ONE-TIME West Ham United defender, Alan Stephenson, believes it could be a difficult afternoon for his former side when high-flying Everton are the visitors to the London Stadium on Saturday.
Despite results going their way, the Hammers Premier League future is far from secure. Speaking ahead of the match, Stephenson said: “I was disappointed to see the Hammers drop two points late on against rock-bottom Sunderland last week, no they face a huge test against a side seventh in the table and in with a shout of a Champions League place.
“With only five matches remaining, Slaven Bilic will be aware that one more win should see the Hammers safe from relegation. However, they are without a home win since beating Crystal Palace 3-0 in January. They desperately need to end that sequence this weekend.
‘The Toffees will be looking to record a double over West ham, having beaten them 2-0 at Goodison Park back in October thanks to goals from Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley. Nevertheless, their away form has been poor with only four victories recorded on the road all season, and they are without an away win in six. Everton will be missing key players, Yannick Bolasie and Seamus Coleman with long-term injuries, so perhaps this is a good time for West Ham to come up against the Merseyside outfit.
It was very clear to Stephenson where Everton’s main threat lie, but he was quick to point out that they had emerged as a real force in the Premier League this season, adding: “Of course, Lukaku has been a constant thorn in the Hammers side over the years, scoring nine times against the east Londoners in nine games. The 23-year-old Belgian frontman recently had a one-hundred million pound price tag placed on his head after reportedly turning down a new contract at Goodison Park. He has scored 24 goals in 31 matches this season and will be a handful for James Collins and co who will be charged with the task of dealing with his threat.
“I certainly think Everton are geared up for success. Manager, Ronald Koeman, has an experienced squad to select from, with the likes of Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka at the back. Meanwhile, in the shape of 18-year-old Tom Davies and the widely recognisable talent of Barkley, they have flair in the middle of the park.
Stephenson, who made 108 appearances for West Ham between 1968 and 1972, questioned the lack of young players who are progressing through the ranks at the London Stadium: “When I see the likes of Davies and Barkley at Everton, I have to ask why we have a distinct lack of young players emerging at West Ham? My first manager at Crystal Palace, Arthur Rowe, always maintained that if a footballer is good enough, he’s old enough. West Ham sent Reece Oxford out on loan to Reading. Personally, I would have like to have seen him given the opportunity to establish himself in the Hammers first team this season.
“All my experiences, whether it be good or bad, I found to be useful as a footballer. Fortunately, I had far more good than bad times at Upton Park. I for one think that Oxford would have benefited more from staying at West Ham and playing against the likes of Everton on Saturday.”