Glenn Back In Toon

Glenn Roeder admits that his team will have to be at their very best if they are to get a result on Saturday against a buoyant Newcastle United - fresh from their 2-2 draw at Blackburn on Tuesday that secured qualification for next season's European Champions' League.

The Hammers boss visits St James' Park for the first time as a manager knowing that three points against his former club will provide a massive boost in our aim to secure seventh place in the Premiership this season.

And although the Toon Army are sure to be in carnival mood after a fantastic season among the high-flyers of English football, Glenn insists the Hammers can gatecrash the party.

"I played up there for six years and I know what the atmosphere is like," he says. "It will be tough for us, but we can go up there with confidence and the aim of securing three points.

"You often get a surprise package, like Ipswich last season, and Newcastle have been the team that not many people expected to be up there this year.

"Personally, I am not that surprised because of who the manager is and, if you go through the players they have - especially in the midfield and attacking areas - they have got real quality."

Much of Newcastle's success this season has been down to the leadership of Robson, who returned to his hometown club just over two years ago and has gradually turned around the fortunes of a club who were in danger of slipping back into mediocrity under Ruud Gullit.

As someone who was unlucky not to win a full England cap under the then national team boss, Roeder can't speak highly enough of the 67-year-old Robson - a man who is many people's choice for this season's Manager of the Year award.

"What people admire about Bobby is that he took an awful lot of criticism from the media during his time as England manager but came through it all," says Glenn. "Now people only have nice things to say about him, and rightly so."

However, when it comes to emulating the achievements of the former Barcelona coach, the Hammers chief is certainly not making any comparisons.

"Can I see myself managing at the age of 67? I just hope that I'm alive at that age!" jokes Glenn. "Bobby is fantastic, though. You talk to him on the telephone and you would think you are talking to a man 20 or 30 years younger. His enthusiasm for the game is wonderful and the energy he shows belies his age."

While their early rise to the top may not have raised many eyebrows, Newcastle have certainly surprised the critics by sustaining their title challenge for virtually the entire campaign and Glenn considers them an example to those just below. 

"Newcastle's achievement this season certainly gives teams like ourselves confidence," he says. "What they have probably got that we haven't at the moment is strength in depth, where they can cope with injuries to a number of players by bringing in equal quality and gaining the same results.

"We have now got Hutchison, Di Canio and Schemmel out with serious injuries and we are starting to look thin already. That is the main difference, although Bobby Robson has still spent well on new players.

"Craig Bellamy has been a huge success and Kieron Dyer is a phenomenal player. There aren't many around who can go box to box throughout a game like him, and Laurent Robert is also a very dangerous player.

"Carl Cort is settling in after suffering serious injuries and Lua Lua is also beginning to show signs of adjusting to the higher level, so they have an abundance of attacking quality and we will have to be at our best on Saturday to deny them a victory."

Confidence is still high at Upton Park, despite the fact that our five-match unbeaten run came to an unfortunate end against Arsenal on Wednesday night, and Glenn hopes that the progress made this year will be a platform for greater things next season.

"The players have done really well," he says. "They have stuck together, been good listeners and picked up on things that we have wanted to do.

"After a not too clever start, we have gradually improved throughout the season. I hope we can continue to improve next season but the key will be what I can add to the squad in the summer.

"The players who came in this year have done well and I will pleased if we get a similar return next season. Obviously the funds that were there last summer aren't available this time around, but there are some quality players on Bosman frees, so the aim is to attract some to the club and strengthen the squad further."