By Rob Shepherd.
For West Ham their trip to Manchester City in the semi-final first leg of the Capital One Cup is akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire in the wake of their FA Cup Third Round humiliation at Nottingham Forest.
Having fielded so many young inexperienced players at the City Ground Sam Allardyce was always likely to gamble away The Hammers interest in the FA Cup.
But even if from a financial point of view Premiership survival is a priority for West Ham – which makes their next league against Cardiff a “must win” -Allardyce surely can’t surrender any interest in keeping the tie alive for the second leg at Upton Park and so having the chance of reaching Wembley and maybe even winning the League Cup.
Such an achievement could easily inspire a revival in the league. The manager then must surely recall the bulk and the best (not that there are too many in that category at the moment) for the City game.
More to the point it would give suffering Hammers fans a taste of honey.
It could also save Allardyce’s increasingly precarious position as manager from the sack.
Survival AND silverware? That is the definition of success for a club like West Ham.
In that sense he has a duty to the club, its fans, the players and himself to field a team strong enough and experienced enough to at least compete with a City side who have been unstoppable at the Ethiad Stadium this season, where they are unbeaten and average nearly four goals a game.
On the face of it the tie looks a shoo-in for the City.
But strange things do happen in the Cup as a weakened West Ham won at Tottenham in the quarter final.
At the very least West Ham should aim for damage limitation so they would still be in with a chance of overcoming City in the second leg.
Older Hammers fans will also cling to a fond memory of a day they went up to City and thrashed them in the mud of Maine Road.
It was way back in 1970; the day Jimmy Greaves made his debut for the Hammers after he had been part of the deal which had seen Martin Peters sign for Tottenham.
Greaves, as he did on all his debuts, scored. Twice in fact. The Hammers romped on to win 5-1 in a total mud-bath against what was at the time a very strong City side.
The game is also remembered for Hammers midfield Ronnie Boyce scoring a wonder volley from 40 yards (see below).
Yet the following year, to highlight the Jekyll and Hyde nature of The Hammers back then, they lost 4-0 at Blackpool in the FA Cup Third Round, just to remind younger Hammers fans that Sunday’s collapse at Nottingham did not shock older West Ham fans!
That debacle was compounded by the fact that England skipper Bobby Moore, Greaves, Clyde Best and Brian Dear had all been dropped for the game and would later be suspended and or fined by the club having spent the Friday night before the game at a Blackpool night club.
There is more chance of the Hammers being thrashed similarly by City, not a cats chance of them putting five past City. But if The Hammers can avoid a trouncing at the Ethiad, scrape a draw, even a shock win then suddenly there atrocious season won’t seem quite so bad.
Man City: 1/5 Draw: 6/1 West Ham: 12/1
City to win – 1-0: 10/1, 2-0: 7/1, 3-1: 10/1, 4-0: 10/1
West Ham to win – 0-1: 28/1, 1-2: 33/1
Draw – 0-0: 20/1, 1-1: 12/1, 2-2: 25/1, 3-3: 100/1
Negredo: 3/1 Dzeko: 4/1 Toure: 6/1 Nasri: 8/1
C Cole: 12/1 Maiga: 12/1 Morrison: 16/1 J Cole: 18/1
BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Dzeko to score first and City to win 3-0: 22/1
Odds courtesy of Ladbrokes.