How is everyone at the club?
We are actually very good. At the training ground, it’s been really good. Most of them are OK. We do have one or two people with the virus but most of them are very good and long may that continue.
Are you happy with the Premier League’s decision to keep playing?
I don’t make those decisions, I make the decisions to be made here at West Ham. They’re big decisions, I’m sure the people who have had to make this decision was a big call. We move on. I don’t really know if there’s any more that I can add to what everyone else is talking about. From my point of view, I don’t have any differing opinions from what I’ve probably heard from other managers or from the Premier League themselves.
Are you assured by the health and safety of your players and yourself?
Yes. A lot of us, most of us are double jabbed and boosted and all the other things as well. We’ve got some staff members who got the virus, some of them with no symptoms. It’s not something that we can say [exactly] who is getting [Covid]. It’s not only the football players or the football coaches – but it’s everybody in society. We just have to I’ve with it and do everything we possibly can to keep everybody’s health right and everybody safe.
Are you happy with the integrity of the competition right now? Would a firebreak be a good idea?
I’m not happy with all the things I’m hearing. For example, we gave four or five young players their debut in Europe. That could now count against us if we got ten or 12 people with Covid in the senior players. We would now have to class those players as first-team players which is not the case. Young players who have just been given their debut. That goes against a club like us.
As well as that there may be clubs that have had the virus as a whole and have had a chance to shut down completely. The clubs with three or four cases of the virus are the ones who are suffering because they’re the ones who need to play the games. I don’t truly believe that it’s all correct. There are enough people brighter than me talking about it so there’s not much I need to say.
How important is this game for you and the season?
I think the good thing is that we are still in every competition going into Christmas time. It’s a great thing that we’ve got ourselves in a position where we’re in Europe, we’re in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup, we’re in a strong position in the league at the moment. So there’s a lot of things going into it where we’re in a good place.
But, like everybody else at this time of the season, we’ve all got injuries. So we’re no different from any other club and that plays its part. We’ll go into every game with the intention of trying to win it and get a result and I’ll try and do that against Tottenham.
Overview of fitness of the squad?
We’ve got a few injuries as people know so we have that. I’ve said, like every other club, we’ve got some people who have got Covid. Bu in the main we’re pretty good that way. But we’re no different from any other club and I probably won’t give out much more information than that at this time either. It’s probably personal for all of the people who’ve got the virus.
Another good result against Tottenham can provide a springboard for West Ham?
Yes, I think you want to keep winning. You want to keep the level and the momentum going. I think if we could get ourselves through this round it would be a big step for us again. I think we’re more than capable but we’re also up against a good side at the moment so we understand that.
What have you made of them since Antonio Conte came in?
He’s done a really good job. I think Tottenham always had a good team and a good squad of players – I don’t think that was ever in question. I think they’ve got a manager who has been proven in this country and Italy and he has a really good record. You would expect all those things that work together would make a positive outcome. We’ve got to make sure we work against it and do everything we can to stop them.
Were you in favour of stopping or not?
I think our Christmas programme is so important to people who live in this country and its part of our culture. I think because of that we are used to playing in a really hectic Christmas period. I can say from a personal point of view is that we’ve played an awful lot of games and it would certainly be nice to have a little bit of a break. But it’s not what we’ve got. Some of the clubs have had that – we’re not, we’ve also had extra games. But we play football in this country that is what we do.
For Covid and the Covid reasons, everybody else knows this, I’ve not got anything else to add to what anybody else has said about it. From that point of view if the League decided it foes ahead then we go ahead and we play.
Are we just kicking this problem down the road until later on in January?
I don’t know – I’m not a scientist. I can’t tell you when the problems are going to be and where it is but we do know that society at the moment is having a really bad time with Covid – that’s what we do know. I said last week that I really do hope that the supporters who come to the games, it’s not for me to tell them, but if I was a supporter at the game I’d like to be sat next to a supporter who was jabbed. That’s where I would like to be if I was coming to a game.
Overall, I don’t think there’s anything I can really add to it which hasn’t already been said. there are so many people who can talk about it and who knows a little bit more about it. The stakeholders at the Premier League chose to [carry on]. They thought it was the right thing.
How important has Declan Rice been to West Ham recently?
It’s not only just recently but in the few years since I’ve been here as well, he has improved greatly. I think we’ve all seen his improvements playing for England as well. Maybe two years ago people questioned whether he was going to be in the team [or] would he not be. I think now I wouldn’t say he’s a stick-on, nobody is a stick-on for any team or certainly any country. Dec has done a great job and long may that continue.
Referees have not had a great week. Are you worried about the standards of refereeing in the last couple of weeks?
I think this year the referees have had their best performances up until the last couple of weeks. I have to say I think there’s been not a lot of discussions whether that be pundits or television or we’ve talked about it but not as much as we have discipline. After the game, I wasn’t sure about the decision but we did get clarification to say it was the wrong decision from the referees and that it shouldn’t have been a sending off.
We also got clarification to say we should have got a penalty at Burnley. There’s probably quite high-profile clubs getting into these instances as well but recently we feel as if we’ve had a couple of instances that haven’t gone for us which could obviously change things.
Is VAR still a work in progress?
I find it very hard that two sets of eyes wouldn’t get that correct. I’m not a referee and I don’t make all the decisions but I’ve been a football player and a football manager and I’ve got an idea. I would hope that if I was sitting in front of a television watching it from four or five different angles I would probably have a really good opinion.
If I was unsure I would certainly send the referee over to say ‘why don’t we collaborate on this to see how it goes rather than just leaving it to one person to do it. I think for me the disappointment is they are not working well enough between the referee and whoever is in the VAR studio to get the decision right.
What would it mean to you to win a trophy as West Ham manager?
I would love to win a trophy with West Ham. I think West Ham has had a history of trophies in years gone by. Maybe not so much in modern-day times so it would be a great achievement. We have to build and grow into it. I was going to say I don’t want to be a club that wins a trophy then doesn’t do anything for another ten or 20 or 30 years and we end up getting relegated and not doing very well. I think there’s a process to winning trophies. You have to try and build your team up and your club up to try and get to a level where you can be competitive in all the competitions.
For example, I wouldn’t necessarily like to win the League Cup and find ourselves struggling in the bottom three of the Premier League. I think being a good league side is really, really important for any club. Partly because of your placement, partly because of the money. I think the supporters who come to the games with season tickets; the cup games are hugely important and you want to win, but I still see league football as what your job is to do.
Do you need to prioritise or do you think about it one game at a time?
We prioritise through the whole way, we’ve been doing it from the first game. The team we picked at Man United; the team we picked at Man City; the teams we’ve picked in Europe – we’ve tried to prioritise. The league is always really important. I would love t be a trophy winner at West Ham and I will do everything I can. We’re in all the competitions at the moment so we’ve got to try and stay in them. We have to prioritise our players for which games they are best suited.