A welcome respite - or nail in the coffin?

West Ham travel to Pride Park on Monday for a tricky-looking 4th round FA Cup tie against Derby County of League One. An improving and in-form County, it has to be said.

4,800 travelling fans will be doing all they can to help get the Hammers over the line and into the 5th round – while 20,000 or more Rams’ fans will be baying for a cup upset. The TV cameras will be there, primarily to witness the latter of course – and it has to be said West Ham and cup upsets are not exactly strange bedfellows.

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There have been more than just a few of those over the years. On the other hand, West Ham going up against Derby County in the FA Cup is a rarity of extreme proportions.

If you believe in omens, and football fans are a breed happy to cling to anything they feel might give them an advantage, the last time these two club met in the world’s oldest and greatest cup competition was 100 years ago.

24th March 1923 in fact – in a certain FA Cup semi-final which took place at Stamford Bridge. It was a game West Ham won 5-2 – taking them on to our club’s historic first ever FA Cup Final at the newly completed Wembley Stadium. The so-called 'White Horse Final' against Bolton Wanderers.

Before David Moyes’ side take the field on Monday evening there will no doubt be the usual debate as to whether the manager should go 'big' – field a full strength side, in the hope that amid all the disappointment of our league campaign so far, a good cup run could provide at least some solace.

Or maybe he should utilise his squad players for this one – and protect certain key individuals for the league. We certainly could do without any more untimely injuries right now.

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He could of course do what some of our fanbase have regularly been calling for by giving some of our promising youngsters a chance. Although that’s probably the least likely of the options he’ll take. Remember Big Sam and the youngsters he threw into the cup against Nottingham Forest? We lost that one 5-0.

Moyes is more likely to mix things up the way he did with the early rounds of the Europa Conference League – and who can argue with the results achieved there? He’s almost certain to give an opportunity to a few of those senior squad players who have spent time on the bench lately.

As he said at his Friday press conference: "Just because you change a few players doesn’t mean you don’t want to win a trophy as you have squads of players to look after".

Of course Monday evening could work two ways. The game coming as a welcome respite to the pressures of the Premier League – and a victory on top of the excellent result away to Brentford in the last round would make it three wins and a draw in our last five games.

On the other hand, a cup upset and resultant defeat could be another nail in the coffin for the manager. Nothing is ever dull at West Ham, that’s for sure...

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