While the hard yards of pre-season training are far from universally popular, Joe Cole for one is more than happy to be back with a football at his feet.

With two 45-minute outings already under his belt, the 31-year-old is slowly getting into his stride, intent on putting last season's injury troubles behind him.

Though fitness is clearly king at this stage of proceedings, convincing wins at Cork City and Boreham Wood have got preparations off to a flier, and Cole plans to keep it that way come Saturday's trip to Bournemouth.

Joe, how useful an exercise was the win at Boreham Wood?

JC: "It was good. It's another run-out. We are only eight or nine days in and we have already played two lots of 45 minutes. It was good for the people of Boreham Wood as well, everyone seemed to have a good night and we enjoyed the weather!"

Did you miss the football over the summer?

JC:
"I think you miss it, you are ticking the days away. It was good to have a break and get away with the family but it is always nice to get back and, believe it or not, but pre-season is not as hard as it used to be.

"You keep yourself ticking over in the summer and it is more football-specific than the runs we used to do in Hainault with Frank Lampard Snr! Those days are long gone and it's quite enjoyable now."

How key was Andy Carroll's signing?

JC: "It is a boost for the club and shows where we are going. Andy Carroll is a young, England centre-forward and clubs do not usually sell them. He's a big talent. He did a good job and we just want him to get fit and come back because he is a big part of our team."

How big a year is this for you personally?

JC: "Every year is a big year in football, you always have your goals but I'm just enjoying myself. I'm enjoying being back, I'm enjoying playing football and I just want to get out there and get going again now.

"I always keep my goals to myself and take it day-by-day but first and foremost, I want to keep myself fit. When I was playing last season my performances were good so the key for me is just staying fit and if I do that, the football for me has never been a problem.

It's obviously a World Cup year as well. Does that figure in your thoughts much?

JC: "The ambition will always burn every time you go out on the football pitch and you want to do well, if you're an Englishman and you're playing well you are inevitably going to be talked about.

"I have played over 50 times for my country so if I can get playing you never know but at the moment I'm just concentrating on West Ham."

What are your ambitions for the club this season?

JC: "I think the ambition of the club at the moment is improvement. But for me personally, I would love to finish better than 10th, but equally I'd love to take this club to Wembley. Because at the end of the day, they are the days you remember in your career - it would be a massive achievement.

"West Ham are a big club but have been starved of success. You look at where we are in London and people want to come here and play in London and play for West Ham. It is great that players like Razvan [Rat] and Andy are coming in and hopefully there will be a few more as well.

"I roomed with Rat for eight days and he is a great lad. We have nicknamed him Roland, he likes it and I've shown him Roland - he is enjoying himself. He is Romanian captain and has 90-odd caps. He's a fantastic player."

Joe, it's Bournemouth up next, are you looking forward to a trip to the seaside?

JC: "Bournemouth's a lovely place to go. They play good football now under a young manager and it's going to be a tough test for us.

"The lads were saying it was 1-1 at Boreham Wood last year and we were lucky to come away with a draw. It's only early days, but we'd like to put a marker down and show that we've improved. So we'll going there to try and get the result.

"All these pre-season games are for fitness but you've got to try and win the games as well. That's what you're practicing for, to try and win football matches."

Away kit