Gary O'Neil believes West Ham United can make a big impact on their return to the Barclays Premier League.

The midfielder, who has made more than 160 top-flight appearances for Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and West Ham, is targeting a strong start to the 2012/13 season after helping the Hammers to gain promotion from the npower Championship.

O'Neil, who will return to pre-season training with his team-mates on Sunday before jetting out to Austria for a training camp early next week, is confident that West Ham have the right manager, squad and fixture list to surprise a few people.

The Hammers kick-off at home to Aston Villa and face five clubs who finished in the bottom half of the Barclays Premier League table last term in their opening six matches.

"I think we've got a good chance," said the 29-year-old. "We've strengthened already and I think we'll strengthen more. We've got a good squad anyway.

"We did well last season. We had a little blip in the middle when we drew too many but we didn't lose many games at all. I think we lost one game in the second half of the season and that was to Reading at home.

"I think we've got a decent start with some winnable games there so I'm really looking forward to it."

When asked if he thinks a mid-table finish is the 'least he was hoping for' under the management of the experienced Sam Allardyce, the No32 was bullish in his agreement.

"Yeah, I think if we get off to a good start then mid-table and upwards would be very good. The gaffer has been fantastic. He is very meticulous and you don't go into any game or any training session unsure of what he wants from you.

"You know exactly what he wants so there is no confusion. It's very simple and I think that was the basis to our success last season."

O'Neil also pointed to the positive impact of the stability provided by the Board and coaching staff in recent months.

"I only joined in the January of the relegation season [in 2011] but you could tell then that something wasn't quite right. I know they had been through a tough time but we almost managed to turn it around.

"It's much better now and a much better place."

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