Premier League preview: Stoke City v West Ham

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Premier League preview: Stoke City v West Ham
Managerial movements dominate the build-up to this one.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis had the most difficult of days on Monday. After spending the day at his gravely ill mother’s bedside at the family home in Newport, South Wales, he made an emotional return to the dugout at the Britannia Stadium with his side 1-0 down at half time to Aston Villa after she had sadly passed away.
The “paint was peeling off the walls” according to one Stoke player during Pulis’ half time team talk, as the boss let out his frustrations.
He challenged his players to perform, and they did, as goals in the final 10 minutes from Kenwyne Jones and Robert Huth turned what had been heading for a fourth straight defeat into an emotional victory. Pulis’ mother was presumably smiling down upon her son and his team.
“I've never seen anything like that,” said Jones, who scored the first goal of his second spell with the Potters on Monday night.
“Many would take time off and grieve for such a loss. I guess Tony was grieving but it spurred him on to come back and do what he loves. I'm not being disrespectful. He understands his mother lived a full life, no-one likes to lose a family member. In the coming days I'm sure he will celebrate her life.
“We were surprised to see him, we didn't expect he'd be in the dressing room. But the manager showed his passion for the club and for this team. He came out and did his job. It did inspire us. Sometimes the passion of football overrides everything else.”
Just ask Avram Grant.
The West Ham boss is wrestling with the question of whether or not he observes the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur – the most important day on the Jewish calendar that requires followers to fast and abstain from work.
After West Ham initially stated that Grant would not be at the Britannia Stadium, the boss was believed to be exploring options that would allow him to attend the match, largely due to the dire state that his club find themselves in, but now he has conceded defeat in his battle to be there. He hopes his team don’t follow suit.
Last Saturday’s home loss to Chelsea made it four defeats out of four for the Hammers, anchoring them to the foot of the table. Not that they think they should be there.
“We're massively better than bottom of the table,” says an optimistic Matthew Upson, who obviously hasn’t been watching footage of his and Robert Green’s comedic roles in Salomon Kalou’s goal at the weekend.
That was very bottom of the table, but the skipper is still optimistic.
“I'm so looking forward to this game at the weekend. I want us to turn up as a group feeling positive and really go to win the game.
“Yes, it's a difficult place to go, they've got their tactics and they structure their team well around it. We've got to put our heads in places where we don't want to put them and be prepared to get them kicked off. If we can do that and then play with the ball, we can beat Stoke. It'll be a good test of our character.”
Heads kicked off or not, a West Ham side who have been playing like headless chickens for most of this fledgling season are indeed in great need of a win, but whether they’ll get it here is doubtful.
The – entirely understandable – uncertainty surrounding Grant is one thing, but the Hammers don’t look in a position to win this game anyway, as Stoke’s battlers are formidable on home turf.
A home win then, and another tonic for Pulis after a tough, trying week.
Prediction: Stoke 3 West Ham 1



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