Nigel's Pleasant Surprise

Nigel Winterburn modestly admits that there was an element of surprise when he was restored to the first team recently - but says Scott Minto will be pushing him every step of the way.

Nigel played the first four games of the season before making way, initially for Christian Dailly at Spurs, and thereafter Scott Minto who had a run of nine consecutive matches in which the Hammers got their first three wins of the season.

But Nigel returned against Leeds United and was exempted criticism by Glenn Roeder in the first half which saw the team trailing 4-1.

He subsequently kept his place for the clash with Manchester United and is looking to make it three games on the trot against Aston Villa for what would be only his second away game of the campaign - the first being that 4-0 defeat by Newcastle in the opening game of the season.

"Hopefully I am doing enough to stay there because when you are out of the team you never know exactly when you are going to get back in," he says.

"I had to wait and work hard for a chance to get back in the team. I was maybe a little bit surprised that I got put back in but when given the chance I want to make sure I stay in the team.

"I knew just before the game against Leeds that I was back in and it was a little bit of a shock, but then you have to prepare for the game and put in a performance that can keep you in the team for the next week.

"That is all you can do and I obviously don't know yet if I will be in against Villa, but you have to try and build from that and stay in the team.

"Scott will be working hard to prove that he should be back in the team but it is good healthy commitment between two players that really want to play."

Nigel insists it is a happy camp at Upton Park despite the second from bottom placing, and he says: "There is still a lot of confidence in the team and plenty of belief; we just have to reproduce that performance on a regular basis and then I am sure we will move up the table.

"Now we need to start getting some wins under our belt.

"The fans have been really good to us, sticking by us, and obviously if we don't play well, as professional footballers we expect to get booed.

"But I think the way we were supported against Leeds in the second half and again against Manchester United shows they are willing to get behind us if they see the effort, and I think the players are trying to respond to that as well.

"I think what they won't accept I if they think there is a lack of effort. They will accept a team struggling if they see effort and commitment.

"We have hopefully shown we are willing to fight to get us way from the position we are in and I think the response from the players and the fans in the last game and a half has been tremendous."

He says criticism from outside doesn't affect him and explains: "The media are the media and you don't really worry about them. When you are at the bottom of the league you expect them to nibble away at little things and try to find why it is going wrong.

"But there isn't a lot going wrong and we are all working hard trying to put things right to get the points we need."

He does acknowledge, however, that it is the team boss who carries the can, rightly or wrongly, and he adds: "He knows that any team at the bottom has a manager under pressure because the Premiership is really the only place to be.

"Money has dried up in the first division and no one wants to drop into that, and you also want to be playing the best teams week in, week out.

"Glenn has been working really hard to try and sort out mainly the individual errors, and if we can put that right we can move up the table.

"But whether the stick is right or wrong he is big enough to accept that, and believes that we will move off the bottom of the table - and rightly so.

"I don't think there is any pressure on the players; you just have to be big enough and strong enough to play.

"At the end of the day you know you are not always going to play well but even if you are not, if they detect commitment they will accept it, because commitment is all they want to see."

Nigel feels the Manchester United game, albeit that it only yielded a point, could represent a change in West Ham's fortunes and he adds: "I thought the performance was a step up from what we have been producing recently and obviously we are looking to the next games now to see if we can bag a couple of wins to move us up the table."

Of the two goals that many felt were offside, Nigel reveals: "Personally when I was playing I thought Ruud van Nistelrooy's goal was offside and also Jermain's. Having looked at them again on television I do still think they both were offside.

"But they were both tight, and in the heat of the game sometimes you get a decision and sometimes you don't. Luckily he got it wrong at the end but you could argue he got the other one wrong, so a draw was a fair result.

"The lads worked really hard against Manchester United; you are not always going to get the ball because they are a quality team.

"We thought even at one down we could get back into the game and I am just pleased for Jermain that he scored and we picked up a point."

Indeed, Nigel sees a revival starting at half time against Leeds and adds: "I think we have taken a lot of confidence from the last one and a half games; I know we didn't get anything against Leeds but the manner and the performance in the second half was good and even in the first if you take away the individual errors."

As for the trip to Aston Villa he insists he will not be satisfied with a point.

"It is going to be a tough game - they have had a couple of good results just lately although they are still down around near us," he says.

"We want to win every game and that is what we are going to try and do."