Gale: Let's Battle

Tony Gale believes West Ham will really have to show their battling qualities against Leicester and Derby.

He agrees with Glenn Roeder that Leicester will be a very different kind of game from the Arsenal and Manchester United matches, and says:

"We are definitely a better side than Leicester and Derby, there is no doubt about that for me, but we have to get out there and prove it.

"If we can match them on the 'ugly' side of the game then I think we will be okay.

"If we are fighting for the ball, winning the ball, and dealing with set pieces then our football should win through.

"We can win and win well but we have to mix it up with the other aspects of the game; but if you have got a side that is not winning the championship, for instance, you like to see a team that is entertaining, and from what I saw against Manchester United and Arsenal, we are playing some good stuff."

Glenn Roeder recently denied reports he was looking to sign Leicester's Robbie Savage but did admit he admires him, and Tony adds:

"I wouldn't put Robbie anywhere near the class of Carrick, Cole, Hutchison, and Sinclair, but it is up to them to deal with the more competitive side of Robbie and then show their greater skills which they have undoubtedly got."

Tony says that winning against the lower sides is even more crucial than getting points from the high fliers at this stage, and says that the good results of the last two games must be continued.

"Now we've got to rub it in - if that is the correct terminology - by getting some results against Leicester and Derby; these are more important games in my mind because it would keep those teams firmly below us," he says.

"The signs are encouraging for a good second half of the season as there is some good stuff being played by the boys at the moment and I see no reason why we can't finish top half at least."

But Tony knows that while the Hammers often excel against illustrious opposition, they can often falter against lower sides, and says:

"I think it is a natural worry for a West Ham fan; when you think you are going to win you don't, and when you think you won't you do.

"This is a really crucial time and if we can come out of these two games with four points and go into the Liverpool and Leeds games knowing we can beat these sides I think it could be great.

"Leeds away should hold no fears; I'm not saying we are go there and win but after beating Manchester United and playing so well against Arsenal, who I think are the favourites for the championship.

"We are showing signs that even if we go a goal down now we can come back from it; if you look at the front six they are all capable of doing something special individually.

Tony is relishing the form Of Michael Carrick and Joe Cole in the middle of the park, and adds:

"I think Joe made Simon Davies look like a little boy at times when he played against Spurs, and I would think that while he has been injured he has been on the weights - and has come out a stronger lad for it.

"I think it is great to see two home grown boys making things happen in the middle of the park, such an important area of the pitch.

"I know we have lost Rio and Frank recently but these two players can really go to the top."

Tony hopes a clean sheet can be kept on Saturday and thinks Arsenal's equaliser last weekend was a little fortuitous.

"I thought there was a tinge of luck about their goal," he insists, "it was a speculative cross from Lauren, Henry just got across his marker but didn't get a great connection, and I saw Schemmel say to Don Hutchison 'you should have been marking him'.

"But sometimes you do just switch off when you are a midfielder coming into the box, and the ball bounced kindly for him."

Tony feels that if Fredi does miss the trip, West Ham will still be able to cope, and adds: "Fredi is very important to the side, but Jermain has proved that if he is not there all is not lost, and you have got Paul Kitson sitting in the wings as well."

As for off-field matters - some of which have been misreported - regarding the players' Christmas party, Tony comments:

"I think everybody is going to go overboard with any slight thing that happened; I don't know if it was as bad as reported in the papers, but everybody has got to be particularly careful now, because after the Woodgate and Bowyer incident everyone in the country is going to be looking at professional footballers as role models.

"If they make mistakes they are going to be on them like a ton of bricks, and you really have to pick your friends wisely now and be out with people that you trust.

"In recent times all football clubs have sailed close to the wind, shall we say, but you are under extreme scrutiny nowadays.

"Let's face it, we are talking about young lads from 18-30 and if you went to any Christmas party and saw the shenanigans that were going on it would be much the same.

"But people are pointing to the fact, and rightly so, that some of these lads are earning 15 or 20 grand a week and people look up to them, so they shouldn't be doing the things that normal people are doing at Christmas - and they are right."