Downes backs old pal Thorn

Wally Downes will come face-to-face with a familiar face when West Ham United take on Coventry City on Saturday.

The Hammers first-team coach played alongside Sky Blues manager Andy Thorn for Wimbledon between 1984 and 1988, mentoring his young colleague and helping him to become an England Under-21 international during his time at Plough Lane.

Indeed, a broken leg suffered by Downes allowed Thorn to make his Dons debut in the spring of 1985 and set him on the path to a career that saw him appear in two FA Cup finals.

"I played alongside Andy for a few seasons at Wimbledon," said Downes. "He was a youngster coming through and he made his debut in my position in the week after I broke my leg.

"He was a centre-half who was not blessed with pace, but he read the game very well. He was very astute and always knew when to drop off or when to step up and play offside, which was easier in those days.

"He was a terrific fella in the dressing room, too."

Andy Thorn

Andy Thorn played alongside Wally Downes at Wimbledon

While Downes moved into coaching with Crystal Palace immediately following the end of his playing career in 1988, Thorn instead turned to scouting, working as chief scout at Everton and Fulham before taking the same role at Coventry in 2008.

After three years in that role, the 45-year-old was appointed as the club's caretaker manager in March 2011 before taking the role permanently two months later.

"I'm surprised it took him so long to become a manager, because he was the chief scout at Everton and Fulham for a few years and once he hadn't gone into management or coaching from the get-go, I didn't think he'd ever want to do it," said Downes.

"He's gone into a difficult situation at Coventry where they have had to get rid of their highest-earning players and he has had to work with a young group of players.

"I'm sure that, with the inexperienced squad he has got, they are doing well not to be detached at the bottom of the table."

Coventry have won just two of their opening 16 npower Championship fixtures so far, but Downes believes his old pal can guide a young Sky Blues squad to safety, providing he is given the time and resources to do so.

"He has got good knowledge of the game. What he needs is a little bit of backing to get a couple more players in because, looking at the ages of the players who featured in their last game, they are very inexperienced.

"Having said that, it is good to get the youngsters working for you and running for you. It's a double-edged sword and a difficult first job for Andy, but he's making a fist of it and the players are working for him."

While Downes is naturally keen for his former team-mate to do well, the first-team coach knows West Ham need to secure all three points from places like the Ricoh Arena if they are to harbour hopes of automatic promotion this term.

"It's a must that we continue our good away form at Coventry. We've got to win and keep on winning. That's all we can do."