Tony Cottee Column: West Ham can go to Cardiff with no fear
“It’s time to forget all the ifs, buts and maybes and look forward to two exciting play-off games.”
Make no mistake about it, West Ham have two massive games coming up tonight (Thursday) and again on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Hammers are just two games away from a possible date at Wembley – something I have been in favour of from the very start of the season.
It was a difficult situation for the team on Saturday and once the news about Southampton scoring filtered through to the players, the game went a bit dead.
However, it was good to see Carlton Cole scoring and he looked like a real threat all afternoon.
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He has now scored five goals in as many games and it is a great time for the big man to hit some form and I think it was the right decision to bring him off on Saturday and keep him wrapped up in cotton wool before the play-offs.
I was at Monday night’s awards dinner and I was on a table with Sam Allardyce and Neil McDonald and they said that it was hard for the players to push on at half time knowing that they wouldn’t finish in the top two.
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However, I have to say congratulations to Reading and Southampton whose consistency has seen them automatically promoted.
For now, we have to focus on the two tough games against Cardiff.
We go to Wales with fond memories having only played the Bluebirds in March, when we put in a professional performance to run out 2-0 winners, and that will be fresh in both sets of players’ minds.
West Ham need a good, strong performance so that we can take the advantage into the home leg next Monday.
For me, I think that we need to approach it like any other away league game, as we haven’t exactly done bad on the road this season have we?
I have been involved in two-leg ties myself over the years and you can’t get carried away and focus on the second game before you’ve done your job in the first.
All focus must be on tonight’s game and not what could happen next Monday.
The Hammers need to be professional, and we can go to Cardiff with no fear.
Malky Mackay’s men do have some good players, like Peter Whittingham, who has scored lots of goals from midfield, and they have had a fantastic season, reaching the Carling Cup final and then going on an unbeaten run to get a play-off place.
Allardyce has a selection headache with the vast majority of his squad available and it will be a welcome problem for him over two games which will define West Ham’s season.
I am sure that the atmosphere under the lights in Cardiff will be fantastic, and the Hammers cannot let the occasion get to them as we can’t afford to let anyone lose their head.
It will be a tight affair, but I believe the Hammers have enough to win 2-1 and take the pressure off ourselves ahead of the home leg.
I have to say that I am delighted for Mark Noble being named Hammer of the Year. He has been runner-up a few times and I think that he thoroughly deserves the accolade.
Alongside Tomkins, he has been the outstanding candidate for the award and it is great to see it go to a homegrown player.
I was also pleased to see George McCartney rewarded for his hard work over the season.
Playing left-back isn’t the most glamorous of positions, but to get the Players’ Player of the Year shows that you are appreciated and it says a lot about what your fellow professionals think about you.
Tony Cottee was talking to Nathaniel John