Neil McDonald is looking ahead to facing his former club Everton on Saturday.
The West Ham United assistant manager played 90 games for The Toffees during a three-year spell and knows they will provide a stern test for Sam Allardyce's side during Saturday's meeting at the Boleyn Ground. Jack Collison could be set for a place in the squad after coming through a Development Squad game on Monday afternoon.
Macca, could you start by giving us an update on team news ahead of Saturday's game?
NM: The team news is the same as it was for the game against West Bromwich Albion. Jack Collison got through a reserve team game and will probably come into the squad but he is still short of match practice. He has been training with us this week and he has suffered no ill effects after making his comeback on Monday.
Do you expect Jack to be involved over Christmas considering it is a very busy period and you have a lot of injury problems?
NM: I think we have to take it slow with Jack because he has been out for a long time. We have to manage his knee carefully but we got him through 45 minutes on Monday, which is great. We will see how he progresses but if we need him he will be available because we know he can play at least 45 minutes.
Another player who is a big miss for you is on-loan forward Andy Carroll, how is he progressing with his recovery?
NM: He is progressing well as are all the players with injuries so now it is time for the healing process to take its course. Further down the line we will have a better idea of what date he will be back.
Over the past few weeks your form has been largely inconsistent but considering the standard of opposition you have faced you must be pleased with the points you have recorded?
NM: We set a total going into the last eight games and we have reached it. We had some very big games but the confidence is there. It is always going to be difficult for a newly-promoted side to win games but we have the points on the board. Last week we played a team who have been outstanding at home but we went there and thoroughly deserved a point.
We are roughly at the halfway stage of the season so how would you assess it so far because there were a few doubters at the start of the campaign?
NM: I think that is only natural for a promoted team. We are happy with where we are right now and we need to carry it on and keep picking points up. The more we do that the more confidence we will have and that will allow us to pick up even more points. We are very much looking forward to the second half of the season.
Were you confident at the beginning of the season that you could prove those doubters wrong?
NM: It was always going to be difficult because I think a lot of people expected us to be promoted automatically last season. We didn't and we went up through the Play-Offs which was a fantastic achievement considering the manager had only been at the club for one-year. The expectation for this year was to pick up as many points as we can and we have done that, hopefully we can continue to play well and as I say we are pleased with where we are at the moment.
What would you consider a realistic goal going into the second part of the season?
NM: Looking at where we are now you would expect us to push on and finish near the middle of the table but if we replicate our form from the first half of the season then a top ten position could be a possibility.
Everton are usually slow starters in the Barclays Premier League but they have had a good start so far, how would you assess their start to the season?
NM: I think they have been brilliant. They are obviously very organised under David Moyes and they have got some fantastic players who give everything for one another. The game on Saturday will be tough but we have been very good at home and only lost twice to Arsenal and Liverpool. We look forward to playing anybody at home but they have started well and are in the top half for a reason so like I said it will be a tough game.
You will not be facing Marouane Fellaini who is a big part of how they play so that must be a massive boost for you?
NM: He has been their talisman this season and not only is he a very good midfielder he is also a big threat from set-pieces. They have lost a big part of their game so we need to take advantage of that as much as we can.
Both clubs are trying to sort out their future stadium plans but on the pitch are Everton a model for a club like West Ham United?
NM: I think that they are a model for any club. Over the past ten-years since David has been there they have been in the top half the majority of the time. They have showed that with a little bit of finance and a good recruitment policy it is possible to get into the top six and push on towards the top four. I would think David is very pleased with where they are right now and they have a good platform going into the second half of the season.
Do you expect to be active in the January transfer window?
NM: We have got a few injuries at the moment but they will be coming back soon. It always helps to receive some backing in the transfer window and if we can add a couple of extra players it will boost the squad and add more competition for places.
What would you do to improve sportsmanship within football in 2013?
NM: I think if the players could take more responsibility when it comes to diving that would make a big improvement. It is a big issue at the moment and if the players can take it upon themselves to kick the ball out when a player is injured that would also help. They are the two things that I would put forward.
Do you think that not playing on Boxing Day will be an advantage for you as it will give you more time to get players back to full fitness?
NM: I think you can look at it both ways, yes it gives us an extra couple of days to get players back but it does mean we will have an even busier January. We would probably have preferred to play the game and we are slightly disappointed that it has been called off but we will be ready when the game comes in January.