Cup memories inspire Grant

Avram Grant would relish history repeating itself when West Ham United welcome Stoke City in the Carling Cup last 16 on Wednesday night.

The manager was at Portsmouth last season when they took on the Potters in the same round of the same competition. Pompey won 4-0 against Tony Pulis's side with Freddie Piquionne scoring twice, and took that form on to the following weekend when they won by the same scoreline against Wigan Athletic.

"It would be very nice to repeat that," said Grant. "I remember the game well. It was three weeks after I arrived and it was a great game. After that we also won a big game in the league and the football side improved."

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The Hammers reached this season's fourth round with a fine 2-1 win at Sunderland and, as well as keeping the cup dream alive, it also proved the platform for the 1-0 home win against Tottenham four days later.

Grant added: "The Carling Cup is important. We won at Sunderland in the last round and this gave us a big lift forward for the league. We played well against a difficult team and then won against Tottenham. We want to do the same again.

"It will be a big test. Against Stoke it is always a battle, a physical and mental battle. You always need to be awake, as it is a different style of football. We did well at Stoke in the league last month and I hope we reproduce that."

The manager has been impressed by the way the players have responded in training since the weekend loss against Newcastle United.

"I have been surprised by the mood. The players are disappointed of course but they are more determined to get back to the form that we have shown in the past month. We had been much better than we were at the start of the season and enjoyed a good unbeaten run.

"Unfortunately we lost the game on Saturday. We cannot change these things but we can learn from it. We need to focus on the positive side. We have learnt from our mistakes before and come back strongly."

As in the previous rounds, the manager may make a few changes - some possibly enforced with weekend worries over Matthew Upson and Piquionne. "The medical department are doing their best to get as many players ready as possible.


"We have a few players that are coming back from injury and we need to protect them. It is not easy. We want to use them. It is difficult when you play two times a week but we will do the best we can."

While some changes may be enforced, the manager may also use the chance to look at players who have been working hard at Chadwell Heath but have not figured much of late. "We changed a few things in the team against Sunderland in the last round and it was very positive. Players came in and performed well and gave us a better understanding of the squad. This will be the case again

"At the beginning of the season people said we didn't have a strong squad. I would not say we can rival the top four but the cup has helped to show that we do have good players and more options."

Grant hoped the supporters would be in full voice for a noisy night under the lights that has to be settled on the evening - with the prospect of extra time and penalties should the 90 minutes not separate the sides. He knows full well what a good cup run can do and would relish the chance to give all at the Boleyn a lift.

"The fans are great here. They support the team and I feel them everywhere. They are having to be patient but they knew like everyone that this season would be a difficult one.

"I can tell you that I was a few times at Wembley and even one time in Moscow. It is nice to have a cup run. It is one game and we need to focus. In the league, you can lose a game but you can recover in the next match. In the cup if you do a mistake you are out.

"We have to make the match all about us. We have bounced back before this season and we will be working hard to do that once again."

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