Manager on Monday

Avram Grant has revealed why he held firm at half-time of Saturday's 3-3 draw with West Bromwich Albion - despite the grim situation facing his team.

The manager was questioned on why he chose not to make any changes, having seen three goals put past Robert Green without reply on an intimidating afternoon at The Hawthorns. Instead, he focused efforts on altering the tactics and giving his players the belief to come back stronger in the second half. He was certainly not thinking about what a defeat might mean personally.

"The last thing I was thinking at the half-time was about myself," he said, preferring instead for his players to display extra courage and character. "I said to the players you need to think how you can change the game. We spoke about that it is good to show belief, and that if we could do a little bit more, we could get something from the game.

"We changed the formation from 4-4-2 tactically. I didn't change the personnel because I thought we could do it with the same players. Sometimes at half-time, changing players is not the answer. It can also suggest you are panicking.

"I wanted to show the players we trust them to do the job. We started the second half very well and not just because of the goal. We pressed well and then I was able to make the change with Freddie Piquionne, and he was good for us.

"I thought about changing but it shows the players that you trust them. Even if the first half was not so good, we had finished with a lot of possession."

That first half was an incredible 45 minutes, with the Baggies racing into a three-goal lead with some dominant play. Nevertheless, the Hammers had twice hit the woodwork and had a perfectly good goal disallowed. Grant knew there was still all to play for and so it proved as two fine finishes from Demba Ba, either side of a Carlton Cole header, restored parity. It could even have been better.

"I think if you look at the chances, we could have won the game. We scored three goals, also had a goal that was onside ruled out - two were cleared from the line, we hit the bar two times and we hit the post. We created a lot of chances. We just paid the price for poor defending in the first half."

While Scott Parker's inspiration as stand-in skipper rightly got the post-match attention, Grant also paid tribute to the massed ranks of travelling supporters. It was a familiar story from the ever-grateful manager. "I understand the fans very well. They came all the way and we were three-nil down. Then it became 3-3 and they were so happy.

"We show a lot of character in difficult situations. The fans are great for us. They are behind us. Except for one game at Liverpool, which I fully understand, they have always been behind us."

Those supporters were particularly noisy for their new hero, with Ba setting the bar high on his full debut in a Hammers shirt. Grant said it was sn especially strong contribution because he had spent a month on the sidelines before his switch from German football. "Demba is a good player. He has good quality. We needed him to do 90 minutes which he hadn't done because he has only just started to train, but it wasn't a problem.

"He doesn't remind me of anyone. He is not the next Drogba or the next Tevez, I think Demba Ba is just Demba Ba!"

Ba got his chance with Victor Obinna withdrawing with an ankle problem picked up back in Nigeria, while Robbie Keane is out for at least a month with a calf injury. In all, five players from the previous awayday triumph at Blackpool were ruled out including defensive trio Danny Gabbidon (hamstring), James Tomkins (calf) and captain Matthew Upson (achilles tendonitis).

"This is the situation, we need to deal with it and handle it," added Grant, refusing to make excuses. One major positive, though, is Thomas Hitzlsperger's return from a thigh injury suffered while captaining Germany back in August. The midfielder could feature for the reserves again on Wednesday, before Monday week's FA Cup fifth-round visit of Burnley.

"Thomas has been the biggest frustration of the season. He was great in pre-season when we didn't lose a game. He played for Germany three days before the start of the season and they kept him on for 70 minutes. We needed him on the bench against West Brom because of our injuries but we didn't really want to use him. If he continues like he has been doing, he will be back soon."

After Burnley, Liverpool travel to the Boleyn on Sunday 27 February and the manager is full of faith in his team to get the 15 points he thinks could be enough to secure survival from the last eleven matches. "We have built a good squad. If everyone is fit, or even if 90 per cent are fit, we have a good team. If you make a form table of the last ten games, we are in the middle of the league."

Certainly the Olympic Stadium decision could be a catalyst for further improvement. "We are thinking positively. We have a long-term plan here at West Ham. We knew the first year would be difficult but our vision is that every year we will do the right thing.

"When we come to the stadium we will have a good team in the Premier League. We have a long term vision but long-term vision in football has to start with the next match."