Dicko Backs Hammers

Former Hammers and Chelsea midfielder Alan Dickens admits he is looking forward to seeing his two old clubs clash in the Premiership on Sunday, but insists that the final result will have no bearing on the mouth-watering repeat fixture in the FA Cup fourth round a week later.

While many would say that Sunday's game is simply a dress rehearsal to the more appealing cup tie, Dicko feels that the league encounter won't provide any clues as to what Hammers fans can expect on their return journey across the capital.

"Chelsea will be favourites but I don't think that the result on Sunday will give any indication of how the FA Cup tie will go the following week.

"I remember a similar situation at West Ham in the 1987-88 season when we played a league game at QPR in the middle of January and then faced them at Loftus Road again in the FA Cup a couple of weeks later.

"I scored the winner in the first game as we won 1-0, but we lost the cup game 3-1. It just shows that form and league positions don't count when it comes to the FA Cup. If Chelsea win the first game, there is a chance that they could be a little complacent in the cup game, and that would be good for West Ham."

Alan, now 37 and plying his trade as a black cab driver, made the move from Upton Park to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 1989 following the departure of manager John Lyall and still keeps a close eye on the fortunes of both sides.

"I watched Chelsea beat Norwich on Wednesday night and they looked very good. With the money they have spent, the quality is obvious and Ranieri has got them playing well as a team at the moment.

"Saying that, West Ham have also looked very good recently and I think that both games will be very close.

"Glenn Roeder seems to have steadied the ship and I have been impressed with the stability that the team are showing.

"They play the solid 4-4-2 formation, every player knows their job and they are attacking and defending well."

Likely to be centre of attention when the two London rivals clash is midfielder Frank Lampard, who followed the same route as Dicko last summer when he left Upton Park in the wake of a managerial departure to join Chelsea.

However, Alan admits he found it difficult to understand why the young England star was handed such an unwelcome reception when he returned to Upton Park earlier in the season and warns Hammers fans that focusing their energies on Lampard may rebound on them.

"I think Frank has settled in well at Chelsea and seems to be playing regularly. He isn't the type of player who really stands out but he does a job for the team and gets his fair share of goals.

"I can't see why West Ham fans would want to have a go at him, though. His situation was obviously affected by Harry and Frank leaving, and he had given good service to the club.

"West Ham have done well out of his transfer. They got £11million and Glenn went out and signed some excellent players, so I can't see any reason to give him a load of stick.

"There is always the worry that, if you boo a former player, he will come back to haunt you with a winning goal, so I think West Ham fans would be better off concentrating on supporting their team!"

Alan, who was playing non-league football in his early-30s, isn't involved with the game in a regular capacity any longer, but admits he harbours ambitions of returning to the game he loves.

"I do a bit of coaching for a local school and I also look after Luke's Sunday team. I couldn't go through the whole week without having some involvement in the game.

"Football is like a drug, I suppose. When you've been in the game all your life, you can't let it go and I'm no different.

"I would like to do more but I don't really have the time and it is hard to get back into the game at a higher level when you've been out of it for a while."

Despite his absence from the game, Alan still follows the Hammers regularly and satisfyingly reveals that a younger generation of the Dickens family are following in the claret and blue tradition.

"I don't get to see many games nowadays but my two sons are taking an interest. The youngest one, Sam, who is five, will be going to see his first game when West Ham play Blackburn in February, while Luke, who is seven, saw the home game against Leeds at the start of the season.

"I always watch West Ham when they are on TV and they are still my team, so I am glad to see that they are doing well.

"Glenn Roeder was a stylish player and he has taken that style into management. You can see that he is trying his hardest to make a success of it and I wish him the best of luck."

MEGASALE - Visit the Premier Suite at the Stadium on Saturday 19th January between 10am and 4pm for Great Bargains. Personal callers only