Thursday 15 August
Updated Thursday 19 February
With the big Barclays Premier League kick-off now imminent, Sam Allardyce spoke of the significance of ensuring West Ham United get off to a flier on Saturday against Cardiff City, just as they did last season.
That said, Big Sam is not expecting an easy ride against Malky Mackay's newly-promoted Bluebirds, insisting that his players will need to be at their very best from the first whistle to come through it unscathed.
New addition Stewart Downing will likely be involved at some stage on Saturday and Big Sam hailed the quality of the England international winger, in the knowledge that he brings yet more competition for places.
How excited are you to get the new season started, after such a good season last year?
SA: "There's a bit of keep your feet on the ground with me. The objective of the exercise is to make sure we try and get better than last season if we can. We achieved 46 points last year, so I'd think if we get 50 it would be a great season.
"That would probably be our target to start with then we'll break that down and see how we're going to try and get those 50 points. Of course, from our point of view, we won't really know how tough it's going to be until the end of the window.
"There's a lot of spending going on again. I didn't think there would be quite as much spending because of the new restrictions, but there seems to have been a lot and when we get to the end of that window and I sit down with the coaching staff and the technical staff - we look at everybody's squad and say to ourselves is it more difficult this year than last? Have clubs bought better players, will there be stronger competition? Look at the business we've done and proceed from there."
Some business this week as well, Stewart Downing coming in. You're renowned for your use of stats and analysis. Did you pay particular attention to what Andy Carroll and Downing had done before. Was that part of your thinking in getting him in?
SA: "I think that I was more [interested in] Stewart Downing Aston Villa than I was Downing Liverpool. I think that Downing, at Villa, was more what I'm looking for than perhaps he was at Liverpool. That's no reflection on what Stewart did at Liverpool, because he was asked to play a different way than he was at Villa. As everybody knows I love crosses and equally, there are lots of people who don't like crosses anymore.
"From my point of view, Stewart, Andy, Matt Jarvis, Joe Cole, Vaz Te, Nolan, Maiga are all going to be our most offensive players and we're looking for them to provide and score goals this season collectively. It's great competition for places. Everybody's on their toes on the frontline. 'Is it me who's going to be left out?
"That brings a little bit more of an edge. And like I said, starting the season as we did last season would be fantastic for us. Stewart, as an addition, for the quality of player, value for money and somebody that sits at the top of our performance stats, which is also very important."
What about Cardiff - you opened the season against them a couple of years ago...
SA: "A last minute 1-0, on a Sunday if I remember correctly. I think that this time round Malky gone and invested in his team and they will come all guns blazing. Like every other team that gets promoted, particularly the team who win the league, the enthusiasm carries over into the early part of the Premier League season. Sometimes it then catches up with them.
"From Malky's point of view it's going to be a really tough game, so complacency is certainly not what we're after. The perception outside of Cardiff and West Ham fans is that we're going to turn up on Saturday and win easily. My message to the lads is that there's no easy game in the Premier League and if we don't hit the ground running and hit our top form, this will be a very difficult game for us.
"The last thing you want is to start your season playing at home and to lose it. Because then you've got to go to Newcastle United away from home and try to get a result. So straight away pressure would come on you to get points and you don't really want that. So Saturday's the most important game of the season, obviously."
Considering Cardiff's position, having won the Championship quite comfortably, do you think their being an unknown quantity could work in their favour?
SA: "If you've never played in the Premier League before, to a certain degree the excitement, enthusiasm and determination you show can stand you in good stead, But realistically, you've got to have your manager organising your team and your tactics because otherwise you end up getting found out.
"Malky's, for me, got Cardiff organised and structured from the very first day he went in. The players seem to know their responsibilities in the positions that they play. So that organisation, as well as the investment they've made will stand them in good stead. They'll be difficult to beat and to break down. They've got experienced players, particularly Peter Whittingham and Craig Bellamy and people like that, who have played in the Premier League and we'll have to watch out for.
"He'll find out a lot about his team in the first four or five games, but hopefully he'll be disappointed when he goes home on Saturday."
Any team news ahead of Saturday?
SA: "There's no injury news from our team at the moment. It's the first time in my management career that I've gone through a pre-season without a single injury. We've had knocks, but no player has had to miss a game because of injury throughout the entire summer, so I hope that continues all the way through to next May!"