Geoff: Fingers Crossed

Former Hammer Geoff Pike, who now coaches youngsters at West Ham, hopes that the club will be up to mid-table in the Premiership by the time the Christmas period comes around.

The notion, for a team bottom of the table, need not be too far-fetched given how tight it is in the bottom half, and ultimately nothing would please Geoff more than seeing the club emulate the achievements of the team of '86, who gave West Ham a highest ever placing of third.

He says: "I think it is going to be very difficult because of the top six and the finances behind those.

"If you look at last season, if the top six had been in a European league West Ham would have won the title. But at this moment in time it is very difficult to compete with the big boys - financially more than anything else.

"But you like to be positive about it. At the moment things aren't going particularly well so a lot will depend on what happens in the next three months or so, and whether they can come out of it positively or negatively only time will tell.

"If West Ham do get relegated this year it is going to be an extremely long haul to get into a good position, but if they don't and they progress then Glenn and Paul can produce or bring in more players to improve the side, and who is to say that they can't compete?

"By the time that Christmas comes around you would like to think that West Ham will hopefully be middle of the table and get a few results.

"If they are not by then, between Christmas and the end of the season goes very quickly and it is hard then to pick up the points that you need to pick up - as Ipswich found out last year."

Geoff says the reliance on youngsters coming through for which is the club is famous is a tradition well worth maintaining, and adds: "Part of my job now is to go to West Ham and work through coaching qualifications so I do see Paul Goddard and Glenn Roeder at Chadwell Heath.

"I worked with Joe Cole when he was a youngster on an FA course and I see players like him, give them a pat on the back, and say 'keep going'.

"It has always been that there has been an emphasis on youth. I went there in 1972 and it was prominent then.

"Tony Carr, who has been there for many years, has done a magnificent job and hopefully that can continue.

"I work with the young players when they are second and third years, but I have only been doing that with West Ham this season.

"West Ham have had that tradition of producing young players through the youth system and I don't think that will stop.

"I am sure the club will continue to strive to do that because they can't compete with the top six financially and buy the big name players for £15m or £16m - so they have got to produce as well as pick up the not so expensive players."

To a certain extent, West Ham are swimming against the tide in having a long term policy in terms of patiently bringing players through the ranks while other clubs go for the quick fix - which often means foreign imports.

The 1985-86 achievers were an all British side, something that is unlikely to be seen in the foreseeable future at the club, and Geoff admits: "It does sadden me in a way but it is a sign of the times, the way things are going," he says.

"People say 'is it to the detriment of the younger players?' and maybe it is or maybe it isn't - only time will tell.

"What it has brought into the game is certain positive role models which our young players will aspire to - and that will only benefit them because they will want to try and emulate Zola and people like that by doing the things they do.

"I think there needs to be a line drawn on how many come in, and where they come from, because there is a certain amount that come in and you think they are not up to standard, and that is quite difficult to take when you know that there might be a youngster coming through."

Geoff was at a recent reunion of the squad of that 1985/86 season to sign the framed prints commemorating that year, and he says: "I keep in touch with the '86 lads now more so than the present players because I don't really know them.

"It was good to see the lads again, and hopefully for the current side bottom of the league, there are better times to come."

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