The S J Chandos Column
This forthcoming 'double header' could prove season defining!
Another international break has come and gone and we can now look forward to the exciting prospect of the (PL and cup) ‘double header’ with our old friends (formerly) from White Hart Lane. Very few fixtures galvanize Hammers hearts like matches with Spurs and they really do tend to be fixtures to saviour. It is a rivalry that is equally shared, although Spurs fans tend to pretend that (to them) it is just another fixture and the hype is all emanating from East London. While it is true that their local north London derbies, with Arsenal, are undoubtedly the most important matches in their season; methinks the Spurs fans do protest too much when they attempt to ‘big themselves up’ at our expense. You have only to witness the vitriol emanating from the Spurs fan websites to know, that despite their loud protestations to the contrary, these are matches that they desperately want to win.
To be honest, I see Spurs as fierce London rivals, but I am not particularly fanatical in my dislike for them. We have enjoyed some memorable matches down the decades and I have been privileged to be at most of them since 1967. So, I am hoping that the next couple will significantly add to that existing bank of cherished memories, with lots of thrills, spills and goals along the way (with the majority ending up in the Spurs net!).
It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the results of these two matches could define our season. We can only hope that the squad emerge from this international break as strongly as they did from the last one. And surely there is no fixture that is more likely to fire up the passions of players and fans, alike, then this one.
As you will be aware, we play Spurs in the PL, this Saturday, on 20 October 2018 and then face them again on Wednesday, 31 October 2018. A double victory would really boost the self-confidence of the squad and breed belief that we can we can proceed to do well this current season. Personally, I think that a score draw (in the PL fixture) and a win in the cup tie are the likeliest options. Spurs will be firing on all cylinders for the PL match, but I am convinced that we can match them. While I believe that we will have the momentum, and the advantage, going in to the cup tie, and that should result in a memorable Hammers victory. And if it actually happened, would it be that much of a shock? We have done very well against Spurs in the League Cup in recent seasons. After all, who can forget the famous 1-2 victory in the Allardyce era and that classic 2-3 turnaround (after being 2-0 down at half time) last season.
The added bonus is that both matches are at the LS. It will be two further opportunities to reproduce the great atmosphere generated at Man Utd match. We need fiercely competitive fixtures like these to fire up the Hammers fans and get them fully appreciating that their new home can produce a partisan and memorable atmosphere. Something that is entirely in the supporters own hands! The critics tend to portray the LS a ‘cold and soulless bowl,’ but to my mind that is an unfair and jaundiced description. The stadium atmosphere has been excellent on occasions and I it can very well be again. Hammers fans have shown that they can animate the venue, given the correct circumstances, and I would suggest that all the pre-requisite elements are present for these Spurs fixtures.
We obviously need the three points to push us up the table; and win the cup tie and we will find ourselves in the quarter-finals, with a very good shot at progressing (if the draws are kind?). People often talk of clubs having ‘bogey’ opponents, but you could almost argue that the League Cup has been a ‘bogey’ competition for us over the years. We have made the final and semi-final on a number of occasions and always failed at the last (or second to last) hurdle. It would be a really good to lay that ‘hoodoo’ to rest this season and finally win the competition. Such a victory would secure our place in European competition next season (by February 2019) and allow us to then concentrate upon securing a top ten PL finish.
So, I am going for a 2-2 draw in the PL fixture and a classic 3-1 victory in the cup. COYI!