Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spector - The league is our focus

Jonathan Spector has said Premier League survival must remain West Ham's priority as they entertain Burnley at Upton Park tonight for a place in the last eight of the F.A. Cup.

"Obviously the league is more important for us, " he told NSC. "Our focus is certainly on the league but it is a nice distraction when we have something else to play for."

West Ham sit second-to-bottom in the table on goal difference with less than a dozen games to play. As the fillip of pipping Tottenham to the keys to London's Olympic Stadium wears off, the prospect of moving in as a Football League tenant remains a genuine fear at the Boleyn Ground.

"As as the season winds down," said Spector, "and we come to the end of it and we are still in the F.A. Cup and fighting for safety in the league, then our main focus will have to be on the league."

Meanwhile, in the way of a quarter-final date for the Hammers are the Clarets, eighth in the Championship but on a bit of a roll with four wins out of six.

For the Claret & Blue however, missing out on a Wembley showdown with Arsenal having led Birmingham 3-1 on aggregate in their League Cup semi-final remains a painful memory they are desperate to avenge.

"It was certainly a massive disappointment we did not make it to Wembley for the Carling Cup Final after being so close," Spector recalled, "but we are still in the F.A. Cup so we will try and make a good run in that."

The cups have also given the US international valuable playing time this season: Five of his 13 club appearances as well as three of his four goals in 2010/11 have come in the knock-out competitions. His unexpected brace against former employers Manchester United in November kick-started his season belatedly and the Illinoisan has turned out ten times for the Hammers since that memorable night.

"I was pretty euphoric," he recalls of his starring role in the 4-0 demolition of Alex Ferguson's eleven. "I certainly was not expecting it so I didn't have any celebration planned. I had not been in the team much leading up to that game and we were struggling in the league, so it was nice to be part of a winning side again. It was just a great feeling and I suppose the two goals were the icing on the cake."

Should West Ham triumph on Monday night they face an awkward trip to the Britannia Stadium and the sinewy Stoke City, tenth in the Premier League, for a place in the semi-finals.

F.A. Cup Quarter-Final draw:

Stoke v West Ham/Burnley
Man City/Aston Villa v Everton/Reading
Birmingham v Bolton
Man Utd v Leyton Orient/Arsenal

-Sean O'Conor

No comments: