Classic derby will tell Pellegrini how far Hammers have come

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Ask any West Ham fan which fixture they really look forward to every season, and without hesitation it will be the classic derby against rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

Even a supposed hatred of south London side, Millwall, pales into insignificance when the north Londoners come to town.

This fixture also has added spice now given Spurs’ own efforts to try and secure the London Stadium which the Hammers currently call home.

Indeed, the top brass at West Ham blamed Tottenham for ensuring that they couldn’t buy the stadium outright, forcing the government to agree to rent it out instead.

In any event, after a disastrous opening few games for Manuel Pellegrini, he appears to have steadied the claret and blue ship.

A well-deserved point at home to Chelsea stopped the Blues’ 100 percent record in its tracks, and a thumping 3-1 win over a disappointing Manchester United side has blown away all of the negativity in east London.

But it’s this fixture that will tell board, management, players and supporters just how far West Ham have come in a relatively short space of time.

Mauricio Pochettino’s vibrant side, though yet to win silverware, are playing a brand of football that’s hugely pleasing on the eye.

What’s more, the Argentinian is doing it with one eye on their academy, and bringing through as many young English players as possible. Something that the Hammers were once renowned for. Even their old Upton Park ground had ‘The Academy of Football’ writ large on the floor as players emerged from the tunnel.

Pellegrini has spent more than any other West Ham manager in history during the course of one transfer window, but he insisted on the same in order to bring the team up to the level he believed they could be at.

Losing his first four was always going to be on the cards because you simply don’t buy eight or nine new players and expect them to gel with immediate effect. This wily Chilean has seen it all before and knew the status quo would change, but the manner in which he has turned things around is hugely impressive.

Marko Arnautovic looks every inch the barrell-chested old-school target man, Felipe Anderson, the continental maestro whose brush strokes are pure artistry in the blood and thunder of the English top flight.

The Chilean has even managed to resurrect the career of Robert Snodgrass, whose time in east London looked like it had come to a very abrupt end.

They are improving all over the pitch but the acid test is still to come. If they don’t beat their near neighbours, the bubbles will burst and the faithful will let the team know about it.

Come through this one unscathed and he’ll not only have earned the freedom of east London in the eyes of the locals, but Pellegrini will have bought himself enough time to ensure that he get this club back to the promised land.

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