Antonio: I want my Hammers place back

West Ham United's Michail Antonio during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Norwich City at London Stadium on December 18, 2021 in London, England.

Reggae Boyz forward Michail Antonio has two personal goals – win back his place as a centre forward for West Ham United, and lift the Hammers clear of a relegation battle – when the English Premier League returns on Boxing Day after the break for the World Cup.

He said he did not watch the World Cup final, won by Argentina, or a great deal of the rest of the tournament, either, apart from a few England matches and a bit of Brazil, instead stepping back from football, enjoying a holiday in Dubai, time with his family, and the rarity of a mid-season break.

The break came at a good time for the Hammers, who are only a point clear of the drop zone after winning only four League matches this season, but they have cruised out of the Europa Conference League group stage with a perfect six from six.

“We were a bit up and down,” Antonio, 32, told the Evening Standard newspaper. “The break has given us an opportunity to work on our consistency, get back into the season and do what we know we can do, play like we have over the last couple of years and try to get our philosophy back.

“We are a team that believes we should always finish around the European places, so it’s just about getting it to gel again. I think we hit a slump from the massive season we had last year and, after this nice little break, hopefully we can turn things around.”

Goals have been the issue for the side managed by David Moyes. They have scored only 12 in 15 League matches, but they have scored eight in three friendlies this month after a summer of major recruitment.

“We’ve been working on why things have been breaking down going forward because we’ve not been conceding much, but we’ve also not been scoring as much as in the past,” the Jamaica forward said.

The lack of League goals has been a major headache for Moyes, who spent US$36.6 million on making Gianluca Scamacca a marquee signing this summer.

The Italian has gradually become the leading man for Moyes, and while the Hammers’ hectic schedule means Antonio has still featured regularly, he has not started a League match since mid-September.

“No, I’ve not been happy (with the number of matches I’ve played],” he said. “I’m someone who wants to play. I’m never going to settle for coming off the bench and being involved that way.

“That’s something that’s driven me to where I am now. I’m not really about the rotation type of thing, if I’m fit, I want to play. It’s the gaffer’s decision on what he wants to do, but I’m always going to let him know that I want to play.”

Although this World Cup did not capture Antonio’s attention, he already has eyes on the next in 2026, where the expansion to 48 teams, and the fact that Mexico, Canada, and the United States qualify as joint hosts means Jamaica has a major chance of reaching their first tournament since 1998.

“That’s one of the reasons why I chose to play for Jamaica, to help them get to a World Cup,” Antonio said. “It’s always been my dream.”

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