As I settled down to watch the quarter final draw for the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night, I decided to myself that I was actually quite looking forward to the draw, as I’m sure many other West Ham fans were. After a brilliant win at Burnley, we found ourselves, for the first time really under Big Sam, in a draw for the latter stages of a cup competition. Despite only being the Capital One Cup, generally seen as a pretty pointless tournament, we had been knocked out at the first time of asking in every cup competition to this point with Allardyce at the helm, except for the same competition last year where we went one whole round further to be beaten 4-1 at home to Wigan. So that was a waste of time anyway.
This year however, we’ve managed to overcome Cheltenham and Cardiff at home, before the extremely impressive win at Burnley. Let’s not forget, despite both goals being penalties, this Burnley team have stormed to the top of the Championship this year. They beat Harry Redknapp’s very decent QPR side 2-0 last weekend, who are scrapping with Burnley at the top, and the first team, flying high on the confidence front currently, were all given the chance to knock out the ‘bigger’ opponents. This first team included in-form striker Danny Ings, ex-hammer Junior Stanislas and various other players who have made tremendous starts to their seasons, and all we had to combat it was a makeshift second eleven, which saw players like Pelly Ruddock make his debut, Carlton Cole making his return, and youngster Leo Chambers starting yet again in the cup. So to come away with a 2-0 win was remarkable in my books. But our reward for all that? Tottenham. Away. Who would’ve thought it?
This draw, it’s fair to say, has split opinion. Personally, I’m of the ‘why did it have to be Tottenham?’ opinion. I genuinely don’t think we could have got a worse draw. I would have taken anyone else, be it United away, City away, Chelsea away, literally anyone else. And here’s why. Less than a month has passed since what was undoubtedly one of the better days in my life to this point, the day we walked away from White Hart Lane with a 3-0 victory. We don’t get a win over Spurs very often, let alone a 3-0 win in their own back yard, so I’ve naturally been making the most of it, and had pencilled in a large amount of gloating over the next seven odd months until we play them again. But they couldn’t even let us have that.
Nope, we had to draw them in the cup. The over-confident sort of West Ham fans started to come out saying ‘we’ll just do them 3-0 again’, but when you look past that result, you start to realize things could get pretty embarrassing next time around. Firstly, for Spurs, this is their perfect draw. They’ve avoided all the big teams and they’ve got the unique opportunity to get revenge on us, and put things right on the same ground just over two months after the horror show last time around. They are going to be right up for this game, no doubt about that. For that reason, Villas-Boas is undoubtedly going to play near enough his first team, or at least a very strong team, for our visit. He has already been playing a strong team throughout the competition before they even drew us, and AVB has made clear he wants to do something in this tournament. And now, when the opportunity had come up to kill two birds with one stone, as he progresses to the semi-finals while getting revenge on West Ham in the process, he probably can’t believe his luck.
And what are we going to do to combat this undoubtedly strong Spurs side that will be put out? In short, nothing at all. Despite calls for West Ham to go somewhere in this competition too, as of yet the teams we have put out have been more experimentation than being put out to win a game. We’ve managed to get through three rounds but now we face Spurs, I can see us playing a weakened team yet again. We play Sunderland at home the weekend before, which is a big game within the end goal of Premier League safety, so the first team will be put out there. And then United away the weekend after, it would be very brave to rest the first team there and play them at Spurs in midweek. So I can see another experimental eleven sent out at White Hart Lane, against a near enough first team for Spurs, and the end result of all that being a humiliating, heavy defeat that the Spurs fans will then use against us, as were used to, until we play them again.
So I guess that’s life as a West Ham fan. Even when you get a historic, incredible result like that at White Hart Lane, we can’t even enjoy that for as long as we thought we might be able to!
There are those who say ‘we’ve done it once, why can’t we do it again?’ despite the game last month being our first win at Spurs since 1999. And there are some that claim our defence is so solid away from home Spurs won’t break it down. To an extent that’s true, having only conceded one goal away from home all season, a penalty at Hull. We’ve kept clean sheets at Newcastle, Southampton, Spurs, Swansea and now Burnley, none of which are easy places to go by any stretch, so we can hang onto that. But I get the feeling that if we were to send out McCartney and Potts to attempt to keep out either Defoe or Soldado, not to mention the classy midfield behind the front man, things would soon change.
So I’m not really buying any optimism for this fixture, but I will bring a bit of optimism to the table to finish the article off. Firstly, I was even less optimistic before we played Spurs in the league, and just look how that ended up. Secondly, if we do end up by some miracle beating them again, they will have no excuse at all this time around, and will be hysterically funny for all of us. And finally, possibly more important than the last two, and not even concerning the result, the chance to be one of, hopefully, a huge cup allocation filling part of the Park Lane Stand at White Hart Lane will be pretty special I think. Well, right up until we all start to trickle out when the fourth goal rolls in. But it will be special to begin with possibly. That’s about as much optimism as you’re going to get. Sorry!