Winterburn Returns

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While Nigel Winterburn might have experienced slightly more dramatic finales to football seasons in his title chasing days with Arsenal than he is enjoying with West Ham this campaign, he admits that the final weeks of this one will be just as emotional.

If he drops to the first division next season, as he expects to, if he plays at Highbury midweek he will be bidding farewell to the marble halls forever.

Not to mention the fact that he will be leaving behind top flight football, which he has graced with distinction for so many years - 13 of them in north London.

But he admits: "I don't even know if I will be playing so I am not looking forward that much but I will be banging on Glenn's door again and I was delighted he put me back in the team on Saturday.

"Hopefully he will play me on Wednesday but it is not just about myself, it is about the team and we want to get the points.

"I can't start telling people what to do, all I can do is give 100% in every game and hopefully that will be enough to get me selected this week. It is just coincidence that this next game is against Arsenal and it is something I am looking forward to, but not taking for granted by any means.

"When I went back last year I had a fantastic reception, and it is every player's ambition to go back to their club and get that because it is always nice to leave on good terms, so hopefully if I am involved that will happen again.

"I'd rather stay at West Ham, but decisions are decisions - and don't get changed. If I hadn't been in the side for four months I don't think I would have been disappointed, but when I feel as good as I do, I must admit there is a frustration on my part.

"The main thing, though, is to keep at it for West Ham and see what happens in the summer."

He has not spoken to any of his erstwhile team mates this week, old warhorses like Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, and Martin Keown with whom he shared so many triumphs, and he explains: "I won't be talking to them this week because every game they play now is a big one, almost like a cup final, so I just have to let them get on with it.

"But there will be plenty of time to talk to them after the game and at the end of the season."

Casting an eye over the title race, he says: "They are in pole position, and you look at the games and you can't see them dropping too many points. Then again, Liverpool and Manchester United don't look like losing either.

"It could go to the last game and it is good for everybody that it is still running."

But Nigel thinks that West Ham have the same, professional attitude as his old club these days, and insists there is no letting up.

While a chase for seventh spot might not have been his usual ambition in days gone by, and notwithstanding the fact that he is set to leave, he is still determined to end the campaign on a high note.

"We are certainly on a fantastic run at the moment, and the main point is to show the desire to do well. There is no doubt that after the start we had to the season there were a lot of questions asked by a lot of people and the players, managers, and staff have answered those in the best way possible," he says.

"When you are winning the atmosphere is a lot livelier and a lot bubblier, though it hasn't really changed because we had great belief in what we were doing at the start of the season - it's just that things didn't go right.

"But if you stick to your beliefs, and keep playing and working hard, eventually things turn round and since Christmas we have started to pick up points - and we think we can match anybody at the moment.

"When you get to 40 and 41 points and you are safe there is a tendency to relax a little bit but the atmosphere in training over the last four weeks has been really good.

"That came out in the performance on Saturday and the goals that we scored. We are just going in the right direction, we want to keep it within our own hands to finish seventh, and if we keep doing what we are doing, that will happen.

"It was a fantastic performance. Going into the game we were unsure about Fredi and Jermain because they were ill, and obviously Fredi didn't make it.

"I think the movement and the passing was a delight to watch. First of all you have got to win games and sometimes it is not pretty, but I think it showed there is a desire to finish in seventh place."