The West Ham United defender John Pantsil believes that the match against Watford on Saturday is one the Hammers must "win at all costs". Pantsil played the second half for Ghana in their 4-1 friendly win over Nigeria at Griffin Park on Tuesday, but the 25-year-old quickly turned his attention to the club's vital encounter against their fellow strugglers Watford in the Premiership.
West Ham are five points adrift of safety following their 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa last weekend, and Pantsil knows the importance of the game against the bottom-of-the-table Watford. "I believe we need to win this game at all costs," Pantsil said. "Even a draw would not be good enough.
"We have to focus, to put our heads together and be strong. Watford beat us at home in the FA Cup last month. Now we have them again in the Premiership. Both teams are struggling, and it will be a tough match for us."
Injuries to first-choice players including Anton Ferdinand and Danny Gabbidon have not helped Alan Curbishley's side, who also seem certain to be without the recent signings Lucas Neill and Matthew Upson.
Both players sustained injuries on their debuts for the Hammers, and Pantsil saidthe loss of key players had hurt the Upton Park club. "I believe that when our major players come back, things will be OK for West Ham," he said. "The injury situation means we do not have enough experienced defenders at the moment, and it is costing us."
But Neill's ankle injury means that Pantsil, who has started just three League matches since being signed by West Ham's former manager, Alan Pardew, last summer, could now earn another chance to impress. He started in the 1-1 draw with Watford in August and also played the full 90 minutes in defeats to Tottenham and Liverpool. Apart from that he has found it hard to make a first-team breakthrough and his only other start came in the disappointing 2-1 defeat to Chesterfield in the League Cup.
Pantsil admitted that it would be a boost to have more established players back in contention but is also ready to play his part if called upon. "Gabbidon and Ferdinand are fantastic players, and we need them at the back so they can control the game for us. As for me, I am training hard and training well. I hope the time will come when I get my opportunity."
The Football Association will wait for the outcome of the inquiry into player eligibility before deciding whether West Ham face action for fielding Carlos Tevez in the FA Cup. Premier League officials are looking at whether the move to bring Tevez and his Argentina team-mate Javier Mascherano to Upton Park breaches rules as clubs are not allowed to field players owned by a third party.
"We are awaiting the conclusion of the Premier League inquiry before looking at any possible implications in the FA Cup," an FA spokesman said.
FA Cup rules state that players have to comply with the eligibility terms of their own League.
Tevez played in the FA Cup third-round victory over Brighton, and the Hammers were knocked out at the next stage of the competition by Watford. Bury were expelled from the FA Cup this season for fielding an ineligible player but, with West Ham already knocked out of this season's competition, punishing the Premiership club if found guilty could prove problematic. Compensation to Brighton has been suggested, while matching Bury's punishment could lead to calls for West Ham to be kicked out of next season's competition. "We are watching the situation with interest," said a Bury spokesman. Brighton are monitoring developments.Reuse content