Fredi's Firing

Fredi Kanoute is hoping to end the season on a high - by keeping West Ham in the Premiership and cementing a good relationship with the West Ham fans.

He made his first start on Saturday since getting sent off at Leeds United more than two months ago and has, reluctantly of course, missed most of the season due to injury.

"I think I am going to be better and better, because it is still a bit short for me and I need to play, so I hope I am going to finish the season well."

After the accusation, strenuously denied by Fredi, that he had claimed he wanted to leave, he could have been forgiven for worrying if the crowd believed his innocence.

He got his answer in the affirmative with a good reception at the weekend and of course gave the fans something of a reward with his goal.

"Personally I don't feel many problems with the crowd; it has always been very good with them," he says.

"As for the rest, I don't really care about what people say - I am happy."

His handwriting motion followed by the finger to closed lips action illustrated his contempt for the story, for which no recorded evidence has been produced.

Incredibly, however, some Sunday newspapers continued snide references to the claim despite its lack of credibility.

But he says: "I am used to it now. I have been here a few years now and it is always the same thing - they like to write made up stories.

"We can see when I play I try to do my best and I am still focused. If I didn't want to play I would just say it to the manager and that is finished.

"I am still here when I had occasions to go in the early years and I didn't so it is stupid to say I am not focused and don't want to play for this club."

But has he solved the mystery of the quotes attributed to him when he didn't speak to anyone saying he wanted to go?

"No - I don't care," he sighs.

What he is really concerned about, of course, is putting the points on the board after Saturday's draw, and he adds: "I think we should have won. We had lots of chances but couldn't score at the end so it was a little bit frustrating.

"I just made a run, Joe saw me and gave me an early ball, and I just controlled it with my right foot and kicked it with my left.

"It hasn't changed - it is going to be hard but at the moment the team has a good spirit and that is the positive point we have to keep going with.

"The team ethic has really changed in the last few games and we can see this away and at home. I think we are in a good frame of mind now.

"It is going to be very hard but we have the spirit and we have to be serious defensively first, and after everybody has to fight for this game - and I think it is going to be all right because we have a good bond."

Comparisons with the trip to West Brom - West Ham's one away win in the last 13 games - abound ahead of Saturday's visit to the Reebok Stadium, and he concludes: "It will be hard like that but we won that one; we have to do the same, by battling hard."