Wally Downes has very happy memories of his two-year coaching stint at West Ham and he can’t wait to lead the Dons into FA Cup battle against his old club.
Wimbledon held West Ham at 1-1 with 10 men until the latter stages of a Carabao Cup tie in August, before the visitors won it 3-1, and the two clubs will meet again in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round on Saturday 26 January.
It means a special match for Wally, whose spell at West Ham included helping the club back into the Premier League back in 2012.
“Clearly the club would have preferred an away tie for the finances, but West Ham was the biggest club that I worked at and it’s a London club, so I had a great time there,” said Wally. “I really enjoyed it at West Ham. I wasn’t really happy with the way it ended there and it will be great to see the fans come over. Hopefully, we can give them a good game. The first time this week that we saw our whole squad together was on Tuesday when they knew about the draw and they’ve been bubbly all week.”
Wally recalled that there was plenty of pressure to get West Ham back into the top-flight when he was there as first-team coach.
“When Sam Allardyce was appointed we had a year to get the club up,” said Wally. “At certain clubs if you get relegated and then next season you are in the top-eight and pushing, the fans are okay with that. When you are with West Ham in the Championship you have to be aiming for the top-two. It wasn’t a case of bedding things in and doing it gradually. They had Avram Grant in charge for the previous six months and things had wavered a bit, but Sam came in and we were very focused.
“We really went for it that year and managed to get the club promoted. Although we were not in the top-two all of the time, we were hardly out of the top-four all season and the pressure was really high all the time. We had to beat Cardiff in the two play-off games, which was difficult, and then we beat Blackpool in the final.”
We earlier today announced ticket details for the West Ham game. See our previous article for more information.