Hammers good bet for top-flight return

Flashback: Kick-off day and James Coppinger is tackled by Herita Ilunga, who was later on loan to Rovers.              Picture: steve taylor
Flashback: Kick-off day and James Coppinger is tackled by Herita Ilunga, who was later on loan to Rovers. Picture: steve taylor

WEST Ham United missed out on reclaiming top spot in the Championship after being held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Watford, a side they had beaten 4-0 on their travels, in midweek.

They remain one point behind leaders Southampton with a game in hand, but with third-placed Reading having made up a lot of ground in recent weeks the top two are not in the commanding position they once were.

The Hammers, who had been founder members of the Premier League, were relegated last May after 20 years in the top flight.

They brought in former Bolton boss Sam Allardyce in the summer and he quickly set about changing the squad bringing in the likes of Kevin Nolan, who was immediately made captain, from Newcastle, Bolton duo Matt Taylor and Joey O’Brien, Stoke’s Abdoulaye Faye, Aston Villa’s John Carew and Sam Baldock (Milton Keynes Dons).

He also brought in Spurs’ David Bentley and Arsenal’s Henri Lansbury on season-long loans.

The club retained hold of Scott Parker, who captained England in their recent friendly against Holland at Wembley, during the summer, and he played against Rovers in the game at the Keepmoat Stadium in August before being snapped up by Spurs before the transfer deadline at the end of the month.

In the January transfer window the Hammers signed Barnsley’s Ricardo Vaz Te and Bristol City striker Nicky Maynard .

The club climbed into an automatic promotion spot for the first time this season in mid-October following their 4-0 home win over Blackpool.

Carlton Cole scored the club’s 2000th away goal in the Football League in the 2-1 win at Coventry the following month.

The Hammers claimed top spot from long-time leaders Southampton for the first time following their 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest in late January.

They quickly came crashing down to earth, however, going down 5-1 against Ipswich Town.

They bounced back the following game, beating derby rivals Millwall 2-1 despite having Nolan sent off after eight minutes. Allardyce described the victory as being ‘one of the best wins in my entire managerial career.”

One to watch

The relegated Hammers underlined their intentions to try and bounce straight back into the Premier League when persuading tough tackling midfielder Kevin Nolan, pictured, to switch from Newcastle United. The 29-year-old, who scored 17 goals and was named Championship Player of the Year, had played a starring role in helping the Magpies make an immediate return to the top flight two years earlier. Nolan scored the only goal of the game in West Ham’s 1-0 win at the Keepmoat Stadium.