Birmingham v West Ham

Grant urges cool for crunch Cup tie

January 26, 2011

West Ham boss Avram Grant has warned his players to keep their heads if they score in Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final decider at Birmingham, in order to avoid a repeat of Frederic Piquionne's sending off against Everton on Saturday.

Grant hails O'Neil deal

• Hammers chief to miss Blues clash
• Hammers sign O'Neill, Ba snag

Piquionne was given his marching orders after entering the crowd to celebrate a late goal at Goodison Park and Grant does not want to see the same thing happen at St Andrew's, where his side take a 2-1 lead following Carlton Cole's winner a fortnight ago.

Grant disagrees with the rule - Piquionne received a second yellow card for jumping into the crowd - and he believes players should actually be encouraged to share the moment with the fans.

But the Israeli knows that rules are rules and he has addressed his players and demanded they keep any goal celebrations in check.

"I spoke with them about this," Grant said. "There was a saying that sometimes you need to be clever, not just right. I respect the rules and I want my players to respect the rules but they are not computers and this is not a normal business. Sometimes it will happen.

"It is the rule but I don't know the logic behind the rule. The most happy moment is when you score a goal and it is even more important when you score a few minutes before the end, and you go to celebrate with the supporters.

"The supporters are the team. If you ask me, I would encourage players to celebrate first with the supporters and then everybody else. I think you need to respect any rules but you need to be a bit logical. I am sure nobody will do it again in the English game.''

Grant believes West Ham deserve to land a first Wembley appearance since the 1981 League Cup final, having knocked out Sunderland and Stoke and thumped Manchester United 4-0. But Grant knows that past achievements will count for nothing at St Andrew's.

"To be at Wembley after such a long time would be very good and, if I may say it, we deserve it,'' Grant said. "Our route to this game has been very good. We won the first game (against Oxford) in the last minute.

"We played very well to beat Sunderland away, we showed a lot of character against Stoke and we were brilliant against Manchester United. That is the only game they have lost all season. But we know that no-one will give us any presents. It will mean a lot also to Birmingham - but for us it is very important.

"We have a good record in the cups this season and it has also been good football. We have scored a lot of goals and we want to continue like that. There is one more game to the final.''

And Hammers co-owner David Sullivan is hoping that a Wembley appearance will provide the silver lining to what has been a cloudy season at Upton Park.

Sullivan told ESPNsoccernet: "Of course it would be lovely to get to Wembley after the problems this season, but the next few weeks are very important as we have an away league game at Blackpool and we are at home to Birmingham in the league."

Along with fellow co-owner David Gold, Sullivan took Birmingham to the Carling Cup Final, as he recalls: "It was against Liverpool but at Cardiff and we lost on penalties. It was at the Millennium Stadium in those days while they were rebuilding Wembley, so if we got there it would be our first cup final at Wembley."

Sullivan and Gold did make it Wembley once, though with Birmingham, as Sullivan added: "We played in the Auto Windscreen Shield final and took 55,000 supporters and beat Carlisle 1-0, but its not the same!"

West Ham are also without striker Victor Obinna, who was sent off in the first leg for kicking Sebastian Larsson.

Carlton Cole is set to start up front and loan signing Wayne Bridge is free to play because he is not cup-tied. Neither is new recruit Gary O'Neil, who goes straight into the squad after completing his move from Middlesbrough on Tuesday.