Unsworth Offers Encouragement

David Unsworth has told his former West Ham team mates that they are too good to go down.

If the phrase has a chilling resonance about it, it is because it has been uttered several times before an ignominious fall from grace into the lower division.

Indeed, David's Everton team mate Paul Gascoigne said it about his team only last week and now that the two sides are on equal points, perhaps that is true.

But, if Toffees boss Walter Smith, a season long student of the relegation battle, thinks that his team needs another win - and possibly then some - to be absolutely sure, then Harry Redknapp must feel the same.

David concurs with the theory, and says a win over Manchester City at the weekend would "give us breathing space".

Ironically, West Ham's players, now making their concerns about the dreaded drop public for the first time, will be thinking the same.

But David insists:

"There is no way that West Ham will have any struggles or any problems; and that is not my heart ruling my head, it is what I really think."

If the second part of that sentence sounds faintly odd from a confirmed scouser whose stay at Upton Park was not a particularly lengthy one, the fact is he has a great affection for the club.

That relationship was again reciprocated by the fans on Saturday, and he adds:

"I had a great reception for the third time and I thank everyone for that because it means a lot to me because I have fond memories of this place."

But he admits that he did not agree entirely with the fans' less than complimentary reaction to the final whistle.

He says:

"That was disappointing for me; we have had booing ourselves at home this season.

"As much as I was delighted with the win, it was not nice to hear the supporters booing the players off."

He struggles to pinpoint why West Ham have now dovetailed into the same position as a resurgent Everton and says:

"It does surprise me a little because Upton Park was something of a fortress when I was here.

"But, just as we have been decimated by injuries this season, I am sure that when Harry gets his first eleven out he will have no problems so I know how frustrating it has been for him."

The fact is, however, that no manager ever has his dream team available to him.

Hayden Foxe has now gone down under to represent Australia in the World Cup qualifiers - a bitter irony, just after his much vaunted and long delayed debut - while Trevor Sinclair is out for the rest of the season.

Steve Lomas, despite a report saying the same about himself in a newspaper on Monday, is not necessarily out for the entire campaign - but he has certainly been much missed in recent games.

Whether Ian Pearce is a preferred starter remains to be seen, but he missed the weekend action through injury as well.

The outcome of saturday's defeat may hnave been different had David not kept his cool to stroke home a decisive penalty with aplomb following the madness and mayhem in the aftermath of Stuart Pearce's spot kick concession and red card.

Paolo di Canio was officially booked for 'delaying the penalty kick' when he replaced the ball in the centre of the spot.

While referee Andy d'Urso was unamused, David could afford a smile when he says:

"He tried his best to put me off but I've been around too long for that to bother me.

"We all waited for Paolo to calm down and it was all about staying cool and not changing my mind.

"In all honesty I thought it was a penalty and I wasn't far away from it.

"Stuart caught Tony Hibbert in the box but he had nicked it just ahead of him and he can't have any qualms about the decision."

* The Daily Mail claims that Paolo di Canio made his 'I'm prepared to be sacrificed' statement on Monday night - using quotes on Tuesday taken from here...

Eagle eyed readers of this will have noted it was exclusively revealed by the player on Saturday night, not Monday night.

** Contrary to a report, Shaka Hislop is NOT available on a free transfer this summer.