West Ham - is a point a good result? - 08/01/2003

Obviously the Wolves game was a really big disappointment. A great has been made of the lack of commitment from certain players, but hopefully they’ll prove the doubters wrong at West Ham. I’d said that it was important to keep out Wolves for the first 20 minutes, and unfortunately the two-goal lead whipped up the crowd and carried them on. Getting the two goals back gave us a possibly undeserved lifeline, and again, it was so important to keep it tight for the first part of the second half. It wasn’t just that the two goals brought us level, but the crowd would start to think ‘here we go again’ and turning their support from a negative to a positive would have been a great advantage for us. However, getting the third just got them all up for it again!

Last season our away record was great, but with just two away wins in the Premiership, questions are being asked. As a past player I know what’s it’s like to play at St. James one week, and then travel away the next and find that’s it’s not quite the same. The reason why you find it harder in away games is down to the fact that referee’s are influenced, consciously or subconsciously, by the crowd – the home side will generally get the favourable decisions. The psychology of playing at home adds to your confidence levels and that plays a related part. However, when it comes down to effort, there’s absolutely no excuse. You go out there and are willing to give everything!

I’ve heard what some of the lads have been saying, and in questioning the commitment of their fellow players, it obvious that a percentage of the team are not up for away games. This isn’t anything new – ‘homers’ have always existed, but in a fighting team, a team in the top four of the Premiership and last 16 of the Champions League, you just can’t believe they’re at Newcastle!

For all the criticism that they’ve had, I’d expect a reaction for the next game. But I tell you what, West Ham at Upton Park on Saturday will provide a real test. For me, a point is a good result. OK their record at home is terrible, but with the player’s they have I honestly believe that they’ll get out of trouble and even have quite a chance of a mid-table finish! The win against Forest will be massive in terms of confidence, they’ve won at home and although it’s not in the league, they’ll fancy a repeat performance. Look at Newcastle when we went all those games without a win in London, we beat Arsenal and then went down to Spurs and also beat them – so no wins in thirty (or whatever it was) and then two out of two! What do they say about buses??? The there’s Lee Bowyer, he’ll add to their playing ability, but he’ll also provide a lift to the team and the fans. I think you’ll find the West Ham crowd really giving them some backing, and the players will also respond to Bowyer’s presence. He’s a good buy for West Ham – if they stay up, and I bet his contract is heavily weighted to such an eventuality. A defender would have provided a better addition to their squad, but it’d take some class of defender to lift the club like Bowyer will. He’s a West Ham fan and the supporter’s will react to that, it’s up to all and every Newcastle player to be aware of what they’re going to face and to have the focus and determination to prove their worth to the team. This is a big, big game, and if there’s a loser on Saturday, it’ll be a hard defeat to swallow.

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