Belfast Telegraph

Allardyce wants more after break

Sam Allardyce accepts everyone's expectations grew following West Ham's impressive start - including his own, but maintains his team can still make the most of a positive season.

The Irons were left dreaming of a sustained challenge for European qualification following a superb opening 10 Barclays Premier League games, which included wins over both Liverpool and Manchester City, to leave them as high as fourth place.

However, since the turn of the year, a bad run of injuries coupled with a some frustrating results, such as conceding late equalisers to both Manchester United and Tottenham, saw them slip down the table.

West Ham recorded their first Premier League victory since January 18 when a late goal from Diafra Sakho gave them a 1-0 win over Sunderland at Upton Park, in what was head coach Dick Advocaat's first match in charge.

Allardyce hopes the squad can regroup after the international break to push on and secure a positive ending to the campaign.

"Everybody's expectation grows, mine did," said Allardyce, who is out of contract in the summer.

"We all expected we wouldn't have as big a slip, not in our performances, but in points gained as we should have done, and it should have been an awful lot more.

"When you are in the dizzy heights of fourth at Christmas you have got to try to maintain that and we haven't been able to.

"If we were carrying on the way we were, then on our points total per games, we were going to finish in the top four, although we probably knew that was not going to carry on.

"Some of our best performances have come when we have not won.

"We would have had accolades still had we held on to victory against Manchester United and Tottenham, still been eulogising about our season because then we would have beaten Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City, while only to lost Everton and Crystal Palace below us, so that is how good this season has been."

Allardyce continued: "There was one spell when we won six, drew three and only lost one, we would have all loved to repeat that, but it has not been quite within our capabilities.

"The reasons why are clear in my mind. Some of the players that were top drawer when they joined us for the first time this season have found the pace of the Premier League a little tougher going, while injuries are a big factor again.

"We have won without Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia - you tell me anybody else that has four regular players missing that would have got results?"

After the international break West Ham will head to bottom club Leicester and Allardyce is targeting a record points haul since their promotion back to the Premier League.

"We still have more of the teams below us to play than the teams above us and if we continue how well we have done, not losing, we will pick up a good few points," he said.

"Hopefully we will finish a bit stronger and come back with a bit of a bang."

Allardyce remains relaxed over his contract, but cannot stop speculation linking him with the summer vacancy at Sunderland.

"I am doing what I did here in year two, my contract was running out then, we overachieved that year," the 60-year-old said.

"At the end of the season we will look at the squad and say 'it is capable of this, but not able to sustain that'.

"We have got more players that when we get players in, which everybody has to do to grow and get better, they are better than what we have got to make sure we can sustain the growth we are achieving at this moment in time."

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