Gale Looks Ahead

Tony Gale believes that the Hammers are "still the underdogs" in the FA Cup tie against Chelsea.

He believes Upton Park's superior playing surface will help them improve their performance, and says:

"A word of warning - don't expect us to necessarily win; I still think we are the underdogs.

"Chelsea are a good passing side, but then again so are West Ham, but I think it will be just as hard.

"Casting my mind back to the league game, we were only two up, it really gave Chelsea a chance and they dominated the rest of the game.

"The Chelsea pitch is c*** and I think they have the same problem at Crystal Palace where they put heaters on but burnt the pitch, so it is like rolled mud.

"But that pitch was a lot better than the Chelsea pitches of old; I remember going and winning there 4-0 on a mudheap once, and I envy the players of today playing on good pitches.

"It was a good draw on Saturday and a good draw on Sunday, with us being home to Preston if we win.

"And there are more pluses for West Ham with players like Labant and Lomas getting closer to full fitness for that match.

"I think there were some good performances there but, to be honest, I thought at 1-0 down they did well to keep it to that.

"I felt Glenn did the right thing to change the system to counter them, and, although I couldn't see us creating much, we got a chance - and Fredi took it.

"I still don't think he is playing very well, though; he is lacking a bit of confidence and fitness and he is not the Fredi we know - I think there is room for improvement there.

"As for Paolo, the sooner something is done over this move, whether he stays or goes, the better so he can get his mind back on the job."

Wednesday night's trip to St. Mary's represents a new ground for most Hammers' fans, and Tony says:

"It is not as fierce or as hostile as the Dell - perhaps that is the wrong word - but it is a hard place to get a result from.

"The fans will welcome a great view, a nice ground, and a nice pitch; it should all add up to a great game.

"We got the win earlier in the season when Glenn and Stuart Gray were under pressure, and they have a different manager now in Gordon Strachan.

"He wears his heart on his sleeve, and what I admire about him in relegation battles is he does it by attacking the situation.

"Pahars is always a danger but he has a bit of a temperament problem, and Beattie missing is a plus for West Ham.

"But if there is one player you have to look at, it is Wayne Bridge - he is my pick of the Southampton bunch, even though he is not a striker.

"I think we'll get a draw."