Nigel: We Have The Bottle To Battle

Nigel Winterburn reckons that Saturday's win over Middlesbrough shows that the Hammers can battle with the best of them.

The victory ended a long unbeaten sequence for the resilient Teessiders, and Nigel says: "West Ham teams before might have lost that game, but it shows we can scrap, although it wasn't a pretty game in the first half.

"We got a good win and we are really pleased with the way it has gone because they threw everything forward, even with a man sent off, and although they maybe put us under a bit of pressure they didn't really create a chance.

"I think the first half was a pretty poor game. It was so windy and there was a bit of snow as well.

"It was very hard to get a rhythm into the game and we had four players out as well against a Middlesbrough team that was probably at full strength so we knew it was going to be difficult.

"We changed things around at half time and we played really well in the second half, deserving to get the win in the end.

"We said before the game that to take a chance we might make a mistake with the conditions but we got it in the second half."

Nigel is hoping to stay off West Ham's growing injury list himself and reveals: "Since Everton last year I have been struggling a little bit with a stomach complaint, but I trained all last week.

"It is not perfect but I just want to play in as many games as I can, and I don't think that there was any doubt that if I was selected on Saturday I was going to play.

"We have got such a small squad and we are losing players through suspension and injury, so that is not helping at the moment.

"But the lads that came in against Middlesbrough knew how big the game was going to be and we were just pleased to get the right result.

"I think it is a worry if they are going to be out for a long time but it also gives other players a chance to come in. Really, we just have to wait and see what happens, and who is fit for next week."

Nigel is calling on his team mates to show the same spirit at Villa Park on Saturday - with a win putting the Hammers just one point behind Graham Taylor's team in the table.

"It is a massive game for us," he stresses, "as are all the last 11 games now because we want to get over 40 points as quickly as we can and then see where we finish in the league.

"We need to put it right on the road because although we are playing well at home the away form keeps putting pressure on, and if we can get a win away it will push us right up the league - that is how important it is."

As for his contribution to the Ehiogu should-he-or-shouldn't-he-have-been-sent-off debate, Nigel says: "It probably was a foul and it is difficult when you know you have already been booked. You are hoping that the referee keeps the card in his pocket - but we know the rules, and we know what is going to happen."