Belfast Telegraph

21st century Sam ready for Chelsea

When West Ham visited Chelsea in January it was a turning point in their fight for Barclays Premier League survival - now Sam Allardyce has warned Jose Mourinho: "We'll see what century we're in."

West Ham beat Leicester 2-0 on Saturday to ensure they will be fourth on Christmas Day in their best start since the 1985-86 season, when they ended up finishing third.

Matches at Chelsea and Arsenal in the space of three days will be a fierce examination of a rejuvenated West Ham, who were accused by Mourinho of playing defensive "football from the 19th century" when drawing 0-0 at Stamford Bridge at the start of the year.

"The turning point - why West Ham United stayed in the division eventually - was the draw at Chelsea," Allardyce said.

"That's how important it was. It gave the lads a huge confidence boost and huge belief that they could hold a team like Chelsea off.

"We went from there on to make ourselves safe in the league.

"We'll see what century we're in when we finish there (on Boxing Day).

"It's a nice time, I think, for us to be playing Chelsea and Arsenal.

"We can go there and see if we can go and challenge ourselves against two of the big boys in this league.

"If we don't, it's not going to be too much of a knock back for us, because we know we can catch it up by beating teams who are below us, like Leicester."

Stewart Downing, playing at the tip of a midfield diamond, has been key to the Hammers' best Premier League start.

"He's probably playing his best football ever at the moment," Allardyce said.

"It took a bit of persuading to get him here from Liverpool (in August 2013). It really was a dream move for him that didn't work quite as well as he would've liked.

"He's come here and started showing great class and great ability."

Allardyce confirmed West Ham are aiming to sign Canadian defender Doneil Henry, who is under contract with Cyprus' Apollon Limassol.

Henry was recommended by Ryan Nelsen, who played under Allardyce at Blackburn and managed the defender at Toronto.

"When you get the recommendation of somebody you respect like Ryan Nelsen you don't ignore that advice," Allardyce said.

"We're looking at that, but that's a tribunal and work permit situation which will happen next week."

Allardyce is optimistic and so too is Leicester boss Nigel Pearson, despite the odds being stacked against his side.

Only twice before - West Brom in 2004-2005 and Sunderland last season - have the side at the foot of the Premier League standings on Christmas Day avoided relegation.

Pearson was assistant to Baggies boss Bryan Robson 10 years ago and believes his Foxes squad have the required character.

"There are similarities," he said.

"You do need people who are capable of dealing with adversity and have the strength of character and inner belief.

"I can honestly say I look round the dressing room and I've not seen anybody who has given in to our current circumstances. I think that's a real positive for us.

"(But) you can't continue to be in the type of run that we're in and bluster your way out of it by trying to sell the idea that everything's rosy in the garden.

"We are capable of turning it around. Clearly we've got to start winning games pretty quickly."

Pearson was fined £10,000 and given a one-match touchline ban following his altercation with a fan during last month's loss to Liverpool.

He often watches from the stand anyway, but perhaps mischievously was on the touchline at Upton Park as he awaits the full disciplinary process to be completed.

"I felt like it. I gave myself a directors' box one-match ban," Pearson added.

"I enjoy being in the stands because I get a good view; from a technical perspective you see things a lot better.

"Sometimes it's important to be visible, but ultimately I'll continue to do what I feel is right for the players."


From Belfast Telegraph