West Ham stars must learn value of every point as relegation fight reality continues to bite


Everton. Southampton. Bournemouth. These are not the rivals David Moyes expected to be worrying about when tuning in to the three-o’clock results on Final Score in mid-February.

As recently as the final day of last season, it was Manchester United upon whom eyes and ears were fixed amid the prospect of a top-six finish. These days, though, United’s results are about as relevant to West Ham’s fortunes as those of the Utah Jazz or the Iowa caucuses.

After the aforementioned trio of fellow relegation candidates all won on Saturday, the Hammers’ anti-Carlsberg weekend was completed here, where a Spurs side missing manager Antonio Conte still found the in-game tweaks to run out 2-0 winners after a turgid first half which ended 0-0.

The goals came from Emerson Royal and the benched Heung-min Son, with the result that West Ham, who might have started the day feeling a little unlucky to be back in the bottom three after some encouraging recent results, remain stuck there on merit.

This was a game that followed the trends of both sides’ seasons, a point of initial frustration for the hosts but a more lasting sense of dread for the visitors, who failed to produce any sustained period of attacking pressure, beyond a fast start inspired by Tomas Soucek’s pressing.

At the back, they looked solid until they were not, three centre-backs carved apart by one Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg pass that set Ben Davies away to square for Royal. Son’s introduction sealed the points as part of Spurs’s habitual second-half upturn.

There are 15 Premier League games to go and, seemingly, plenty of time for West Ham to pull clear of the danger zone, but the same was said when that figure was 20 and 25.

The level of talent within Moyes’s squad still breeds fair confidence that his side will survive, but increasingly the idea that they may surge away and do so with any degree of comfort looks an optimistic one.

Moyes, who in fairness had never gone overboard on the supposed progress of five points from three games before this weekend, issued a challenge to his players that suggested there will be no sugar-coating their predicament.

“Our results are key,” the Scot said. “Let’s see who’s up for the fight.”

Indeed, let’s, because beyond the guessing conjecture about who seems to “fancy it”, beyond the lazy waffle about whose gait, shoulder-breadth or — let’s face it — nationality supposedly makes them ripe for a scrap, is a genuine point that none of this squad began this season hard-wired for a relegation battle.

Some have been here before with West Ham, yes, but thought those days were gone. Others arrived to promises, built on the evidence of two superb campaigns, that this was a club on the up. Only Danny Ings, parachuted in last month to score the goals to sort out this mess, knew what he was getting into.

Nottingham Forest at home on Saturday is a must-win.

Recalibration cannot have come easy, if indeed it has come at all, particularly when set against the juxtaposition that will come in a couple of weeks’ time, when the Hammers will once again be among the league’s elite competing on the European stage. Might that prove a disadvantage compared to the likes of Bournemouth, who came into the campaign certain of the value of every point?

Nottingham Forest, the Hammers’ next opponents in a must-win at home on Saturday, are another in the same boat, though sailing in calmer waters.

Still, just seven points separate Forest, 13th in the table, from Southampton at its foot and, with little more than a third of the campaign to go, the race for survival is looking as enthralling as that for the crown. West Ham, to their dismay, are right in the thick of it.