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Glenn Roeder hopes that David James can extend his run of clean sheets to six when he returns to domestic action at Southampton this weekend and believes that young Glen Johnson will also come back from international duty in the right frame of mind to continue his fantastic progress in recent weeks.

With no goals conceded in the last three West Ham games providing the springboard for his first two competitive games for England again yielding clean sheets, Glenn wants the run to continue as long as possible.

The key, says Glenn, is the understanding he has with his defenders, and he explains: "There has been a consistency in the back four and we need to keep that together for as long as possible in the last seven games.

"I think that has helped David James and I noticed against Sunderland in the first half he came and took a couple of crosses cleanly and with a lot of confidence, which we hadn't always seen during spells this season.

"But when he had to take those crosses he did and then used the ball well.

"I have played with David James a long time ago when he first came into the Watford team as a teenage goalkeeper. I was in a back three with Barry Ashby and David Holdsworth and although we could handle ourselves on crosses David came and took those crosses - and I remember what a relief it was when you have got a 6ft 5ins goalkeeper coming out of the six yard box or even to the penalty spot at times.

"It was terrific because he would come and take those crosses nice and early, and it is a great relief for defenders when they see a goalie do that - and if you don't get out of the way you get clattered."

Glenn is keen to point out, however, that the good defending has not just been down to the defence, and he adds: "Since we started the good run the defending has hugely improved but I do feel there are lots of factors involved.

"If you start at the front there is a partnership that is working hard for the team closing defenders down and making them play it early so they are not always playing accurate balls.

"Because the front two are working as a pair the midfield four can get tight on their men, and if balls are played into their midfield they can be snapping straight away to win the ball back early.

"If the balls are then played into strikers when the midfielders of the opposing team are under pressure, the quality is probably not as good and our defenders can get tight and win a lot more balls.

"Just generally the whole team has defended so much better, and it has really been a team effort.

"The full backs have definitely had a positive effect on the two centre backs, and we couldn't be more delighted with the progress of Glen Johnson.

"And there is an equal amount of delight with Brevett who we took, not from Fulham's reserves, but from their first team - and let's not forget he saw off two new full backs that were brought to Fulham, not necessarily to replace him but to put him under more pressure, in Jon Harley and Pierre Wome, both quality left backs.

"He has settled in so, so quickly, and I think the full backs have allowed Pearce and Repka to concentrate solely on their job, and because of that they have done better while of course David James has benefited from the back four being settled as well.

"There was a doubt over Brevett's fitness for Sunderland but again he proved what a strong character he is by putting himself up and making himself available for the game, and like the other 10 he had an excellent game."

It is young Johnson who has really caught the eye in recent weeks, though. At just 18-years-old, his mature displays have played an influential part in Hammers' excellent defensive record of late, and Roeder is happy that the youngster will keep his feet on the ground after continuing his meteoric rise this week by making his England under-21 debut as a substitute against Turkey.

"It is happening very quickly for him at the moment and the important thing is that he keeps his feet on the ground - which I am sure he will do," says Glenn.

"It is part of my job to make sure I keep talking to him in the right manner which I do on a regular basis, almost daily, to make sure he stays calm and assured.

"But that is fairly easy for him because that is his nature as a human being.

"He has got the most wonderful personality and a terrific mentality to be a top class footballer."

Glen made his Hammers debut as a substitute in the 4-2 defeat at Charlton Athletic in January, just days after sitting on the bench in the 3-1 loss at Arsenal.

He then came on at Old Trafford in the 6-0 FA Cup defeat to Manchester United, before his full, and indeed home, debut against Blackburn, which coincided with the first Upton Park league victory of the season.

He has, to use the cliche, not looked back since then, playing every minute of seven consecutive games and picking up a couple of bookings with West Ham winning four, drawing one, and losing two of those matches.

But for Roeder, it is important that Glen does not rest on his laurels and he says: "What he has shown us already has set a benchmark for himself which he has now got to push up higher and higher over the coming seasons.

"Who knows where he will end up, because for me he has got everything you look for in a modern-day full back other than experience at the moment - which he will get playing games.

"He works hard on all parts of his game - his touch, his passing - and I am sure, though it is happening so fast, we will just be able to check it back if we think it is running out of control.

"But I don't think it will. I am sure he will handle it and keep his feet firmly on the ground - which he must do.

"If he does that, it will allow him to improve quicker because he will be able to retain a sense of reality about everything."