Saturday, 7 April 2007

Re-runs, Regrets And Renewal

West Ham United were the last team to beat Arsenal at Highbury, in February last year, so they will look for a neat symmetry on their first visit to the Emirates Stadium today, a venue where Arsenal are yet to lose. The Times has an article about West Ham's rollercoaster ride in the 14 months since that meeting; Gary Jacob suggesting there is renewed vigour and spirit at Upton Park since the introduction of the feisty Mark Noble and the growing menace of Carlos Tévez. Of course, neither player was involved in last season's historic victory in north London, but that hasn't stopped Alan Curbishley showing the squad a re-run of the game in an attempt to inspire a similar performance.

Predictably, Carlos Tevez is the man garnering most attention ahead of today's game. Matt Barlow in The Daily Mail believes a renewed work ethic, combined with improved fitness and a tendency to play further up the pitch, is the secret behind the recent surge in goalscoring form. Curbishley feels it is a more a question of belief. "I think it's another confidence thing with Carlos," he said. "It's only three games ago that he scored his first goal. Now he's got a couple of goals you can see the lift he's had." Of more interest in the Mirror story is our manager's insistence that Tevez has a long-term future at the club should we survive. He also claims to have no regrets over the handling of Javier Mascherano, a player he feels just never fitted in.

When you have had the kind of season that we have had then talk of regrets is something of an inevitability- not so for Lucas Neill. The Telegraph carries an interesting interview with the Aussie defender in which he admits "it's hard to justify my move at the moment because of our league position. But I've bought into Mr Magnusson's dream and I really, really want to see it through." That dream includes a new stadium, a new training ground and a whopping transfer kitty that would, in theory, catapult the club into the big time: quite simply, the chairman's ambitious plans blew Neill away. "I know about his ideas now, but the majority of people out there don't," Neill says, by way of explaining his move. "They can't buy into it because they've never heard the fairytale. But until we secure Premiership status, no one's going to see it. I just hope the whole of England gets to see it because his plans are unbelievable. And it would be great for football. It wouldn't be the same four teams at the top all the time."

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