Sam Allardyce has revealed his excitement, expectations and thoughts on West Ham United's Barclays Premier League return.
Big Sam and his side trained at the Boleyn Ground on Thursday and the manager was in a positive mood ahead of the season opener against Aston Villa on Saturday when he spoke to the media.
Welcome back. Are you more excited than most after leading West Ham United back into the Barclays Premier League?
SA - "I think so. There is a lot of excitement around the place and it is building the closer and closer we get to the kick-off. We will have to wait and see how we will perform in the end, I think the only slow process has been getting players in. We have been working extremely hard but being able to complete signings has been very difficult indeed. We are pleased with who we have brought in already and we are still working to bring in a few more before the end of the window."
David Sullivan believes Alou Diarra is the best signing the club have made this summer What are your thoughts on his view?
SA - "I'm not sure about that - time will tell. I think that everybody we have signed will have a big part to play in how successful we are this year because unlike most promoted football clubs we have released a lot of players. We needed to increase the talent of the squad and decrease the age of the squad, so we released seven or eight players which is unusual for a promoted side. Then you have to replace those players and we are not there yet so we have taken a risk by trying to get these players in. We have done well but we are still a little short."
Would you agree that facing Aston Villa at home represents a comfortable start to the season?
SA - "Everybody said that Cardiff City at home was a comfortable start last season and we ended up getting beat 1-0 in the last minute. I don't think there is any kind of comfortable start in the Premier League. I think there is a possibility that we could get off to a good start if we give a good account of ourselves. We are looking for a good performance by our players and that may give us a chance to win the first game here at Upton Park at the start of a new Premier League season. I think we all need to be a little apprehensive, certainly myself. It doesn't matter how good or bad I think we are as I won't really know until we play in the Barclays Premier League."
Would you agree that you have a reasonable start against typically mid-table sides?
SA - "I would agree to a certain extent in the sense that they are a reasonable set of games because we have avoided getting the top boys on a regular basis which is always going to be tough no matter when you play them. We have a group of games that give us the opportunity to get off to as good a start as we possibly can."
What are your dreams for the coming season?
SA - "My dreams are to try and get the team to finish in a position where there has been little or no pressure on them from a relegation point of view, so as near to a top-ten finish as we can."
Can you give us an update on the current fitness situations of James Collins and Jack Collison?
SA - "James Collins will train tomorrow with us and Jack Collison still hasn't trained fully with the first team since the Play-Off final last year. James is OK but Jack is a big concern for me having missed the summer and having not played in any of the pre-season games like we expected him to. It's his knee - the one he had operated on two years ago. We probably played him more than we should have towards the end of last season and he gave that much effort and desire that it has exaggerated the injury. It's been a great shame for him that he hasn't been able to come in with the rest of the squad and enjoy the excitement we are all feeling ahead of the new season. He won't need another operation but he does need some tender guidance. We mustn't rush him back or think about rushing him back, we need to wait for the right time for him to come back."
What kind of Aston Villa side are you expecting?
SA - "A very determined and organised side. Paul Lambert's record in terms of moving into a new club and instantly getting results stands for itself. I think he will get them playing a system that suits the players and get them playing the best they possibly can. For us it's about making sure we play at the top of our game against a side that has been established in the top league for a very long time now. We have got some players with Premier League experience but it's been a year since we have been there. We are looking forward to getting back, we will deliver our best and of course try and win as many games as we can. The first game is as important as the last game in my opinion, and if we win the first game it gets everybody off to a nice pleasant start. If you get three points in the bag it builds the confidence of the club getting rid of any anxiety anybody may have or at least reduce it."
Do you hope the euphoria of the Olympics is brought into the Boleyn Ground this weekend?
SA - "We would certainly like to continue the atmosphere the Olympics has brought to the East End and the entire country. It's been an outstanding game from every aspect and every angle. I hope the euphoria spills into Upton Park on Saturday and we can deliver the same kind of entertainment that the Olympics provided, it was absolutely outstanding for me. I wish we hadn't planned as far from London as I did, we tried to avoid the mayhem when in actual fact it's been easier to get around when the Olympics is on. Unfortunately for me I took myself out of the equation and I didn't get to see any of the events. If I had knew what it would be like I would have stayed here longer and gone to one or two. But what a fantastic Olympics it has been not just for London but for everybody in Britain."