Wednesday 29 March 2017

Upson hoping brighter days are on horizon for Hammers

West Ham 3
Stoke City 0

John Ley

Matthew Upson predicted it will be raining in Portugal when West Ham's players spend a week away from Chadwell Heath, their quagmire of a training ground.

Upson's pessimism did not reflect the mood of renewed hope at the club following this emphatic win over Stoke. Now it's positively raining goals at Upton Park where there was, until recently, a drought.

The West Ham captain flew yesterday with his team-mates in search of grass to train on and some rest and relaxation ahead of an FA Cup quarter-final tie, away to Saturday's visitors, and the continuing fight against relegation.

They are staying at the same Algarve resort where Fulham recently spent a short break -- and have not lost since. West Ham, after scoring 20 goals in seven games, will train every day and hope the change of scenery will enable them to continue their good form.

"I think it's raining there at the moment," said Upson. "It's more of a break in terms of a change of scenery. If it is raining, so be it.

struggling

"We've been struggling a bit with the training pitches at Chadwell Heath because they get a bit overused. So it's nice to go and get a different set-up, a nice bit of grass and good training facilities for three days."

One player who will feel at home is Manuel da Costa, the Portuguese U-21 international, who was outstanding against a woeful Stoke side.

Da Costa scored the second goal after Demba Ba had given West Ham the lead and was then instrumental, alongside Upson, in securing their first Premier League clean sheet since New Year's Day.

Thomas Hitzlsperger completed the scoring with his second strike in three games. Both Hitzlsperger and Ba were signed by Avram Grant and both have impressed hugely.

The irony of Ba's latest goal was not lost on Stoke or manager Tony Pulis. He failed a medical at the Britannia Stadium in January before arriving at West Ham and Grant knows there were others ready to pounce for the striker.

"No one knew Ba before we wanted to sign him," said the West Ham manager. "The minute that his name was in the paper, everyone wanted him.''

As for Stoke, there is cause for anxiety, especially as they have lost their last six away games. They can seek revenge on Sunday when the clubs meet again for the right to play in a Wembley FA Cup semi-final, but Pulis accepts Premier League survival is still a concern.

"We need to get 40 points as quickly as possible," he admitted. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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