The prospect of not reaching the Capital One Cup final, of yet another home defeat, or even of a mauling from Manchester City tonight are not Sam Allardyce’s main worries at the moment.
After slipping back into the bottom three following Saturday’s defeat against Newcastle, the West Ham United manager admitted yesterday that his team were “highly, highly unlikely” to overturn their 6-0 first-leg deficit and book their place at Wembley on 2 March.
Allardyce’s ambitions for the evening are more realistic. “It is about playing a game at home and trying to win it,” he said. “You play it because you are playing at home, for pride, to try to get a result. Hopefully we can give City a really tough game and try to get something out of it.”
But the importance of this week to West Ham’s season, even to their future, goes far beyond tonight’s events at Upton Park. They are separated from the bottom of the Premier League table by goal difference alone and in desperate need of reinforcements. The transfer window is where West Ham’s 2014 will be decided.
“Frustrated is an understatement,” said Allardyce yesterday, describing how he has found it so far. “The amount of offers and deals that we have tried to secure in the last six to eight weeks... everyone is frustrated, but our need is greater than everyone else’s.”
Allardyce has been trying to convince Ravel Morrison to sign a new contact, with not much success, and admitted that the 20-year-old midfielder – one of his best players this season – wanted to join Fulham.
“This window creates a hysteria about the fact that people will tell you that somebody is going to come and get you. That could then turn your head, probably based on the money that people say you’re going to make,” said Allardyce, who described Fulham’s opening offer as “derisory”.
West Ham were close to signing Everton defender Johnny Heitinga but that fell through, and now Everton are about to take Ivory Coast striker Lacina Traoré on loan from Monaco after West Ham secured a work permit for him.
“It was all down to the player’s agent,” Allardyce explained. “That is who he listened to. That is what happens in today’s game.” Traoré is not certain to pass his Everton medical – he has a hamstring problem – and if he does not, Allardyce would not rule out the possibility of trying again.
While West Ham are in a different situation from Manchester United, it is just as high pressure, according to Allardyce: “From my point of view it is an equal pressure, not only because of now but because of the future of this club. The burden of this club is that it wants to move into the Olympic Stadium in two years’ time, so it has to be in the Premier League.”