Good day for Burnley boss Sean Dyche after beating Hammers and meeting Mallett
Sean Dyche seemed most excited about meeting Timmy Mallett but Sunday's 2-0 win over West Ham could go down as a pivotal day in Burnley's season.
First-half goals from Chris Wood and teenager Dwight McNeil, coupled with some resolute defending and an outstanding late save from Tom Heaton - picked ahead of Joe Hart to make his first Premier League start in 15 months - gave the Clarets a confidence-boosting win.
Dyche was already beaming from the result when he walked into his post-match press conference, but his smile grew wider when he spotted children's entertainer Mallett sat front and centre - accompanying his son who is visiting all 92 league grounds.
"Goodness me! Timmy Mallett!" Dyche exclaimed. "Legend! Very rarely do I get selfies but I might today. It caps off a good day, that."
If Burnley can stay in the Premier League, the picture he got with the former Wacaday presenter could become a treasured memory.
This was a return to the Burnley of last season when they played their way into Europe: tight at the back, dangerous going forward.
Wood, McNeil and Ashley Barnes all had fine chances to add to their lead after McNeil made it 2-0 34 minutes in, while Heaton was not troubled until a late header from Andy Carroll which he acrobatically pushed on to the crossbar.
The return of the popular goalkeeper added to a feel-good factor which seemed to start even before kick-off, with fans not dwelling on the 5-1 home loss to Everton four days ago which had left Burnley with one win in 12.
"It wasn't easy walking out there today but I've got to give the fans credit," Dyche said. "In a situation like this, after such a big thing last season, they can start asking questions and that can go into the crowd with the noise.
"There might be questions, I'm not stupid about that, but there was a great noise today, a positive noise. That gives the players a start point and the players delivered on that today."
Dyche made five changes to the side thrashed by Everton. McNeil and Johann Berg Gudmundsson gave them impetus in midfield while Wood seemed an obvious choice given his record against West Ham, and he duly delivered a fifth goal in four games against the Hammers.
The decision to drop Hart would always draw more attention of course, but Dyche could not ignore the number of goals going in.
"Joe's done well for us," he said. "He's a quality keeper, a quality professional and as a bloke as well. He was the first to jump up when Tom made the save at the end. There's a big respect for him here certainly...
"I can only pick eleven and I can only pick one goalkeeper.
"I am quite loyal to people and I think I've been loyal to Joe. But eventually you have to look at the stats against us and the conceded goals.
"The final piece I hadn't changed was the goalkeeper and I felt it was necessary and appropriate."
West Ham have picked up 15 points in an impressive December but ran out of momentum here, with Manuel Pellegrini suggesting the combination of an intensive schedule and a lengthy injury list finally caught up with his side.
"Normally I don't like to give excuses when you lose a game but I think today it was clear from the very first minute the physical (condition) was so different between the two teams that we couldn't play," the Chilean said.
West Ham were away to Southampton on Thursday night, giving them less recovery time than Burnley who played at home on Boxing Day afternoon.
"We arrived to London on Friday at 2am in the morning and we are playing again 48 hours after that against a team who always work very hard and are physical," Pellegrini added.
"They recovered better than our team without any doubt because they have 30 hours more."