Sam Allardyce was in optimistic mood ahead of West Ham United's Barclays Premier League encounter with Sunderland at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Big Sam spoke about the season so far, the visit of Martin O'Neill's men and gave updates on the fitness of Jack Collison and Andy Carroll.

With a limited number of tickets still available for Saturday's Youth Academy Free fixture, the manager and his players are ready for the Black Cats.

You had your team photo taken today, so were the players in good spirits?

SA - "Yes, very good, I think it was the quickest team photo I have had taken during my time in football. We spent about 20 minutes on it when normally it takes hours and hours trying to get players in the right places making sure they look the part. It went very well and like I mentioned last week it is nice to see the squad train in its entirety. This week has been a good week in training and we hope to pick up where we left off last time at Upton Park, which was of course the 3-0 win over Fulham."

Do you mind having the team photo taken so late, or is it preferable to take it after the transfer window has closed?

SA - "Yes it is better, we wouldn't want to have to slot people's heads in after, we wanted to wait and make it more professional. It goes all over the world today so it is important to get it right and deliver the right picture as it travels throughout the world of football."

Does that mean we can count against any new faces being added to the squad before the January window?

SA -"Yes, we have had one or two trialists in but none of them have been offered a contract because I think that I already have enough quality within my squad. I don't want to take a player for the sake of it, even though we had some very good players come in on trial. My decision was to not offer them anything and I am happy with the squad I have now and hopefully it will continue to improve as they get to know each other better."

Do you have any new injury news ahead of the clash with Sunderland?

SA -"No we have no new injury concerns. The only players who are unavailable are Andy Carroll and Jack Collison, Jack is obviously the big concern because he hasn't kicked a ball since the end of last season and he was a very influential player when we won promotion. We would love to get Jack back as soon as we can and Andy is improving every day. He has started some light training now and we will continue to monitor it on a daily basis until he is fit and ready to go back into the team."

The initial timeframe stated for his recovery was six weeks. Has this changed and, if so, when do you think he will be back?

SA -"At the very earliest, if we are very lucky, it will be the final game before the next international break which is Arsenal at home. If not it will be after that."

Defensively, you have a record to be proud of after keeping four clean sheets in your five games this season?

SA -"Yes it has been a very good start from our point of view. We know the emphasis of shutting the opposition down when they have possession and we have also worked hard when we have the ball ourselves. The start that the lads have made has given us a massive platform going into the rest of the season, but if I had to be slightly critical it would be that our finishing is not as good as it could be. We have created a lot of chances this season which is pleasing and we will keep working hard to ensure more of them end up in the back of the net. The hardest thing in the Premier League is scoring goals but if our defence plays as well as they have been we only need one."

Will Matt Jarvis make his home debut this weekend?

SA -"You will have to wait and see. He is fit and has been training all week, like I said the squad has really come together this week and got to know each other better. I am very excited about the squad and hope they continue to grow and put in winning performances. We have experienced Premier League players in the squad and my hope is that they replicate what they have done at their previous clubs for West Ham United."

You currently sit in eighth position in the Barclays Premier League, you surely would have taken that position if offered it at the start of the season?

SA - "For me it is all about points. Points per game is much more important than league position, I think that we have delivered two very important home wins and coupled with the back end of last season we have won six home games in a row and only conceded one goal. I think in the games we have had here including the cup game against Crewe we have done exceptionally well. We want to continue that against a very strong Sunderland side who have gone away to Arsenal and Swansea and come away with points. It will be very difficult for us."

Sir Alex Ferguson has publicly spoken about the need to stop abusive chanting. Do you share this view and is it time to put a stop to these acts?

SA - "Absolutely, I think that whatever form the offensive chanting is in it should be stopped and I think the best way to stop it is through the fans. If you are stood next to somebody chanting offensive material you should turn round and say 'Please stop, you are offending me, I support this team and I don't want to hear you say that'. If everybody could do that I think it would bring an end to such chants, but it is very difficult other than that to prevent these things from happening."

Looking at the other promoted teams who haven't done as well as West Ham United so far, do you have a sense of pride after such a great start?

SA - "We are very pleased with the start we have made. Unfortunately for Southampton and Reading, they haven't been able to do the same but admittedly the fixture list was much kinder to us. Pressure will be on every team at some point in the season, their tough time happens to be right now because they haven't picked up many points, but based on the games they have played that is understandable. It's a marathon not a sprint but as we all know pressure is heaped on you, especially in this league, if you don't start well."

How much has changed since West Ham United were relegated from the Barclays Premier League?

SA - "Around 40 players have left and 28 have replaced them in the space of 12 months. We have also increased the staffing level but certainly the biggest thing is that so many players have left within a year. Hopefully that is something that will benefit the club in the long run because we have built a squad now that will hopefully maintain and sustain our Premier League status."

Sunderland have yet to win a game in the Barclays Premier League, so is now the perfect time to play them?

SA - "I don't think so because the last two away games they played were against Arsenal and Swansea. Everybody is buzzing about the free-scoring nature of Arsenal yet Sunderland managed to get a 0-0 draw. Then, against Swansea they took the lead twice and knowing Martin as I do he will have felt disappointed not to win the game. I know what to expect from Sunderland having studied those two games and also from knowing Martin and the way he structures his teams. We have to make sure we are capable of breaking them down and ensure that when we create opportunities, we take them."

Steven Fletcher has obviously settled well at Sunderland. Just how much of a threat will he pose to your side?

SA - "It is a great move for him and I think that he has already begun to reward Sunderland for the fee they paid by becoming the scorer he was at Wolves. After moving from Scotland to Burnley where he was relegated, then to Wolves where he was relegated again, he now has the opportunity to score goals on a regular basis for an established Premier League side. It looks like a great bit of business."

How important is it that West Ham United show they can play and win without Andy Carroll in the side?

SA - "That all depends on the impact of Carlton Cole and Modibo Maiga, who need to step in and do the business. We only have two players injured at the moment and other clubs have a lot more. That also shows how hard we work on injury prevention. Andy Carroll has only played 68 minutes for the club and during four games we have scored four goals and kept three clean sheets. It is not all about Andy but about performing well as a team and focussing on winning the next game."

Sunderland