Manager on Monday

West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce was happy that the Hammers once again have promotion to the Barclays Premier League back in their own hands.

Big Sam and his squad were back at Chadwell Heath on Sunday morning after Saturday's 2-1 win against Hull City did not prove to be quite enough as Southampton secured the final automatic promotion spot. That means West Ham will now face a Play-Off semi-final away at Cardiff City on Thursday before a Bank Holiday Monday second leg to decide who goes through to the Wembley final.

"It'll be a Bank Holiday Monday and everyone will be looking to finishing the long weekend off by coming here and supporting us and hoping that we can get through the two-legged tie," said the boss.

"We just have to not worry about it and relax and enjoy the couple of days that we'll have to recover from Saturday, not just with ourselves, but at home with our families, to make sure we rest the bodies and get as much mental and physical fatigue out as you can.

"We're stronger and fitter than we were at the start of the season and that's an important thing at this stage of the season. We've increased the fitness levels by preparing and recovering and using them in the right way and keeping them as fresh as we can."


Allardyce had the luxury of a near fully-fit squad on Saturday and will help the minor knocks and bumps will be patched up in time for Thursday night's game. James Tomkins and Kevin Nolan are both expected to be passed fit from head and leg injuries respectively, while there is some concern that Gary O'Neil will not make the game after a strong second-half tackle from Hull's Corry Evans left him with a sore right ankle.

"The main problem is the short time between now and Thursday after 46 long and tough games," said Big Sam. "We could have done with a bit longer to overcome the injuries that we might have but the schedules have to be met and that's where it fits it in.

"I had 21 players available on Saturday and I think the last time I had that was about five games in. The rest of the injured players have recovered and they'll come back into the squad.

"The players who are in very good form are key to us. The only disappointment from Saturday was that it was out of our hands and the injury to Gary O'Neil, which was very unfortunate and for him considering how well he's been playing."

West Ham will go into the Play-Offs full on a high, having lost just once since 1 February and with four wins in their last six games. Better still, Carlton Cole's brace against the Tigers demonstrated how Big Sam's strikers have started finding the net again on a regular basis, which is unlikely to have gone unnoticed by Cardiff City's Malky Mackay.

"We will all go into the game with a lot of confidence as we're playing well and we've all produced good performances. We've had some disappointing draws but the performances weren't bad but the end result was.

"18 games with one defeat is very good. We'll see what happens in the semis and then we'll worry about the final after."

Big Sam admitted that although there was some frustration that West Ham were unable to leapfrog the Saints on the final day, he knows that the togetherness of his squad will ensure only positive emotions will remain going into Thursday. Undoubtedly the support of the Hammers faithful be essential to maintain the good vibes, with the 35,000 packed into the Boleyn Ground on Saturday making West Ham's game the second-highest attended game in the country on the day.

"Coming into the ground on a day-to-day basis makes you smile as we've got a fantastic group of players. We're disappointed that we haven't achieved our ultimate goal of automatic promotion.

"What I've got to do is show them the way forward and produce that form that will be good enough for the Play-Offs two legs and not concern ourselves with the final or even think about it yet.

"Of the 30 teams that have been relegated in the last ten years, only eight have gone straight back up. For four of last five seasons, 86 points were enough and that shows you we are a bit unlucky but we've got to master our own destiny and prove that what we've got is good enough."