Manuel Pellegrini says the assured display by debutant keeper David Martin was not the only factor in West Ham’s vital win at Chelsea – but it that it was certainly a big part of it.
The 33-year-old Romford-born stopper, the son of Hammers legend Alvin Martin, was visibly overcome with emotion at the final whistle after his clean sheet which ensured that Aaron Cresswell’s goal was enough for all three points.
He was engulfed by happy team-mates at the end and then embraced by his father, who had been watching from the press box.
Martin junior’s presence seemed to galvanise West Ham’s work ethic and determination to end a run of eight without a win and they duly arrested their slump with the 1-0 win at the Bridge.
“We know that his family is linked with this club, but it was not easy for him to make his first start in the Premier League in the moment that the team was living,” said the Hammers boss, who badly needed a win to call off the hounds calling for his head.
“But I think that from the first time that I spoke with him during the week, I felt that he was prepared, that I could trust in him – as he demonstrated during the 95 minutes.”
Bringing him in for the unreliable Roberto made perfect sense, but Pellegrini says the changes he made from last week were not as significant as the greater aptitude and desire the team showed.
“Of course when you make changes and you don’t win, you are a beast and when you do it, you are a genius,” Pellegrini said.
“I think that all the changes you do as a manager depend on the performance of the players that come in. Fortunately, for the team, for West Ham, for me, and for everyone, the supporters, for the squad, I think that they did very well.
“It’s not only because I changed the goalkeeper, but I think everyone was doing his duty with the intensity that you need in this league to win a game.”
The Hammers boss added: “For me, the most difficult thing during this week was not worrying about the job or worrying about what was happening in the future. I was worried about trying to convince the players not to change.
“It was not that we were doing all wrong. We were doing mistakes but in football, two or three balls decide the result.
“Today I think we were a consistent and solid team in the whole game, but we didn’t come here to try to draw.
“What I told the players before the game was to try not to change, not to play as a team just defending. They need to enjoy to play and have a little bit more of the ball to create chances and I think the Chelsea goalkeeper had two or three very important saves during the game.
“I know we have not been having the results that we need but we cannot change all our style. You can’t believe that all you are doing is wrong. All of them worked together without the ball and with the ball they tried to play, tried to create chances, tried to win the game.
“You cannot come here and believe that you cannot win. From the first minute we tried to win this game.”