' wages and as we all know, sports and politics don't mix! It seems that all the positive things that we try to do get minimal small print whereas if one person decides to give their opinion about us being overpaid it makes the headlines.
We are in a sporting industry that is commercially very strong where we are basically paid the going rate, and we don't set that rate. It is dictated by the money that is thrown into the industry and the popularity of the sport. We are an easy target, but anyone in a position where they are offered good money to live their dream would sign up immediately and we are no different.
Because we are in the public eye we have a huge responsibility which we take very seriously. We are human beings that sometimes make mistakes but on the whole we all very committed to doing our best every week to justify what we are paid. I think it is about time people start analysing us for the work we do off the field that no one ever sees - the effort we make to touch people's hearts and give people a lift who need it, and try and give a lot back which always goes unnoticed.
Thank you for your continued support.