What are you looking for out of the game against Watford?
I am hoping that we can go again and get the players ready. It’s a difficult time of the year for the players to play. So I’m hoping that we can get them all fit and available and people ready to play. And then I’m obviously hoping that we can improve our performance as well.
How difficult is it going to be to plan for this match given injuries, missing key players including Declan Rice and the COVID situation changing on a daily basis. How key is recovery?
Well, recovery is huge. I mean, even with the best recovery, whatever that may be everybody has their own ideas on it. Let’s be fair one day in football isn’t enough to do it. So that’s where the unfairness slightly comes. You have to remember Watford have not played for 18 days I think, so it’s just a little bit that I don’t know if it lies easy with me in that situation but that is what we are doing so … I played the Christmas games throughout my whole career and managed them so we go on with it.
How different is the Watford side that West Ham played in the 2019/20 season the Premier League season? Do you see them as a different proposition?
Claudio Ranieri is an incredibly experienced manager. I think they have had a really good uplift at the start and maybe one or two results which haven’t gone quite the way they wanted, but I think they look as if they’re playing in a way where they’re doing everything they can to the stay out of the bottom three and we are going to have to go there… It’s never been an easy game at Watford and I don’t think this one will be easy either.
This has been a great year for West Ham, what are you hoping the players will achieve and deliver in the New Year?
The standards have been so good and I’m trying to raise them and trying to get them much higher, so I’m driving them on to try and get better. But at the moment we’d like to get back to normal where we think we could get people playing more consistently in their performance.
There are probably mitigating circumstances and all that but overall I think the players, what they’ve achieved this season and this year has been incredible it really has been.
But I can’t pat them on the back and say ‘well done that said let’s go.’ The next part is to say no we’re going to do better and we’re trying to do better and part of finding ways to improve when you’re not doing so well is part of the journey as well. You’re never on a journey in football where it is always going one way and we have to find a way now of just making sure we get a better level of performance and more consistency from players who, as most of you journalists have seen, can do much better than maybe the performances some of them are giving at the moment.
What do you think is preventing West Ham from winning every week?
Players, the level and standard of players will always be that, you need a real quality and levels and this is the time of year where if you want to be in contention you have to kick into gear and start picking up points. We did last year as well.
Coming into January [last year] we got stronger and at the start of February. So I’ve got that in my mind if we can try and look towards that and get strong in the months to come. But obviously, we don’t want to give games up cheaply and we have to try and do a better job than we’ve done today [v Southampton].
In normal circumstances, you would say having a game so quickly, would be a good thing, in terms of not allowing players to dwell upon this result but from what you’re saying there with fitness is it such a good thing?
It is a hard thing. I think it’s something which we’ve done for so long in football, but maybe we’re getting much closer to debating it. Maybe looking at it slightly differently. Maybe in the future, they decide to maybe change the Christmas programme, but unless you’re in it. It’s a difficult one it is worse when you lose. Maybe if I am winning I’m saying no, it’s all great. I’m happy with it.
But when you’re losing, it’s not so good and I think at the moment just with the way things are some teams could have a couple of weeks off before they play again. You might have to play two games in three days. [So] you’d have to start thinking well wait a minute, this maybe doesn’t quite work out but we’re feeling healthy and long may that continue and we’ll continue playing the games.
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You’ll be missing Declan Rice against Watford, he’s been such an inspirational and key player for you this season as well as last. Is it important that the team shows they can cope without the talisman in the side?
Yeah, it really is because he’s been a huge part of how we have played and what we’ve done, and when we look back to the last five games of last season, I don’t know how many we won, but we won a few without him.
We lost a couple of big games without him, certainly, I can remember the Chelsea game he was not available. But I think when we didn’t have him for about five games last year, we did okay. He is really important, he is a big member of the team here and we always knew that he was only one booking away [from suspension] and it happened today.