Paul Puzzled

Paul Goddard admits he doesn't know why West Ham have had poor starts in the last three successive seasons.

"If someone knew the magic formula the we would have it; we certainly feel we had a better prepared pre-season this year than last," he says.

"But we have to put it in perspective - we have had a very tough start with Arsenal at home and Newcastle away, though we let ourselves down against Charlton.

"Credit to Charlton as well, though, they scored the goals and we just couldn't get it back.

"It has been unfortunately a long break after the Charlton game. We have been left to stew for 10 days and have put all our focus on the West Brom game now.

"The main thing is that we all feel we are a stronger group of people this year. We are only three games in but we have had one terrific performance and two disappointing ones so we have got to get the consistency back."

He looks back on West Ham's best ever season, in which he was involved, and recalls: "I think it was the year we finished third that we had a terrible time pre-season, having lost five or six games in a row.

"I remember John Lyall having a meeting with us on trial somewhere. It was looking very bleak, but we came out of the traps like wildfire."

The old joke about West Ham coming down with the Christmas decorations is one he is not interested in, however, and he says: "It is an old joke and not relevant now at all."

He does feel, though, that West Ham's reputation for being hard to beat at home could work against the team this year, and says: "We had super home form last year, and because of that I am sure people know they are coming for a tough game as Arsenal found out and hence the approach of Charlton.

"They were fully fired up, we gave them an early goal, and they wouldn't let go.

"You know when you go to places like Manchester United and Liverpool that you are going to have to give them one hell of a game to get anything, and our home record last year afforded us that respect.

"People will be coming here knowing it is going to be a tough game and that is what we must give them.

"But I'm sure we can get back on the right track."

As for preparations for the game, he adds: "It is quite a strange feeling seeing them all go away on international duty, and it was a quieter week last week - but a good one because we spent a lot of time with the players that were left and we were able to do a lot of thinking and talking.

"I am sure we have all benefitted from those meetings."

Christian Dailly, in particular, has to pick himself up after Scotland failed to beat the Faroe Islands, and Paul adds: "At the moment he is the first one to hold his hands up. He is very proud to be captain of his country but is obviously aware that Scotland are going through an incredibly tough period and he can't offer any defence, can he?

"But club level is different and he is ready for another tough game."

As far as team selection is concerned, he adds: "There are options, and that is the difference from last year when the squad was looking incredibly thin, and that gives the manager more flexibility.

"There are just a few little niggles but nothing major."

Assessing the opposition, he adds: "West Brom are proud to be in the Premiership and you can see that in their performances - they will be dogged and scrapping for everything.

"They only lost 1-0 at Manchester United and gave Arsenal some pretty scary moments, but we and the players know what to expect.

"It will be a difficult game but one we are looking forward to.

"You don't want to be bottom of the pile at any time but there is only one way to go, and that is up."

Meanwhile, Glenn Roeder says that Don Hutchison will be back in the near future.

"Don will be fit to play in four or five weeks maximum, we think," he says.

"If they can all remain fit in the coming weeks we will have a fully fit senior squad which doesn't happen very often."