Grant: New boys have helped CC

Much was expected of Cole when he made the move across London from

Chelsea to West Ham in 2006. With his power and pace, Cole was

touted as one of the best prospects in the country but he returned

just 21 goals in his first three years at Upton Park. The

27-year-old struggled in front of goal at the start of this term

too and looked to be on his way out of the club after falling out

of favour with Grant after he criticised the manager’s tactics

following a 3-0 drubbing at Anfield in November. His game has

picked up considerably over the last couple of months though, and

he has notched five goals in his last six appearances to take his

tally to 11 for the season – one short of last year’s haul which is

currently the highest in his career. Grant reckons the January

arrivals of Ba from Hoffenheim, and Keane from Tottenham, have

helped Cole sharpen his game and is looking forward to the club

continuing to reap the benefits as they aim to stay in the Premier

League and reach the FA Cup semi-finals with a win at Stoke on

Sunday. Grant said: “Competition makes you stronger. Look at

Carlton Cole before the competition and look at him now. “He has

scored a lot of goals in the last month which is very good so it

will do good for us and the other players and I believe in this.

“All the strikers are better since January, it seems. Freddie

(Sears) is doing well and Victor Obinna is so I think the

competition has been good for us.” Ba has grabbed all the headlines

by scoring four in four since his arrival, but Keane’s signing has

arguably been just as important for the club. The 30-year-old

scored on his Hammers debut and impressed on his second appearance

before suffering a calf injury that has kept him out of action for

a month. He looks set to return to the starting line-up at Stoke

and Grant believes the striker has had a big impact. “Robbie came

in at a very hard time for the team when we had a lot of injuries,

played well and then got injured,” Grant said. “He was important

for us in the short term. He is a good player to have in the

dressing room as well and I just hope he will be fit and OK now.”

Grant will have the rare luxury of having all members of his

first-team squad available for Sunday’s game at the Britannia

Stadium. Scott Parker has recovered from a shoulder injury, Obinna

is fully fit and injury-plagued midfielder Kieron Dyer has been

shipped out on loan to Ipswich for a month. Dyer has failed to make

an impact in his three years at Upton Park and may have played his

last game for the club, with his lucrative contract due to expire

in the summer. Grant insists, however, that the 32-year-old could

play a part in the remainder of the Hammers’ campaign if he

performs well at Portman Road. “Kieron Dyer is a very good player,”

the Israeli said. “He has been injured and needs to play now.

“Everyone knows him at Ipswich. He will play there for one month

and hopefully he will come back fit.” West Ham go to Stoke on

Sunday hoping to make up for their recent Carling Cup semi-final

exit to Birmingham by beating the Potters for the second time in a

week to set up a Wembley semi-final in the FA Cup. The club are on

their best run of the season with three wins from three and Grant

hopes to make it four this weekend. “We are going there with good

confidence but we know who we are playing against exactly and Stoke

are a difficult team to beat,” he said.