Unhappy birthday for Hammers boss

BY foxsports • February 6, 2011

The Hammers appeared to be on the up after a midweek Premier League win at Blackpool but they looked back to their inconsistent worst at Upton Park on Sunday, rarely threatening the visitors' goal throughout in a disjointed performance. Nikola Zigic's second-half header was enough to see the home side off and put Grant's position as manager back under the spotlight. The win moved Blues out of the relegation zone but the Hammers are now two points off safety having played a game more than most of their relegation rivals. Grant admits the defeat has put a serious dent in his team's chances of staying up, and as a result his plans to celebrate his 56th birthday have now been shelved. "I am not so happy, my birthday is cancelled," Grant said. "How can I celebrate? We didn't score and didn't win. It is not happy birthday but it is not me that is important, it is the team. "We take a few steps forward and one back and we need to learn from this. We deserve to stay up but we need to do it. We cannot lose games like this. "The disappointing thing is that we lost to a team near us and it is a game of six points. "Until now we have won these games. It will be a battle until the end but we need to take points because we have the quality to do that." Grant's misery was compounded by a calf injury to Robbie Keane and Matthew Upson had to be withdrawn at half-time after earning a last-minute recall when James Tomkins picked up a calf problem in the warm-up. Upson will be seen by the club doctors on Monday but Keane, who scored on his debut against Blackpool in midweek, is a doubt for the Hammers' match against West Brom next week and is definitely out of the Republic of Ireland's game against Wales on Tuesday. Zigic dealt the fatal blow when he nodded home from a Sebastian Larsson free-kick with 25 minutes remaining. It was the Serbian's fourth league goal of what has been a frustrating first season for the towering striker. Zigic struggled to adapt to the physicality of the English game at the start of the year but his manager believes the 30-year-old has now turned a corner. "He's upped his game and is at a good level now," Birmingham boss Alex McLeish said. "He's an international player and it's been a challenge getting used to England. "He's beginning to hold his own. He was pushed in the back for the goal but he managed to stay firm and get his head on it." McLeish had faced calls to drop the 6ft 7in striker but he kept faith with him and now thinks he can go on to play a big part in Birmingham's quest to stay up. He said: "I'd like to see a big return in this half of the season - maybe 20 goals! "He's making his mark and has been powerful for us in the last three of four games. "If he can continue to cause havoc and create assists then he'll chip in with one or two himself. I don't think he's ever been prolific." After seeing rivals Wolves and Wigan register shock wins yesterday , McLeish admits his side were desperate to pick up three points today. "Psychologically it was a huge win," the Scot said. "The players were sat like ghouls watching the results come in on Saturday. "I said: 'Don't watch it. You'll only get yourself upset if it doesn't go for you'. "A few results went for the bottom teams and then Wolves go and beat Man United." McLeish hopes that Birmingham can now kick on in their next two home games against Stoke and Newcastle, but has warned that achieving survival will not be easy. "Hopefully the confidence will gather pace but there are no guarantees," McLeish said. "I don't think there are any bad teams in the league."

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