Cheikhou Kouyate is a man who has made a habit of rising to the big occasion during his career – and he plans to do so again as West Ham United seek a vital Premier League victory over Stoke City.
The 6’4 midfielder won four Belgian Pro League titles with Anderlecht before he turned 25, attracting the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs and earning a move to east London.
While many Hammers supporters knew little of Kouyate’s achievements in Brussels, the Senegalese star quickly showed his quality with a series of powerful displays, including an Individual Performance of the Season-winning, goal-scoring showing against Manchester United in February 2015.
The first game of the 2015/16 season saw Kouyate head in the opener in a memorable 2-0 win at Arsenal; In August 2016, he scored the historic first-ever goal at London Stadium in a 3-0 UEFA Europa League qualifying round victory over Slovenian side NK Domzale; A year ago, he scored a vital Premier League winner against Swansea City to help steer West Ham away from the bottom three.
Fast forward to the present day and, after securing four points from six from a convincing home win over Southampton and creditable draw at Chelsea to rise to 14th in the table, West Ham face another important moment in the Club’s recent history on Monday evening.
And the No8 knows victory over Stoke will go a long way towards securing the Hammers’ Premier League status.
“We need to go up again because nothing is finished,” Kouyate told the Official Programme. “We have another final on Monday night against Stoke, because they need points and we also need points.
“We need to win this game and we need everybody to know this game is a final. If we win this game, we are going up because we need to go up, not down.
“All home games, we need to win, because this is a very, very crucial point of the season and we need everyone – the players, the fans, everybody.
“The last home game was unbelievable. In the first half, all the fans were behind us and it makes it easier for all the players. When you play at home, you need the fans, and in the game against Southampton they were unbelievable.
“We need them again on Monday night to win some more points.”