Can Junior solve scoring problem?
WEST HAM winger Junior Stanislas has the most agreeable habit of popping up with vital goals for his club, writes DAVE EVANS. He broke into the team last season and scored against Sunderland in only his second appearance in claret and blue, before doublin
WEST HAM winger Junior Stanislas has the most agreeable habit of popping up with vital goals for his club, writes DAVE EVANS.
He broke into the team last season and scored against Sunderland in only his second appearance in claret and blue, before doubling that tally against Middlesbrough in the final match of the campaign.
This time round he has been in and out of the team, but he has still managed to grab two goals in the controversial Carling Cup clash with Millwall at Upton Park and then fire in the last-minute equaliser against Fulham.
Sunday's goal against Everton however, may be a more difficult one to claim for the youngster, who will not turn 20 until later in the month.
He latched on to Alessandro Diamanti's pinpoint pass and lifted the ball over Tim Howard and towards goal, but it was left to Everton full back Tony Hibbert to hook it into his own net, when it seemed easier to clear.
Stanislas though, want the goal as his own: "I have to claim the goal don't I?" asked the speedy winger. "It would be a bit silly if I didn't and the ball was going in anyway.
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"I lifted the ball over the keeper, but it seemed to slow right down, I was just happy to see it end up in the net to be honest."
There shouldn't be too much debate at the dubious goals committee of the FA before they award the effort as an own goal, but it is Stanislas' ability to get into scoring positions as a midfielder that is something West Ham have been sadly lacking once again this season.
Manager Gianfranco Zola insisted he was determined to improve the scoring tally of the midfielders this term, and had brought in Luis Jimenez and Alessandro Diamanti to do the job.
But while Stanislas has grabbed three goals this term - four if you include the Everton strike - the rest have been sadly lacking.
Mark Noble has scored two, one of which was a penalty against Aston Villa, Diamanti has managed two penalties, while Scott Parker, Valon Behrami, Radoslav Kovac, Jack Collison and Jimenez have failed to hit the net at all.
Perhaps it was for this reason that Stanislas was given the nod at half time on Sunday. It is certainly something that the youngster has been working hard to achieve.
"Obviously I want to be playing all the time," he said. "But I'm still young, I cannot complain that I was out of the team, but coming on today was really good for me."
In a game that seemed to have less width than a squashed halibut, it was refreshing to see a natural winger storming to the by-line producing crosses, but Stan-islas has also worked on coming inside and causing problems for the opposition in their box.
"I've just been working hard and trying so hard to perform on the training pitch," he said.
"For someone of my age, looking to learn and get better, I think that is really important and hopefully it will be enough to catch the manager's eye and get some games under my belt."
"I just want to keep improving and work on all aspects of my game, not just crossing and beating men, as I want to become a better all-round footballer. I just want to try and get in the team regularly."
Zola's insistence on playing a 4-3-3 formation has somewhat hampered Stanislas' chances of a regular place in the side - he hasn't started a game since the 1-0 defeat at Wigan Athletic in September.
But now the boss has reverted to 4-4-2, the need for a winger has become more acute and that could mean Stanislas gets the nod again.
Zola and assistant Steve Clarke have certainly been good for the former Academy boy, who has now made 18 appearances in claret and blue.
"They have had a massive impact on me, they were big players when they played the game," insisted Stanislas.
"The boss has been doing a lot of individual work with us and I feel it is helping. He is really well respected around the club."
Stanislas will hope to take what he has learned into this Saturday's England under-21 game where he will be joined by James Tomkins and Zavon Hines for the match against Portugal in the European under-21 Championship qualifier.
The winger was an unused sub last time out as Hines grabbed two goals on debut in a 6-3 victory over Macedonia at Coventry City, but this time round the game is being held in front of 30,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium.
While other players put their feet up during the international break, the south Londoner is delighted to be involved in such a big game.
"I don't have a week off that is for sure," he said. "I will hopefully be able to play at Wembley for the under-21s which is something to get very excited about.
"It will be a great experience to play there and a great honour for me to do so for England."
West Ham fans will no doubt be watching the under-21 game with baited breath, and if Stanislas can continue to impress for the Hammers, then surely it is only a matter of time before he has secured a regular starting place once again.