Michael Determined

Michael Carrick says he is putting any thoughts of England on a back burner at the moment as he bids to help haul the Hammers off the bottom of the table - and admits he hasn't met the high standards he sets himself thus far this season.

Michael, who was on standby for the full England part last week, eventually had to settle for a 90 minute role for the U21s in a 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia.

On that, he says:

"It was good to get another game under my belt, especially for England, and it is a different kind of football, so you get experience from that.

"It is a lot of different; the gaffer wants to play me in a much deeper role so I am learning different things which will hopefully help me a bit more.

"A few people said I was close to the full squad, which is one of those things, but hopefully time is on my side; if I get back to playing anywhere near my best I am hopeful I can get back in there."

On the question of how long that might take, he admits:

"I don't know really; as far as the England thing goes I am putting it to rest for the next few weeks.

"West Ham comes first, especially as we haven't started so well; there isn't another England game for a month or two, so I will put that to bed now."

It is probably fair to say that, while most of the players were close to their best against Arsenal, a week later it was a different story.

And Michael knows that, from a personal point of view - and a battle won against Patrick Vieira - that synopsis is certainly true when it comes to comparing the performances against the Gunners and Charlton.

"Everyone has a dip in form; it happens now and again and you just have to come through it, which is what I hope to do, strongly," he stresses.

And he makes the modest admission:

"At this moment I don't think I have been really at my best, and I don't feel I warrant a place in the full squad yet - but all in good time."

He is quite aware of whether he is fulfilling his potential or not at any given stage in his development, though, and he adds:

"I am probably my biggest critic; you know when you are playing your best and when you are not, and I am just glad that I am fully fit which will mean I will become better - if you are 100%, and playing often enough, your quality is going to come through."

Michael's career was interrupted by a groin problem last year, and that hasn't helped matters; to that end, an injury free season is a top priority.

"I have been playing for about a year or so now with a niggling injury - it has been there for a while and it gradually got worse and worse," he admits.

"I wasn't able to play anywhere near my best, and it is a case now of trying to get back to two years ago when I was first in the England squad - I want to get back to that form, and help lift us off the bottom of the table.

"A lot of players play with injuries and you just have to get on with it, but it wasn't the case where one week it would be good and one week it would be bad.

"It was there pretty much all the time; I couldn't really push myself in training, it would be sore come Saturday and I really had to nurse myself through it.

"Your fitness drops again even though you are playing; you can't do as much as you usually would and your whole game struggles, so it got to the point where enough was enough.

"I am through that - and I want to get back to my best again."

Michael reveals that he was also suffering from another injury as well as the groin.

"I did have a back problem," he says, "and they say it might be connected, but everything is past me now, hopefully, and I can have a bright future."

So, if you see Michael walking like a catwalk model these days, heed these words from him:

"It was a posture thing; you have to keep on top of it and do exercises - but fingers crossed things will run smoothly now.

"It is a matter of getting more games in and building up the confidence."

As for the Charlton disappointment, he admits:

"It was a weird game and even though we weren't at our best we still created a lot of chances, or half chances, to get a goal.

"At this level now we are a team that does create quite a few opportunities, especially at home, and if you don't put them away, especially against Arsenal, teams will come back at you.

"If you look at Charlton, they only had two or three chances and got two goals out of it, so we have to look to that and we have got to score more goals.

"Once that spell drops in the game it puts an awful lot of pressure on the defence to hold out."

Michael is hoping that the fans, many of whom voiced their disapproval of Eduoard Cisse's substitution against the Addicks, are behind him - and the team - on Wednesday and says:

"The fans is a big thing; they know we haven't played so well in recent weeks but I think we showed enough in the Arsenal game for them to have a bit more belief in us and to push us on.

"I know we have let them down at the start of the season again, but we showed everyone what we can do in that 2-2 draw what we can do when everyone is fully behind us - and that is what we want to be doing over the next few weeks."

"We expected the dismay that we lost, and the gaffer expected that; that is what made the Charlton game so disappointing because we all wanted to play better.

"We thought if we played as we did against Arsenal every week we can't be going too far wrong; obviously it is hard, but we have got to get back to that standard as quickly as possible.

"It is strange and I don't know what it is, but we have shown we have enough quality in and around the squad to produce when the time is right."

It is the third September in a row that has seen West Ham rooted to the bottom, but Michael adds:

"I would rather have this spell at the start of the season than struggle and fade at the end; if we can get a few points on board then hopefully we can improve the longer the season goes.

"It is annoying because we know how good we can be and it is disappointing not only for the fans, but I think they know we are more disappointed than anyone else when we don't perform.

"It is just a case of getting behind everyone and installing a bit more belief in the lads; if the supporters get do that I think we will do fine, and if we can perform like we know we can, there is no reason why we can't get up there.

"It is understandable; they have seen how well we can play and when we don't it is easier for people to criticise.

"But the gaffer has said, especially to the younger lads, that it is hard sometimes to perform every week - but you have got to learn quickly and you have got to be prepared to be criticised when you don't play well. "You just have to get on with it."

Michael does not feel the time is right to be shouting from the rooftops about what the team can achieve this season, and he admits:

"I think it would be easy for me now to say 'we can come in the top six if we start playing well' but you just have to see how it goes.

"We want to be up there like last year, and if we are not it would be a disappointment; you want to be as good as you can, and I suppose if we are even in the top eight it would still be a good season because the gaffer hasn't had a lot of money to spend to bring in players.

"It is pretty much the same squad as last season, but if we can become a bit more consistent and come in the top eight two years on the trot then the year after that you can start thinking about Europe.

"It would be a massive achievement if we get there this year.

"You don't want to be up and down every year - you want consistency, and all the best teams have that."

But he sees the long term plan as being one where the troughs are eliminated and the peaks improve, as far as final league placings are concerned.

"You'd put your mortgage on Manchester United and Arsenal being in the top two or three, and you have to look at them and take a little leaf out of their book.

"If we were to finish in the top eight, say, then move on again next year, we will be doing all right."

Michael, discussing the fact that Glenn Roeder has not been able to make any player purchases as such, adds:

"In football in general there wasn't a lot of money flying about; Rio to Man U was a one off situation.

"There is usually a big flurry, but a lot of the smaller teams didn't have the money to bring players in.

"It is disappointing because you want to be improving the squad, and for top players to be brought to the club as well."

But he does feel the club has the right personnel - if too many injuries are avoided.

"If you look at 18 or 20 players we are strong enough to cope, but maybe it is after that, where other clubs can still bring internationals in," he concludes.

Meanwhile another player who was also on international duty at the weekend, Trevor Sinclair, says there is more than enough motivation to beat West Brom on Wednesday - not going to White Hart Lane at the weekend while still being at the basement of the Premiership.

"Nobody wants to be bottom of the league and we are no different," he says.

"We don't enjoy seeing the club's name at the bottom and we know we are the only people who can change it.

"I can't think of a worse scenario than us going to Tottenham with them at the top and us at the bottom, but if that is the case then it will make it sweeter if we get a result over there.

"It is not the end of the world if we don't win against West Brom, but we must go into the game with the mentality that we must win, and get the poor start to the season out of our system.

"We all know the job in hand and are totally committed - everyone is pulling in the right direction; we haven't got the biggest squad but we are working hard to make sure we do change the situation."

He is calling for a sense of perspective, though, and adds:

"You never want to be bottom of the Premiership at any stage, but after only three games of the season it is not panic stations - we haven't had an easy start, and we can't have turned into a bad side over the summer.

"We have definitely started below par, though, apart from our performance at home to Arsenal, and we know what job is at hand - and that we've got to knuckle down for this game on Wednesday.

"We have to go into it with the mentality that we must win - and get this poor start to the season out of our system. 

"We were all pleased with the way we played and the way we matched Arsenal; afterwards we thought 'right, that's it, we have set our standards, we know we can match one of the best teams in Europe.'

"But we conceded a couple of bad goals at poor times against Charlton and they did well."

Trevor is delighted that Paolo Di Canio has returned to the fold after intensive treatment in Bologna, and he adds:

"It is like having a new player back at the club; he took part in a good training session and the lads enjoyed having him back.

"Hopefully, if he is used, he will be able to put in a typical performance - you always feel he can create something."

* Former loanee Kaba Diawara has landed the player of the month award in France; he is currently on loan at Nice.