This week saw us partake in the Capital One Cup in a home game against Cheltenham Town. Over the past few years, the Capital One Cup has not been kind to us (or maybe we haven’t been kind to it.) Last year we went out in our second round of the cup in a disappointing 1-4 loss to Wigan Athletic.
On that night in September 2012, we fielded a team with some starters but mainly youth players and professional bench warmers – Hall, Henderson, Spence, Fanimo, and Tombides were all names that graced the pitch that night.
This year, in admittedly our first game, things seemed a lot better. We actually looked like we were interested in having a cup run this year. Did we put out our first team for the game? No – but here’s the great thing – we didn’t need to.
For the first time in years our ‘B side’ did not consist solely of youth players and
players who you struggle to identify and have difficulty matching them to their name on the back of the program. In this game, we only had one player fit that bill, and although he got off to a shaky start and did look nervous, young Leo Chambers has got some potential.
Of course we were playing against a much lower league team than we normally face week in and week out, but we didn’t do poorly, and we fielded a good run of players who are actually fighting for a first team place. Quite a few of the players on the pitch were one-time starters (James Tomkins, George McCartney, Jack Collison, Matthew Taylor) or more regular starters (Joe Cole, Ricardo Vaz Te, Mohamed Diame), as well as some talented newbies (Ravel Morrison, Razvan Rat, Stewart Downing.)
It was nice to see Adrian get some game time (although I’m glad to see Jussi Jaaskelainen is still our number one….well, number twenty two, but you know what I mean.) Tomkins looked strong at the back, and leadership suited him- it’s nice to know we have some defensive depth at the back. Having said that, it would take an injury to Collins or Reid for Tomkins to get a starting place the way those two are playing at the moment, which is a shame for him.
I also felt that the inclusion of Diame, a player who normally plays 70 minutes max per game, showed a strong intent to progress in the cup this year. Considering he is one of our best players who can only play for 60% of a game—and we are playing 3 games in 8 days— you’d have thought he could happily give this one a miss. He was a valued inclusion.
The win was good news, but the strong team selection available for a cup game was even better news. This year we might actually be able to get ahead in cups without losing ground in the league, as we might actually have enough depth and talent on our bench to partake in both. Hopefully we can hold on to that depth throughout the season – we do have a lot of passionate players on our team, and not all of them will be content to wait on the bench for a sniff at playing in a cup game.
These are good times for West Ham, and I’m so excited for the next round of the Capital One Cup. We’ve beat Cardiff with our first team – now let’s see if we can do it with our excellent second team as well.