Paul's Preview

Paul Goddard is looking forward to a great atmosphere at St. James' Park when West Ham kick off the new Premiership season against Newcastle United on Monday.

"It is quite ironic we are going back so soon after going there at the end of last season," he says of the trip to one of his former clubs.

"They had a fantastic season, finishing fourth to qualify for the Champions' League, and it will be a real tough game with 54,000 people there.

"The TV people obviously think we will fall flat on our face because they have chosen our away game, so we have got that to disprove.

"It is a fantastic place to play your football, and there can't be too many better arenas to do it; the people have an incredible passion for the game there and if it is going well, it is an even better place.

"They like hard work and, like West Ham fans, they do really appreciate good football. If it is played by the opposition they can see that as well."

A lot of the focus will be on Olivier Bernard, who West Ham tried in good faith - believing him to be a free agent - to sign in the summer.

A hearing overturned what the authorities, and indeed the player's representatives, had given the club to believe, namely that he was available on a free transfer and, asked if he thinks Bernard - who wanted to come to West Ham - will play a blinder, Paul says: "Who knows? Fortunately for him, his future is sorted out and he can get on with playing football.

"Some times in the game these contractual things get above the football itself."

West Ham turned elsewhere in the search for players, but are still looking for a striker, and Paul adds: "We hope to get one. There is a little gap in the squad there which needs to be filled and Glenn is obviously working very hard on that."

Paul does not want the fans to expect too much, too soon from the one forward that has been acquired so far this summer, Youssef Sofiane, and adds: "Sofiane is smiling around the place and is very happy; he had a niggly hamstring but he is fully fit now and his performances when he has come on have been very encouraging.

"But we must remember he is only 18 and it is a different culture he is coming to, football-wise, so we have got to handle him well."