George McCartney says that the next target for West Ham United is to make sure they do not waste their encouraging start to the season.

The Northern Irish defender said that expectations had been exceeded in the first part of this season. That has heightened the confidence and spirit around the club, but no one will resting on their laurels with 29 more Barclays Premier League matches still to be played.

As the Hammers prepare to face Barclays Premier league champions Manchester City this Saturday, McCartney said a solid start to the campaign means Hammers can go into games like this with nothing to fear.

"At start of season, we had a few meetings where we talked about where we would want to be after eight games or so and we are very happy to have surpassed that," said the No3. "We have started off really well. We have picked up some really good results which has resulted in us sitting in the top half of the table, but there is a long way to go yet in the season and we must make sure we continue as much as we can what we have started. That is what the gaffer is drumming into us."

Following the visit of City, West Ham's run of forthcoming matches includes trips to Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United and home games against Stoke City, Chelsea and Liverpool. McCartney is relishing the tests ahead and has set his team-mates the challenge of staying in the Barclays Premier League's top ten.

" Over the next few games we are playing teams that finished in Champions League spots last season so, yes, it is a difficult run but aren't all games difficult, as it was at Wigan last Saturday? Our aim, whatever the run or whoever we play, is still to pick up as many points as we can to try and stay in the top half of the table."

McCartney said the spirit of togetherness in the camp has only been improved by the four victories the Hammers have achieved in their opening nine league games - together with the leadership shown and important goals scored by captain Kevin Nolan.

"Until last season, I had never played with Kevin, but had seen him scoring goals for Newcastle and Bolton, so I knew what he was about. He is doing that here at West Ham and scoring important goals and for me, Kevin played a big part in us getting promoted last season.

"This year, his goals already have helped us get into the top half of the table. He is a big player at the club on and off the pitch where he has time for everyone. He is a great captain and a great lad as well."

McCartney himself, who had to miss three Premier League games before returning at the 2-1 away win at Queens Park Rangers on 1 October, has settled back into the starting XI and is looking forward to the remainder of the campaign.

"It was great for me last season when the Chairmen and the manager gave me the opportunity to come back down here. It was a loan deal then but thankfully they made it permanent in the summer.

"I am getting on a bit in my career now but it is great to be back at a club like West Ham where I'm enjoying my football and I hope to play my part in helping the club have a good season again."

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