Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Learning Lessons

As attention switches to Bolton Wanderers this weekend, and a ground where West Ham United have never won, Robert Green has been talking about the need to heed the lessons from Saturday's draw with Middlesbrough. The Hammers go into their Barclays Premier League clash at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday looking to end a run of two matches without a win, and Green believes he and his team-mates need to start more positively and take the initiative if they are to get one over Gary Megson's side this weekend.

"It was frustrating [against Middlesbrough] as we didn't play nearly as well as we could do," he admitted. "We gave it a go in the second half and, without playing well and not being at it as much as we should have been, we created more than enough chances to win the game. With Carlton [Cole] going off injured, the one positive we can take from it is that we didn't lose. I think we've learnt a lesson that if we aren't 100 per cent on our game we won't always win. If we can take that from it into Saturday's game at Bolton - which is a massive game for us - and then Middlesbrough again then we'll have learnt a lesson and really go for it. In that respect there is something to take from it at least.

"We didn't lose and it carries on the good run we've been on, bar the Manchester United game. If we can carry that on and learn our lessons then we'll take each game as it comes and keep taking steps forward. Saturday wasn't the best performance but there are going to be games like that. We know where we've gone wrong and if we didn't know then we'd start to worry. But we know we didn't start well and didn't get hold of them. We'll take that as a positive and as a lesson and keep practicing in the games to come."

James Collins is the first to admit his own culpability in that disappointing display against Middlesbrough. The 25-year-old Welsh defender stated: "It was one of those games really. We knew we were shocking. The first half was terrible and the worst we've been for a long time, but luckily we got the late goal and we're still in the hat." Both Collins and Upson were at fault for the Boro goal on 22 minutes as Gary O'Neil's cross evaded both defenders before finding Stewart Downing on the far post to nod home. But the Welshman may have an explanation for the unexpected mistakes. "I'm not making excuses, but those balls really aren't the best," explained Collins, who has now amounted 27 caps with the Welsh national team. "Matty looked as if he was going to head it clear and then before you know it, it was right on me, and I've missed it as well. It's just one of those things, but to concede a goal like that was disappointing. It was bad defending and we should have cleared it."

Collins will be desperate for the Hammers to get through in their replay next Wednesday as he has the added incentive of having missed out on a place in West Ham's final team back in 2006. The Welshman played the semi-final, but Anton Ferdinand and Danny Gabbidon got the nod for the final at the Millennium Stadium, leaving Collins as an unused substitute. "It was a fantastic time in my career and that will stay with me for a long time, those celebrations after the semi-final," reminisced the defender. "Not being in the final was hard to take, so I'd like to go there and get as far as possible. Some of the boys haven't been to a final before, it's an amazing occasion and hopefully we can do it this year."

With Dean Ashton and Gabbidon on the long-term injured list, Collins is the only player left in the current squad who was at that cup final against Liverpool less than three years ago. "I think I'm the only one in the squad that played in that semi-final," said Collins. "Players come and go and you sign new players, but I'm just delighted to still be involved now." It hasn't been an easy West Ham career for the giant Welshman. Injuries as well as dropping down the pecking order, has meant just 58 appearances in three and a half years of football, and even this season Calum Davenport was preferred to him at the beginning of the campaign. Collins, though, seems to have finally cemented his place in the starting line-up and he is certainly enjoying his football under manager Gianfranco Zola. "Everyone knew Gianfranco's name was going to be linked with Chelsea," said Collins. "But he's come here and done a fantastic job and all the boys are buzzing playing their football under him and long may that continue."

Zola, himself, insists he has ‘toughened up’ and learned a lot during his first six months in charge, and he claimed that the team would go from strength to strength as the players grow more accustomed to his methods. "At the beginning for me it was all new and obviously I had to improve certain things, learn certain things," he said. "I had to learn something more from my players and from the job and everything. I think it toughened up myself and also the team. But now we are going to get better."

Finally, the club have been linked with a £5million summer move for Poland striker Pawel Brozek as the club continue the search for a long-term replacement for Craig Bellamy. Brozek has been on the radar of a number of leading European clubs during a prolific career at Wisla Krakow, where he has netted 58 goals in 130 games and earned 16 senior caps for his national team.

Now several media outlets have suggested the Hammers have joined the chase for the 25-year-old forward after sending chief scout Roger Cross to monitor Brozek in Poland's friendly international against Wales last week. Despite making only a brief appearance as a late substitute, Brozek's performance reportedly convinced Cross that the striker can be a hit in the Premier League. "His first touch is among the best I have ever witnessed," Cross told, a football website. "The lad knows when to place a solid touch on the ball, as well as when to play a deft flick it on in the lightest manner. [His display was] very pleasing." West Ham would have to wait until the summer to finalise any deal for Brozek, who is also attracting interest from French outfit Nancy, but Hammers technical director Gianluca Nani is reportedly confident that a £5million bid would secure the player's signature.


Old Rag Man Reg said...

Excellent round up once again. i love your blend of Facts and Opinions.

Consistently the most reliable West Ham blog on the web.

Nice One!

Trilby said...

Thanks for the positive feedback, it's much appreciated!


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