For West Ham United legend and Liverpool-born defender Alvin Martin, there were no spilt loyalties on Sunday, as the three-time Hammer of the Year returned to his old stomping ground for the first time this season.

Though Martin, whose distinguished Hammers career spanned some 19 seasons, was not ultimately to witness the home win he craved, the 55-year-old had many an encouraging word for the current incumbents of the Claret and Blue. 

Adamant that his old Club are already safe, the now radio and television pundit spoke of his admiration for Hammers frontman Andy Carroll, while paying tribute to West Ham's ever loyal supporters.    
 

Welcome Alvin, good to be back?

AM: "I haven't been all season, obviously following everything on TV, but I go to watch my boys a lot and have other work commitments. But just walking down Green Street, I got the train down to Upton Park, and the buzz out there was fantastic.

You join us at a time when West Ham are more or less safeā€¦

AM: "Safe! We are safe, not more or less. I think we are there and that's why we can relax. We've been under pressure for a lot of the season and the players have had to deal with that. They've dealt with it and got results under their belt.

We've been on an excellent run of late, how impressed have you been with the turnaround?
 
AM: "I think gradually you've got players back. Big Andy's back now. The bad run that they were on was mainly down to injuries. You could see that the line-ups were really devastated in terms of full-backs playing centre-half. So there were good reasons why it was going wrong.

"What you've got now is a side that believes in itself and that's got its big players back. When you've got people like Andy Carroll up there as a target and you see him sitting down in your dressing room - knowing he's 100 per cent fit, which has not always been the case here - then I think it fills the rest of the players with confidence. Because if big Andy plays well, the crowd react and the other players respond."

I should think Andy's a centre-half's nightmare, isn't he?

AM: "I think he's one of them I wouldn't like to play against. There were lots about when I was playing, there was always one big centre-forward in every team. But I think, when he's on form, you could say that he comes into the category of unplayable.

"If you get the right service to him, the diagonal ball, put the right flight on it, then he's going to be coming over the top of you as a centre-half and really you've just got to make it as difficult as possible for him. But the other players then will play off him, especially people like Kevin Nolan. When Andy Carroll's playing well and he's winning 70 or 80 per cent of his headers, he [Nolan] knows instinctively where it's going to drop and it's very hard to play against."

At the other end of the pitch, much of the success this season has been based on a solid back four and 13 clean sheets to date?

AM: "That's right and that, again, was with the disruption to the back four, so considering we've got that amount of clean sheets, I think it's testament to the rest of the players that have been able to come in. I think Winston Reid was a big loss for an integral part of the season and it's no coincidence, from my point of view, that the results did take a downturn when we lost him.

"But certainly, if you've got a defence that is solid, it helps the attackers, because they feel they can take a different view on the game, more chances, more risks and if it breaks down they feel confident that they're not going to concede a goal. Whereas when you're conceding lots of goals, you're scared to take chances further up the pitch."

The run-in is quite a tough one, but do you think Big Sam will still have an eye on the top ten?

AM: "I always feel that we're capable of beating anyone on any day and especially here. I know, from my experience after playing, people come up to me who played for big teams, the Liverpools, the Manchester Uniteds and I played against them on a regular basis. And maybe ten years after they'd finished their career, they'd come up and admitted that they hated playing here.

"That was down, not to the team they were playing against, but down to the crowd, down to the atmosphere and the passion that they faced. So the big teams that have to come here will certainly have a game in store for them. The pressure's off us now and I always feel that players play their best football when they can relax and we should be in that mode."