The victory over Hull City leaves us very handily placed on the outskirts of the relentless chase for fourth spot; our next four league fixtures, however, will determine and define how credible our chances are of snatching it.
Liverpool (A) Man United (H) Southampton (A) Tottenham (A) now the likelihood is; that running that particular gauntlet will finally extinguish any lingering hopes of Champions League football gracing the Boleyn during our final season.
However, even if as I think we’d all expect our challenge to finally be slain during that truly excruciating run of fixtures, the fact that we’re now 22 games into the season and we’re only four points off fourth shows the incredible progress that has been made this campaign. Take a look at the teams around us and what they’ve spent recently: Spurs the team directly above us and Liverpool the side directly below have both spent in the region of 100 million recently and yet we’re sandwiched in-between them, that’s not accident, that’s not a fluke.
We’re now just four points from last season’s total haul with a massive sixteen games to go. The 2nd half against Hull epitomised everything that’s been good about West Ham this season, quality finishes, great football, aggressive play and a ruthless cutting edge.
Talking of cutting edge; it’s great for the club that with Diafra Sakho sidelined Enner Valencia is gradually returning to his early season form; that’s one goal and two assists in his last two games and there are definite signs of a partnership blossoming with Andy Carroll. And as for Carroll he’s finally displaying the kind of form that convinced the club to part with £15-million to sign him.
The league and that daunting fixture list, however, will take a back seat next weekend as we take on Bristol City in the fourth round of the cup; now I don’t want to say it’d be ‘typical West Ham’ to go through that epic against Everton only to be knocked out by lowly Bristol City, largely because there is nothing ‘typical’ about West Ham this season. With only six defeats to our name so far if we put out a strong side the upset the BBC are banking on (having made it a live game) will not come to pass.
Wigan Athletic and Swansea City have proved in recent years that winning trophies is not the exclusive domain of the same cartel of clubs and if we can get past the men of Bristol City and get a decent draw in the following round then why can’t we go all the way?
There’s a different mentality about West Ham this season, a spirit, a determination a refusal to accept defeat; it was in evidence against Everton, it was in evidence in the 2nd half against Hull and this shift in mentality might just be capped off with a Wembley date, maybe even two.