Big Sam on: Stoke City

Sam Allardyce spoke to the media on Thursday morning at his press conference ahead of Saturday's trip to Stoke City.

The West Ham United manager was quizzed on the latest team news ahead of the game, his side's fine recent run and the challenges that the Hammers will face against Stoke on Saturday.

Morning Sam, after not playing last weekend, how important is it to pick up momentum again?

SA: "Like everything else it's another game that we've had to wait a couple of weeks for and we obviously want to go and try to get a result. After a valiant effort at Everton, just losing by the odd goal shows that the basis of our team is our defensive qualities and on this occasion we couldn't convert any of our opportunities into goals as we have done so regularly before that. It's a real tough game for us because their home form has been very, very good, as it was under Tony Pulis. I think they're fifth in the table in terms of home form, only losing two, so it shows you how tough the game is going to be for us. Everybody has to be at their best on Saturday. They've had a good rest, some time with their families then they've worked very hard this week to get ready for what they need to do on Saturday to get a good result at Stoke City."

Apart from their good home record, are there any particular challenges in terms of playing Stoke?

SA: "You have to deal with the front men. Everybody that has players on the frontline who can cause you problems need to be dealt with first when you're playing away from home. They mix up the service a little bit more than Tony [Pulis] did, so you've got a mixture of playing off Crouchy or through midfield. It's slightly different to how it used to be when Tony was there, but it's equally as dangerous in those areas as they always were. Our defensive unit has to be solid and aware of what they're going to try and do to break us down.

"When you're in possession you must retain that possession and then try to create opportunities against the opposition that you think you can expose. It'll be about our players playing their best there. I remember us having a fantastic result there last year, a 1-0 win with Jack Collison scoring. We go in good form, even though we lost to Everton, we go with a lot of confidence and we've got to make sure we convert that confidence into a very good performance."

I saw a report recently that said you'd stopped your players from going to the Cheltenham festival this week, is there any truth in that?

SA: "No, not really. They thought they were having a day off on Wednesday that they didn't get. They generally get Wednesdays off in a normal week, but this wasn't a normal week for me. They never got told so they probably thought to plan to go to Cheltenham, but when they found out they were in on Wednesday they couldn't go. It wasn't a normal week, like I said, and I wanted to do some functional work for the team to re-emphasise what we're good at and make sure we remember what we're good at.

"When you've had a period of time longer than normal without a game, then players tend, in the early part of last week, to switch off mentally. They tend to think 'It's two weeks away, I can relax a little bit', take their minds off the pressures in and around the Barclays Premier League and you have to switch them back on. You have to make sure they get focused again."

After the break last week, do you see this as the start of the final phase of the season?

SA: "It's ten games to go, ten very important games to try and achieve as many points as we possibly can. We'd have to say at this stage of the season it's about how quickly can you get safe. How quickly as a squad of players can you achieve the results you need to achieve to secure your position in the Barclays Premier League because then it's an opportunity to ease the pressure on the players that everybody has at this stage of the season. You see how far then you can finish in the league. First priority is how quickly can you achieve safety, and then from there it's about whether you can go on from there."

Is the aim, ultimately, to be the best of the rest and finish in the top half?

SA: "There's not a huge amount of difference between tenth and the bottom three so that can change very, very quickly. Falling games behind is not what you want to do. To make those games up and points up, where others have played games if they've picked the points up is a difficult task. I think we're going to fall another game behind in a few weeks time when we were scheduled to play Arsenal who are now in the semi-finals of the cup.

"It's going to be a pretty tricky schedule to manage, so we have two weeks off and then we're going to have to play three games in a week when the opposition won't have had to do that. That becomes a difficulty then with the physical capabilities of the players. It's a pretty difficult situation to manage, more difficult than we would like, but we have to think carefully about how to manage it."

Prior to defeat against Everton you'd been on a really good run, is that what you'll be asking your team to replicate between now and the end of the season?

SA: "There's no doubt about that. It's about trying to get better than that, I'm not sure about results because it will be tough to get better results than we've had. We have to try to achieve the results and improve the performances, the demand from me is a level of consistency from the players that will deliver results. The clinical aspect, which deserted us at Everton, which we done so well in the four games we'd won on the trot deserted us at Everton and we've got to get that back. We've got to take the opportunities when they arise, we scored against the run of play sometimes, we scored when we were in the ascendancy and we've to make sure we are as clinical as we were in those four games."

What's the team news ahead of the weekend?

SA: "Our squad is pretty good at the moment. There's only a long standing injury to Joey O'Brien, a shoulder dislocation and the only other unfortunate one is Marco Borriello, who hasn't recovered from a calf strain. That's only two out of the squad at the minute which gives me a big healthy squad to choose from, which in terms of selection makes my job easier. It's not easy when you have to leave players out, but it's easier to choose the sort of team that you want to choose to get a result."

Having a fully-fit squad is not something you've had the luxury of many times this season…

SA: "We've had it pretty good recently, and I've always said that's why results have turned in our favour along with determination and desire to go out and turn the season around. The players have done magnificently well up to now, and we'd like to continue that between now until the end of the season."