Grant's academy pupils graduate with honours - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Grant's academy pupils graduate with honours

West Ham 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

Avram Grant may have his doubters and his faults, but at least he cannot be accused of lacking in self-belief.

The West Ham manager believes his methods, which left fans tearing their hair out in frustration over the first part of the season in which the side won just two league games, have been proved correct by a haul of seven points from nine over the Christmas period.

And to those who questioned his selection of relatively inexperienced academy products such as Junior Stanislas, James Tomkins and Saturday's goalscorer Freddie Sears in a relegation battle, he provided the perfect riposte by pointing out that they all started both festive wins, beginning with the Boxing Day victory over Fulham.

"I feel that, for the project of West Ham, it was very important to win," Grant said. "But we continue to do the right things because we believe in them. We have brought in three young players when we were at the bottom of the league. I don't think that many teams would do that. I felt always that we were doing the right things, we just needed – well, you call it luck – but we needed to be more efficient and I think we deserve it.

"Even though we have a long way to go, we were at the bottom in the last game and people said I was not doing a good job. The top of the line is the result, but sometimes you need to analyse what's happened on the way to the result."

It was hard to disagree with him. Stanislas was almost as hard-working as Scott Parker in the West Ham midfield and defender Tomkins had his hands full due to an off-day from Matthew Upson, but still managed to end the game celebrating a clean sheet.

And as for Sears, the man who had gone 74 games – playing for West Ham, Crystal Palace, Coventry and Scunthorpe – without a goal, he could easily have had three on Saturday and he looked to grow in confidence with every chance.

Plus, his aim was a darn sight truer than that of Carlton Cole, who screwed one opportunity wide before completely missing Frédéric Piquionne's cross, which rebounded into the net off Ronald Zubar's knee.

Grant still wants to add more to his squad and has been told by the club's co-owner David Sullivan he has the resources available to bring in three players. The Aston Villa midfielder Steve Sidwell is likely to be the first to arrive, but Grant believes the fact the club are out of the bottom three will make it easier to convince others to join.

His Wolves counterpart, Mick McCarthy, is unfazed by dropping to the bottom of the league and believes the Villa manager Gérard Houllier – sitting in 16th – and Roberto Martinez, whose Wigan side are 17th, will be feeling more nervous. "There are a lot of teams who are sweating," McCarthy said. "In a bizarre sort of way it's the teams in 17th and 16th and 15th who are sweating and not wanting to drop in the bottom three. We've been there a long time. It's not affected my psychological behaviour. I haven't suddenly become a psychopath or something.

"I know the managers in and around the relegation zone are nervous – I am one. I base it on my own experiences and knowledge of the game. They do get nervy. None of them want to drop into it."

Scorers: West Ham Zubar og 51, Sears 79.

Subs: West Ham Noble (Stanislas, 69). Unused Boffin (gk), Reid, Barrera, Boa Morte, Hines, Obinna. Wolves Fletcher (Elokobi, 76), Edwards (Hunt, 76), Bent (Milijas, 87). Unused Hahnemann (gk), Batth, Jones, Mujangi Bia.

Booked: West Ham Kovac; Wolves Stearman.

Man of the match Sears. Match rating 7/10.

Possession West Ham 48% Wolves 52%.

Shots on target West Ham 7 Wolves 10.

Referee L Probert (Wiltshire) Att 33,500.

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