Nigel Gunning For Victory

When Nigel Winterburn appeared in West Ham's penultimate away game of the season at Arsenal in April this year, he was sure it would be the last time he faced his former club in a competitive match, after being told his Upton Park contract wouldn't be renewed in the summer.

However, after winning a deserved reprieve from Hammers boss Glenn Roeder and taking a substantial pay-cut to continue playing top flight football, the inspirational 38-year-old full-back is preparing to face the Gunners again tomorrow in our opening home match of the new Premiership campaign, and admits he is as motivated as ever about the game.

"I'm just delighted to be back here for another year," says Nigel. "As everyone knows, it wasn't looking that way at the end of last season after I had been told I was being released, but that is in the past and I'm just looking forward now.

"I'm as motivated as I've always been to play football and hopefully I can hold down a regular place in the team and help West Ham to another successful season."

Although his connection with the Gunners is always guaranteed to generate some media interest, Nigel insists that, after Monday's hugely disappointing 4-0 defeat at Newcastle United, he will have only one thing on his mind come 3pm on Saturday afternoon.

"We just want to get some points on the table very quickly," he says. "It's our first home game and, whatever way you look at it, Newcastle away and Arsenal at home are very tough games, but there is no reason why we can't get a result tomorrow.

"Last season our home form was one of the best in the Premiership, while our away form was the opposite, so we need to balance that out this year.

"If we can get our away form right and carry on the excellent home form, we will have a good season. We've got to do it, though, it's no good just talking about it all the time, because some of the away results just haven't been acceptable."

For now, though, three home games on the spin offer Glenn Roeder's team the chance to erase the painful memory of that trip to St. James' Park and lift themselves off the bottom of the Premiership table.

And while the visit of our north London rivals may help the Hammers to raise their game, as they have done in the past when expected to be beaten by the Premiership big boys, Nigel insists that approach will be taken into every match this season.

"Everyone will be fired up to play Arsenal, but on the whole we played well at home against most teams last season, not just the top sides. Saturday is going to be difficult, Arsenal have won 14 matches in a row and are in fantastic form, but we must play with confidence and belief.

"There is going to be a fantastic atmosphere at the ground and we should approach the game positively, without any fears."