Saturday, April 23, 2011

Steadfast Spector seeks middle-man role

Jonathan Spector has told NSC he is not fazed by fear of relegation as West Ham enter the final stretch of their 2010/11 EPL campaign, and wishes Avram Grant would pick him more in midfield.

The Hammers sit second to last with five games to play, but are only two points inside the drop zone. However, they face an awesome test on the road today at Chelsea, whose six wins out of seven have rekindled their own title ambitions, before traveling next Sunday to Man City, who are desperate to pip Tottenham to the fourth Champions League spot.

Home games against Blackburn and Sunderland look winnable, but the acid test for the East Londoners should be the clash with close rivals Wigan at the JJB Stadium on May 15th.

"I don't think there are necessarily any easy games," Spector told NSC.

"Manchester United lost to Wolves in February and they are top and bottom respectively. Anything is possible on any given day. It doesn't matter who we are playing. We just need to focus on ourselves and what we can do."

This season has been another rocky road for West Ham, with the securing of London's Olympic Stadium the only real highlight. Rumors have swirled around the job of coach Avram Grant, who seemed all set to be fired in the winter, while the club's financial stability has once more been under the spotlight in the face of possible demotion to the Championship. At one point according to joint-owner David Gold, the entire first team was up for sale.

"Since I have been at West Ham the past five seasons there has been speculation about the manager, about the players and about the owners the entire time," Spector confirmed. "So I would say it is just business as usual at the club!

The players who have been there for a while have dealt with it and are accustomed to it. We cannot control any outside factors. I don't read everything that is in the papers anyway. Without naming names, the ones which speculate without facts - I am not interested in what they have to say."

The former Man Utd and Charlton man has made 17 appearances this season in all competitions, six as substitute. But what has been noticeable is Spector's move into midfield, where his pace and willingness to shoot have yielded four goals, quadrupling his previous career total.

"I certainly enjoy playing there," he confirmed, "and to be honest that position suits the attributes I have better than being a full-back. There is certainly more freedom playing up the pitch and I would definitely like to continue to play there, so it's up to the manager to select me."

Spector's relationship with his Israeli coach was tested earlier this season as he seemed stuck on the bench and unable to get playing time. Then his unexpected brace against Man Utd in the League Cup ignited his season and revived their understanding.

"It was frustrating not playing at the start of the season," he confirms, "but then he took a chance on me in midfield which I am really grateful for. It was a position I had not proved myself in but he gave me an opportunity and it has been good working with him. Communicating to players from so many different backgrounds is not easy but I think he does it really well."

The Illinoisan is quick to remind us that he started his soccer up field before being pigeon-holed as a defender.

"I grew up playing as a midfielder and was called into the National Team residency program as one before they moved me up front," he recalls.

"The second game I played there at the back, there was a scout from Manchester United watching, so I was brought to England as a defender. It was kind of a whirlwind how it all happened. But I am better suited to the midfield. It is just that I have not had that opportunity until recently."

- Sean O'Conor

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