Opposition Q & A
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After managing to put to the sword a surprisingly strong Conference team in Stockport County on Monday, West Ham return to action with a trip up to the opposite side of Manchester when we visit Burnley for a Saturday afternoon game. Ahead of the game I spoke once again to Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss everything Claret and Blue.
Well we’re just about at the halfway point of the season. Things were looking a bit dodgy for you a few weeks ago, but 3 wins and a draw in the last 5 games has hauled you out of the relegation zone. How do you sum up the season so far?
We’ve played 16 games and it can almost be split in two. We only had two points from the first seven games and since we’ve picked up 14 points from the last nine games although there is an explanation to that.
We started the season with so many injuries which included our two central defenders James Tarkowski and Ben Mee. We were shipping goals which meant losing games, it was really as simple as that.
We are still not back to full strength but we’ve only a couple missing now and things are starting to look much better, more Dyche like and that stands us in good stead.
Winning away against Arsenal seems to have sparked your recovery, what’s caused the big turn around in your performance?
By the time we’d arrived at Arsenal we’d beaten Crystal Palace and then drawn against Everton which was arguably one of our best performances this season, a game we possibly would have one but for one slip just before half time.
The change in fortunes is, as I said, really down to having enough players available although I have to say it was nice to get a first ever Premier League win against Arsenal. We’ve been done by them so often with late and extremely dubious decisions it was one definitely to savour.
As I mentioned you have opened up a bit of a gap at the bottom. Are you confident that your good fortune will last?
I can’t imagine we will have another run of injuries in the way we did at the start of the season so I see no reason why the improvement can’t continue. I do really believe we will be some way clear by the end of the season and I suspect we might climb a few more places yet.
Manchester United currently sit at the top of the table, were you impressed by them in your midweek match?
You have to be impressed with a team that can string a run of results together in the way United did. They looked a decent side against us last night but then again so did we and it did take a deflected effort from Paul Pogba to beat us. They are not a traditional Manchester United side on that evidence, more a difficult team to break down which is a massive change from how they were playing just a few weeks ago.
“Of the players that have recently played for Burnley, and are currently plying their trade elsewhere, the likes of Danny Ings, Michael Keane, etc, are there any that you wish were still turning out at Turf Moor?*
Danny Ings was terrific for us in the promotion team in 2013/14 and then had a decent season for us in the Premier League. He’s definitely stepped up his game at Southampton and now looks a very dangerous player. Michael Keane was also outstanding for us but if I could bring a player back it would be Kieran Trippier. He was brilliant for us and there’s nothing a Burnley fan likes more than to see a player with his commitment.
We’re in a transfer window at the moment: so far Burnley have made no purchases. If Sean Dyce does decide to buy, where do you most need strengthening?
I do think we could do with a younger right back and I’d like to see a right sided midfield player and a central defender. Those would be the first three options for me. It would give us options in all positions and give the squad more balance.
You will obviously be delighted with Sean Dyce’s long term performance as Burnley manager, how do you rate the performance of West Ham’s David Moyes after his return to the club?
Moyes is a good manager; he showed that at Everton before being sunk at United with things, as I saw it, outside his control. I thought he did a decent job keeping you up first time round and I’m not sure why you binned him for Pellegrini. I know he’s not the most popular manager you’ve had but he’s doing a decent job there.
How will Burnley line up against West Ham on Saturday? Players/formation please.
It was more like the Burnley team we would expect against Manchester United. We will almost certainly play 4-4-2 and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if it were the same team which was: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, J?hann Berg Guðmundsson, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Robbie Brady, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes. If not, then Dwight McNeil is pushing for his place back on the left of midfield now fit again and there might be a change up front that could see either Jay Rodriguez or Mat?j Vydra preferred to Wood or Barnes.
Finally, you beat us last time out, are you confident you are going to repeat that feat this weekend? Prediction for score?
Why not. I think we are going to start scoring goals soon so a 2-0 win wouldn’t surprise me.
Well many thanks once again to Tony for his time. I’m hoping that the extra bit of rest the West Ham players will have after our respective games will prove to be to our advantage, so I’m going for 1 – 2 to West Ham. COYI