THE HAMMER blow struck by the Barclays Premier League’s man-of-the-moment gave West Ham United further cause to be grateful that they launched their return to the top-flight this season in such an impressive fashion.
Gareth Bale produced a stunning late winner in the London derby on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football to complete a dramatic turnaround that condemned Sam Allardyce’s side to their sixth defeat in the last eight matches.
That is a stark contrast to their record in the early stages of the season as they collected 18 points from the first eleven matches to establish themselves in the top half of the table following their promotion from the Championship.
Indeed, our draw at Upton Park in mid-November prevented them from going fifth in the Premier League and their downturn then began with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham in which Bale was on target on that occasion too.
After the Welshman’s opener at Upton Park earlier this week, the Hammers hit back with goals from Andy Carroll and Joe Cole before Spurs ‘keeper Hugo Lloris made a crucial save midway through the second half to prevent Matty Taylor putting them 3-1 up.
That was a pivotal moment as intense pressure from Tottenham eventually brought its reward with goals totally different in nature; the first of them a scrambled effort from Gylfi Sigurdsson before Bale popped up with his wonder strike.
Robert Huth’s absence against West Ham United will pave the way for either Marc Wilson or Geoff Cameron to fill in at centre back this weekend . . . Tony Pulis confirmed at Thursday morning’s pre-match press conference.
The German international , who has been an ever present this season, will now miss the Potters’ next three Premier League games, having been retrospectively banned by the FA following an off-the-ball incident with Fulham defender Philippe Senderos.
The departure of Matthew Upson in the January transfer window leaves the City boss with limited options at the back; however, he still believes he has adequate cover in the shape of both Wilson and Cameron.
Meanwhile, Steven Nzonzi, who suffered a broken nose at Craven Cottage last weekend, is expected to be available for Saturday’s encounter thanks to a flying visit to a London-based specialist.
Pulis also revealed that late decisions would be made on the fitness of both Matthew Etherington and Michael Owen – neither of whom have fully trained in the build-up to the game.
Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion
Everton v Reading
Manchester United v Norwich City
Southampton v Queens Park Rangers
STOKE CITY v WEST HAM UNITED
Sunderland v Fulham
Swansea City v Newcastle United
Wigan Athletic v Liverpool (17:30)
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal (Sunday, 16:00)
Aston Villa v Manchester City (Monday, 20:00)
All games kick-off at 15:00 on Saturday unless otherwise stated.
HEAD TO HEAD
League: 25 Stoke City wins; 27 West Ham United wins; 17 draws
FA Cup: 3 Stoke City wins; 1 West Ham United win; 1 draw
League Cup: 2 Stoke City wins; 5 West Ham United wins; 2 draws
TOTAL: 30 Stoke City wins; 33 West Ham United wins; 20 draws
LAST FIVE ENCOUNTERS
West Ham United 1-1 Stoke City (Premier League) – 19/11/2012
Stoke City 2-1 West Ham United (FA Cup) – 13/03/2011
West Ham United 3-0 Stoke City (Premier League) – 05/03/2011
West Ham United 3-1 Stoke City (League Cup) – 27/10/2010
Stoke City 1-1 West Ham United (Premier League) – 18/09/2010
Stoke City win 11/10; West Ham United win 11/4; draw 9/4
REFEREE – JON MOSS
West Yorkshire referee Jon Moss returns to the Britannia Stadium this weekend… with his last visit bringing fortune for the Potters.
He oversaw City’s 2-0 win against League Cup winners Swansea City back in September, when forward Peter Crouch notched a brace.
That has been his only Stoke game so far this season, while he was last in action for the Monday night fixture between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield, which the Baggies won 2-0.
In the 22 games he has officiated this season, he has dished out 61 yellow cards and just one red.
WEST HAM UNITED FACT-FILE
Full name: West Ham United Football Club
Stadium: The Boleyn Ground
Owners: David Sullivan and David Gold
Chairman: David Gold
Manager: Sam Allardyce
2011/12: 3rd (Championship, promotion via the Play-Offs), League Cup (First Round), FA Cup (Third Round).
Record league victory: 8-0 v Sunderland, 19/10/1968, First Division
Record league defeat: 2-8 v Blackburn Rovers, 26/12/1963, First Division
Record transfer fee paid: Undisclosed to Wolverhampton Wanderers for Matt Jarvis, 24/08/2012
Record transfer fee received: £18m from Leeds United for Rio Ferdinand, 26/11/2000
INTRODUCING THE GAFFER
It’s quite remarkable to think that question marks surround the future of Sam Allardyce as West Ham manager . . . considering the outstanding progress they have made in the short time he has been in charge at Upton Park.
‘Big Sam’ was handed the responsibility of leading the Hammers back into the Barclays Premier League when he was appointed as successor to Avram Grant in the summer of 2011 after they had dropped down into the Championship.
Not only did he mastermind West Ham’s climb back into the top-flight at the first attempt, albeit via the end-of-season play-offs, he also ensured that they began the current campaign well enough to ease any concerns about their survival.
Allardyce has a considerable amount of experience of managing clubs in the Premier League, but it is perhaps the style of football he has adopted over years which means there are lingering doubts about his future with the Hammers.
A tough tackling defender with more than 400 appearances from his playing days, he made a name for himself in management during an eight-year spell in charge of Bolton Wanderers where he guided the club into the Premier League and later UEFA Cup qualification for the first-time in their history in 2005-06 and then again two years later.
An unsuccessful spell with Newcastle United followed before he made the move back to Lancashire to manage Blackburn Rovers in 2008, leading the club out of trouble to a tenth place finish in his first-full season in charge at Ewood Park.
Despite impressive results and League standings, ‘Big Sam’ was sacked by the club in December 2010 following a 2-1 defeat to former employers Bolton, a move that Sir Alex Ferguson described as: “absolutely ridiculous”.
Blackburn’s collapse and the changes of manager since Allardyce’s departure has shown just how important he was in his two years at Ewood Park and many see the club’s relegation as a result of the unprecedented sacking.