Seb: Cisse Can Shine

Sebastien Schemmel is backing fellow countryman Edouard Cisse to be a big hit in England.

With midfielders Steve Lomas and Don Hutchison of course out of the running for the opening game of the season at Newcastle on Monday, Edouard is in the running for a starting place - and Sebastien says he will not let the side down.

"Edouard is a good player and everybody knows him in France. He will be good for the team and I am very pleased he has come," says Seb.

"He has a big reputation in France and played at the best team in the country.

"People don't understand why he was allowed to leave - but it was a good opportunity for Glenn to get a good player in, and he speaks a little bit of English.

"The team needs more security at the back so, with Edouard, Glenn, has found the best solution. Everyone knows we are a good team but have had defensive problems, sometimes with me or whoever, and with him we can be more strong at the back.

"I think he can help us finish in the top six, and I am sure he can be fit for the Newcastle game."

Fellow Frenchman Youssef Sofiane will also travel north, and Seb adds: "Youssef is learning every day, but he is just 18 years old. Maybe he will play a bit this season, but he has come to learn and he will be a good player in the future."

Last season's Hammer of the Year is optimistic about the campaign to come, and he says:

"Everybody is looking forward to the 19th of August, and if we start well everything will be made easier.

"We are ready, and if Gerard Houllier says we might finish in the top six, I think it is true. I was happy to hear that because he is one of the three best managers in England.

"I am fine. It has been a good pre-season and we have been working really hard - I just want to get cracking on Monday for another good long season."

A third Frenchman, Olivier Bernard, might well have been lining up against Newcastle on Monday, rather than for them, but a contractual problem meant that he had to stay at St. James' Park rather than head to the Hammers.

Of that, Seb says simply: "This is his problem, not mine - but he is a good player."