Pg: It Still Hurts

First team coach Paul Goddard admits that relegation has proved a "very painful" experience for him.

Looking back on how things ended, he confesses: "It is very painful indeed and one of the lowest points in my career, as a player or a coach, certainly.

"It was an extremely disappointing outcome and, if you look back, the months before Christmas were vital, and that is where we really struggled.

"If you look at our last 12 or 13 games when we showed Champions' League form, the Bolton defeat was the one blip.

"But unfortunately it was the vital one. It was a very nothing game with one bit of outstanding skill from Okocha but otherwise very few chances.

"Little Jermain missed probably the best one in the last five minutes and if that had gone in it could have been different but it didn't and unfortunately we have to live with the consequences.

"I think everyone went in to the last day believing we could stay up but being a realist you just felt you would rather have swapped with Bolton to play at home on the last day of the season to stay up.

"I am very very confident that if things had been different at Bolton we would have beaten Birmingham on that day.

"There was something in the air, the Gods were against us, their keeper was making saves and we were hitting the post, and you just felt it wasn't to be.

"The scoreline could have been incredibly embarrassing, but it wasn't and you can't keep harping on."

Giving an assessment of the campaign overall, he adds: "Our form in the last part of the season was excellent but unfortunately we let ourselves down earlier in the season.

"If I was to look back now, in my opinion I think we certainly had a number of players out of form early in the season.

"But the key point for me was when we lost Fredi and Paolo for such a long time which left us with Jermain as our only striker.

"That was a vital period of time. We were struggling for form anyway and then to lose two of our three strikers was very damaging, I think.

"Our points per game in that period was very poor, and there were games when we lost games in the last minute or they were last minute draws instead of wins - they were all key factors.

"We could see that there was a hole in our squad at the start of the season but we were just unable to plug it, unfortunately.

"Hindsight is easy but it was a major factor that we didn't have another striker to come in and get some goals to take the pressure off Jermain.

"He battled away famously for the club this year. He is a young man and because of his stature he can't lead the line as such.

"He did fantastically well but there were times when you needed to rest a young 20-year-old - and we couldn't."

As for Jermain's transfer request the day after the season ended, he adds: "I think that has already been dealt with. Emotions and feelings at that time were very fraught and everyone spoke to Jermain the day after and in hindsight I think he realised it was an impulse thing.

"He is very ambitious, don't get me wrong, and he wants to play at the highest level but in retrospect he knows he made a mistake - which young people do, I am afraid.

"I hope he stays. He is vital as a goalscorer, he is young, he can only get better - and he is a West Ham player."