Back in October, after West Ham United had just beaten Manchester City and talk about the top four was moving from the fanciful to something with more foundation, Sam Allardyce issued a warning.
The West Ham manager insisted reality would only start to reveal itself at the turn of the year, “when games come flooding thick and fast”.
They are at that point now, and Tuesday’s penalty shoot-out win over Everton in their FA Cup third-round replay came as a welcome relief after what has been their worst run of the season so far.
If West Ham aren’t exactly on a low, the chants of “Barcelona we’re coming for you” aren’t ringing out quite so loudly.
Allardyce’s side have not won in four League games, earning just two points from an underwhelming 1-1 home draw with West Bromwich followed by the same result at Swansea City.
Now they also have to cope without some of the players most responsible for that early surge. At the back, Winston Reid is a doubt; in the middle, Cheikhou Kouyaté is at the African Cup of Nations and Diafra Sakho is injured.
So today’s home match against Hull City will be an indication of how much backbone West Ham possess. A team with designs on higher things should be winning games like this.
Missing key personnel, can Allardyce’s side show that they have not been flattering to deceive, and are more than mid-table men?