Joe Cole is expecting to run a gauntlet of hate as he returns to West Ham tonight – knowing that a Chelsea victory will almost certainly condemn his former club to relegation.
Chelsea need to win to cut Manchester United’s lead at the top of the Barclays Premiership back to three points but Cole is expecting a hostile reception on his first trip back to Upton Park since leaving in 2003.
Cole has played against West Ham at Stamford Bridge but he has never been back to the Boleyn Ground in a Blues shirt.
For the two seasons following Cole’s departure Chelsea and the Hammers were in different divisions and the midfielder was suspended for their January 2006 encounter.
The 25-year-old said: “I played against them at Stamford Bridge but I imagine I’ll probably get some stick this time – but that is football. Supporters don’t like to see their players leave their club.
“I did everything I could for West Ham and I left on good terms. Obviously we went down and I was as gutted as anyone, but Chelsea came calling and you can’t turn it down.
“I came in and Chelsea has just been amazing for me. I owe the people here a lot.”
Meanwhile Chelsea captain John Terry insists their next two games are crucial if they are to keep the heat on United.
United moved back six points ahead with victory over Sheffield United at Old Trafford last night.
Chelsea are away again at Newcastle on Saturday and Terry says a maximum six-point haul would really put the pressure on United.
Terry, who had trials with the Hammers as a child, admits he still has a soft spot for the club but while he hopes they survive, he does not want it to be at the expense of Chelsea’s title hopes.
Terry declared: “Hopefully they can stay up but hopefully not by beating us. The next two games are crucial for us – West Ham and Newcastle away – but it we can win them, it will be ’game on’.
“In the last couple of years we have run away with it a little bit but United have shown great desire to come back and push us.
“We are pushing them right to the wire. We know we are in touching distance of them, one result and it swings back in our favour.
“They have still got to come to Stamford Bridge but the respect is there for them and I think it is mutual.”
Chelsea will give late fitness tests to top scorer Didier Drogba and strike partner Andriy Shevchenko ahead of the game with West Ham.
Both players suffered minor knocks in the FA Cup semi-final win over Blackburn on Sunday but are expected to play.