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Premier League

Grant focusing on critical period for West Ham

Avram Grant's future at West Ham may continue to be the subject of intense speculation, but the Israeli remains fully focused on dragging his side off the bottom of the Barclays Premier League.

Grant, appointed during the summer following Gianfranco Zola's departure, may for the time being continue to have the backing of the Upton Park board, but there is no doubt the Irons are set for what could be a make-or-break period.

Reports have suggested Grant will be made all too aware of the need to deliver results from the forthcoming matches against sides around them in the table.

That run starts on Saturday at Blackburn, a club which have just sacked manager Sam Allardyce - now suddenly linked with the Hammers job should Grant get the axe.

However, with Grant under contract until 2014, any decision to remove the former Chelsea and Portsmouth boss would cost around £5million for the debt-laden east-London club.

The Hammers, though, are all united in their desire to eradicate the four-point gap between themselves and safety as soon as possible - with matches against Fulham, Everton, Wolves and Newcastle all coming up over the hectic Christmas and New Year period.

"We want to take points from every game, but of course its more reachable, more possible, against teams that are around us than against teams higher in the league," Grant said.

"I know we are bottom and personally I am not happy with that, I don't like it - but I cannot come in and say to the players 'look we have been playing terrible football in the last three months'.

"From time to time we don't play good, but most of the games we played good.

"We need to improve things, we need to concede fewer goals and score more goals than we have before, we need to take points, I agree with that, but I don't need to remind the players that we are bottom of the league because they know we are bottom of the league and they don't like it."

Grant, though, accepts the same excuses cannot be trotted out if his injury-hit squad do not start to deliver soon.

"The next month or two are important for us because we cannot continue playing well, but not getting points," he said.

While Grant is keen to bring in some fresh talent during January, the Hammers boss is unlikely to get a bumper kitty with which to attack the sales and will be desperate to avoid having to off-load key men like midfielder Scott Parker to fund any additions.

However, West Ham should at least be able to call upon the experience of German Thomas Hitzlsperger for the closing months of the campaign.

The 28-year-old former Aston Villa midfielder arrived in the summer from Lazio, only to suffer a thigh injury before the start of the new season.

Hitzlsperger told WHUTV: "The healing process is going well and I am quite optimistic I will be able to play in February.

"Things could obviously happen in between, but I am just hoping I will continue making the same progress over the next two months."