Old pals back in Toon

Posted by Peter Thorne

Sam AllardyceGettyImagesWest Ham boss Sam Allardyce was given the boot by Newcastle

As West Ham prepare to face Newcastle at Upton Park on Saturday, the Hammers squad is buoyed by the news that Winston Reid has signed a new contract, keeping him to the club till 2015. Meanwhile, Manager Sam Allardyce is also confidently expected to sign a two-year extension to his own contract, probably just after the visit from one of Sam's old employees.

Short-runner for the Hammer of the Year award, Reid has been a solid success for West Ham since the New Zealander signed following his notable appearances in the 2010 World Cup. Securing his place in central defence after the Hammers relegation in 2011, it's probably fair to say that it wasn't expected that Winston's highly effective performances in the Championship would necessary lead onto further successes in the Premier League as West Ham came back up after only one season, but Reid has looked like a seasoned Premier League player and, being only 24, there are high hopes that the popular defender will be one of the players to lead West Ham into their transition period as they prepare to move into the Olympic Stadium.

Rarely exposed, Reid has looked composed and solid at the heart of defence and his performances have been one of the key elements in Allardyce's team selections this campaign. It's always a dangerous assumption in football, but Reid does have the capacity to improve even further and his commitment to the club can be nothing but good news.

Meanwhile, following their embarrassing 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool, Newcastle approach their visit to Upton Park with a nervous glance over their shoulder at the widening relegation trapdoor. Regular readers to this column over the years will know any visit of the Magpies is relished due to the fact your blogger is married into a Geordie family and bragging rights are earned and frittered away twice a year depending on the result. Fortunately, the Good Lady Blagg (or Mrs T as ESPN FC would prefer her to be known) has relinquished what little interest she had in her former local football team and - if not exactly a fan of Pie 'n' Mash and jellied eels - has at least adopted an accent that goes some way to allaying the still nightmare echoes of Dick Van Dyke ("Cor blimey Mary - itsch all me pay-els"). For the rest of the extended family though, there will be much mumbling over a pint in parts of the North-east and the Essex borders depending on how Saturday afternoon pans out.

The key element is surely going to be Andy Carroll facing up to his home-town club - a side he will be strongly linked with come season's end should (as I expect) Newcastle stay up and West Ham not provide the financial package Liverpool will be seeking. If Andy does decide to turn it on against his old side, I think the Magpies' defence could suffer, and another defeat will make things extremely difficult for ex-boss Alan Pardew and his men in the remaining games.

The mystery of Pardew's second season meltdown's - lest we forget a 2006 Cup Final appearance was followed by an ignominious sacking when the former Crystal Palace defender was in charge at West Ham - is something probably best not discussed on the blog pages of ESPN but, football supporting being what it is, there will be a lot of Hammers fans relishing getting another one over on their old boss following the win up at St James's earlier this season.

Meanwhile, down on the claret and blue Recaro seats, Big Sam will be fully aware that Newcastle chairman Mike Ashley is expected to take his place in the Rio Stand and will be looking down at the touchline at a man he sacked, also possibly contemplating having to write out another P45 for the man alongside him in the other technical area. I'm sure he will deny it, but I think Allardyce would love to raise a metaphorical finger or two behind him. I have a feeling there will two people coming out of the tunnel with something to prove this weekend and it could provide a cracking match.

Follow Peter Thorne aka Billy blagg on twitter @BillyBlaggEsq

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