Big Sam on: Reading

Sam Allardyce entertained the media on Friday morning ahead of Saturday's final game of 2012 against Reading.

The manager was in fine form as usual, boosted by the news that Carlton Cole is available after his successful appeal against the red card he was shown against Everton last weekend. Last season's top scorer will therefore lead the line once more as the Hammers look to bounce back from the double defeat they suffered against Reading last season.

Sam, can you start off by letting us know the latest team news ahead of Saturday's game against Reading?

SA: "Ricardo Vaz Te has trained with the lads this week and obviously Jack Collison and Alou Diarra returned to the squad last week. I think the limited players we have had available has definitely had a bearing on the results we have picked up but not so much our performances. We go to Reading and then play on New Year's Day but the game against Arsenal was called off so I am hoping that our energy levels will be really good for what are two very important games."

Is there any update on when Andy Carroll will return to action?

SA: "We hope that Andy will return to training sometime next week. The biggest and the best news we have had this week is that Carlton Cole's red card was rescinded. It is obviously the correct decision but from our point of view it is crucial because of the limited players we have available right now."

Did you expect the FA to overturn Carlton Cole's red card?

SA: "I do not think I was surprised but I was anxious because what has looked like a good case in the past has sometimes resulted in the red card standing. Often people in the refereeing world agree that a decision should be overturned but then they are not. On this case we are very pleased to have Carlton return during a very difficult time of the year."

He also seemed very pleased with the decision judging by his comments on twitter?

SA: "Well he should be because he is playing very well, he is leading the line and he is the pinnacle of all our creative play. His hold up play is very good and he is scoring goals at the moment, the one he scored against Everton was particularly good. We are seeing the Carlton Cole that we all want to see consistently and hopefully he can keep it up because he is a major threat against opposition players. It is important that when he is playing like this that we have him in the team so hopefully like I said he can carry on in the same vein."

He showed so much promise as a youngster at Chelsea but do you still feel you can get more out of him?

SA: "I do not think that Carlton is going to change hugely anymore but I do believe he has been more consistent during my time here. He has been better than I expected purely because of the perception of what Carlton is and is not from the outside world. He has been somebody I have really enjoyed working with, all players have their faults but I have enjoyed his company, his personality and when he is on song, his footballing ability. The question around Carlton has always been has he done it consistently with the ability he has but now he is certainly doing it and long may it continue."

Are the games against the bottom three the biggest you face because I would imagine at the start of the season survival was the aim?

SA: "Of course, I think the ultimate target was to stay in the division but the real target is what is the best we can possibly achieve? That real aim would have been about tenth in the league, that was our top outcome if everything went in our favour, we did not get too many injuries and we did not have too many decisions go against us. I hear Brian (McDermott) complain bitterly about the decisions he has had to take on more than one occasion but whether he is right or wrong I do not know.

"I have certainly suffered that in previous times and years in football and they do make a lot of difference because they do not even themselves out over the course of a season. They can get managers the sack irrespective of what people say because they can happen at crucial times and on a consistent basis. It is not the only reason but it contributes because your team could also not be scoring enough and conceding too many."

West Ham United and Reading were both promoted to the Barclays Premier League last season, but do you believe it is harder to stay up this season compared to when you were promoted with Bolton?

SA: "No, I think it is just the same. It is about your players, your beliefs and how you prepare your team. Then it is about external factors like the referee, the bounce of a ball and getting a little bit of luck. First and foremost you have to try and control what you can control, at the end of the day somebody has to win the title and somebody has to get relegated.

"What you have to do is make sure that you are away from the pressure pot, and the pressure pot is where Reading have been knocking about all season. It is a massive burden to carry especially at this point of the season because the players will not be very happy and they will be feeling extremely down. They will have come into this division excited but they are now facing the harsh realities week in week out and not getting results."

We have spoken before about Nicolas Anelka and the possibility of him joining the club in January. Is that a move that could potentially happen?

SA: "Nicolas is a player of great talent and great ability, I think that the one problem we would have is can we afford him. That would be the only thing blocking me from wanting to sign Nicolas Anelka."