Chris Young verdict: West Ham United fans will be baying for blood

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AS JOB interviews go, this one will be of the clammy palms and squirming on seat variety.

West Ham caretaker manager Kevin Keen faces a thankless task in the Upton Park cauldron on Sunday.

A home win would hardly console the East End faithful who will be baying for blood following last weekend’s relegation.

But a defeat will only further antagonise the Hammers fans, who will doubtless be targeting their fury at owners David Gold and David Sullivan.

All first-team coach Keen can do is demonstrate some improvement and get through the final day of the season with his dignity intact, in order to boost his job credentials.

While he may not be the “proven winner” Gold and Sullivan are targeting for the dug-out, the former Hammers midfielder could well emerge as the fall-back option, as happened with Chris Hughton when Newcastle fell into the Championship mire.

Keen couldn’t have wished for better opponents either.

Sunderland have been a Godsend over the last two months to those involved at the wrong end of the table.

Birmingham, Wolves and West Brom have all been gifted crucial wins against Steve Bruce’s men.

While relegation is no longer a fate West Ham have any control over, this remains the brand of game which Sunderland historically lose.

The Hammers will be freed from the shackles of tension which have seen them lose six of their last seven outings and there is undoubted quality in their ranks, given a good day.

Scott Parker, fit again following an Achilles problem, should start and a quick look at the video of September’s Carling Cup tie provides sufficient evidence of the England international’s ability to run a game against Sunderland.

Sunderland target Demba Ba, with seven in 10 starts for the Hammers, has the pace and aerial ability to worry the Black Cats while Jack Colback and Bolo Zenden will need to be constantly wary of Thomas Hitzlsperger’s ability from range, given time and space.

The problem which has dogged West Ham throughout the campaign has been their deficiencies at the back.

Out-of-contract Matthew Upson may return on Sunday, although the centre-half has been far from the player who turned his career around under Steve Bruce at Birmingham.

But Sunderland are equally fragile in defence, with the encounter pitting the top flight’s two worst sides at holding onto an advantage.

West Ham have thrown away 22 points from winning positions compared to Sunderland’s 23 so a repeat of December’s 1-0 win for Bruce’s men may be stretching things.

The return of Anton Ferdinand to his former stomping ground would help matters, particularly with John Mensah losing his head against Wolves.

But with Ferdinand still a doubt, Bruce may have little choice than to name the same XI involved in the tepid surrender last weekend.

Certainly, Sunderland need to regain some of the spirit which inspired them at the Reebok Stadium in their last away game.

It suits the Black Cats to play on the road at the moment though, with Stephane Sessegnon’s pace providing a panic-invoking weapon on the counter-attack.

Without a centre-forward who can hold the ball up, Sunderland’s approach play has been haphazard at the Stadium of Light since the injuries to Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan.

But Sessegnon is the man in form and he showed at Bolton how he can put a home defence on the back foot.

If Sunderland can give the Benin international enough service, then there will be plenty of holes for the visitors to exploit.

Yet it is those chasms in a Sunderland defence that has kept just one clean sheet in 15, that a Hammers side freed from the burden of Avram Grant can exploit.

Verdict: Home win