Paolo's Pledge

Paolo Di Canio vows that he will have his best ever season for West Ham when he returns for the new campaign.

And he reckons that West Ham will surprise a few people if they can add two or three quality players to the squad next season.

Paolo is currently receiving treatment at a specialist centre in Bologna and says: "I am a little bit better, but I won't come back before the end of the season to watch. The injury is worse than what we thought at the beginning, so I have to stay here all summer, and I won't go on holiday because I want to come back better than before.

"If I stay here I can do that because they are very good with anterior cruciate problems - Roberto Baggio came back after 76 days after the same problem, and that is a record for a cruciate.

"In his first game back he scored two goals, so it gives me confidence to come back early.

"I am a professional, I want to come back fantastic for pre-season - because next year I am sure I will have a better season than the last three."

Even missing out on thanking the fans for their support this season after the final home game of the season has not altered Paolo's focus, and he explains: "It is not a problem, there is a respect for them and I think they still respect me. It is just important that the team do their job well as they did in the last two games, which shows they have the desire to do it.

"I look forward to coming back and meeting the people in July."

Paolo, who got injured against Charlton, has certainly left a buoyant club behind for the rest of the campaign, and he adds: "I am happy that when I left we were in seventh place, and we can keep it; even if we don't qualify for the UEFA Cup next year it shows we have had a good season, because at the start everyone was saying we would be fighting relegation.

"To finish there gives us the confidence for next year that we can improve some more.

"I can't say now if we will because I don't know what players we will have next year or the way we are going to play, so it is not so easy to judge - though I am sure that with the same attitude and mentality we can play at the same level.

"But if we make a better start than last season we can make a big surprise to everyone, as long as everyone stays and we can improve the squad with two or three players - that would mean we are less stretched when we have injuries."

Meanwhile, on being told the news that Paul Alcock has retired as a referee - sending a player off in his last game, to boot - Paolo responds: "I didn't know that but I am sorry because every time someone leaves their job it is sad as it was a part of their life, but I wish him all the best and anyway I hope to meet him some time."

The news brings back memories of the infamous push on him while playing for Sheffield Wednesday - which ultimately led to Harry Redknapp being able to sign him for a mere £1.7m in January 1999.

But he insists there are no hard feeling between him and Alcock, and he says: "Anyone can make a mistake, and I recognised that, but he recognised it wasn't aggressive or malicious from me.

"It was just disappointment, even if I was wrong, and for this there is respect anyway."