Trevor's Final Preview

Trevor Brooking says that his tactics at St. Andrews will be affected to some degree by what is happening in Bolton's game with Middlesbrough.

"I think the fact that satellite have got our two games on and reporters at all the matches as well as a feed coming through, means that there won't be any problems knowing what the situation is.

"Our fans will soon know about it if Bolton score - and if they do the Birmingham fans will soon tell us we are going down!

"So we will suss it out with the reactions and we will have someone keeping us up to date because if both matches are being drawn late on in the game we will certainly have to go for it.

"It will certainly affect our tactics but it is about timing and balance, and what you won't know is the trend of the game.

"It could be a draw but Bolton might be having them under siege and almost certain to score, but you don't know that.

"It can't totally influence your decision, but it is inevitable that unless Middlesbrough win at Bolton and a draw is good enough, the gut feeling is that three points will be the minimum we require."

Trevor reckons the pressure is on Sam Allardyce rather than himself, explaining:

"I suppose you get a little bit of apprehension but I don't feel quite the nerves or pressure even in the last couple of games because it is out of our hands, if you know what I mean.

"We can only do what we can do and so we need to focus on the win - and it is a case of trying to put pressure on them.

"The expectancy level is such that it is theirs to lose, as such; that is easy to say and I still think ours is the toughest fixture.

"But at Upton Park it has been often said 'this is the game we need to win to get us back on track', we don't, and everyone gets edgy.

"It is just how people get affected - it is a test of character for everyone but you have got to try and relax the players and let them approach it to enjoy the occasion, but obviously to win it if we can."

That might disappoint the bookies, and Trevor adds:

"I think we are something like 5-2 on or 3-1 on to go down because most people think Bolton will get their win, but Middlesbrough just beat Spurs 5-1 and are not easy to score against.

"Obviously there is a big wave of expectancy with Bolton being the home team and the fans can get just as edgy as the players.

"But on paper they have got the easier fixture; I think Birmingham have won the lat five at home and are only behind the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool in the last 10 games - but we have had a good run as well.

"It is a difficult one; they have got good spirit and Steve Bruce is friends with Sam as well and I am sure he has given him a gee-up - but you wouldn't expect to play against Birmingham and not face a very spirited, committed team, because that is how they got where they are.

Brum chairman David Gold, not to mention brother Ralph, and David Sullivan, also at Birmingham, is of course a Hammers' fan - brought up by a mother who still lives near the ground - and Trevor says:

"There is an affinity but in these situations it will always be in the back of your mind; but I saw him quoted this week saying it is not about the 38th game, it is about the previous 37.

"We have got to be professional and do the job as we see it, and with people like Robbie Savage in the team they are not going to sit back and let us stroll around.

"I don't know if I met him in the boardroom when they did us 2-1 in early October; I think he was there, but you flit in and out.

"If we meet after the game let's hope it is not with him giving us commiserations.

"There are a lot of ironies, including the fact that Glenn was taken ill after the Middlesbrough game and it is Middlesbrough going to play Bolton.

"And there is even the fact that Bolton and ourselves would have snatched 41 points out of your hands six weeks ago thinking that was the safety figure.

"It has just not turned out that way, so here we are with a shoot-out, so to speak.

"All the predictions at Christmas of three from the four that were isolated, proves to be the case.

Trevor admits looking back at the 'if onlys' are tempting and adds:

"There are a lot of frustrations and we have gone over the games where one point would hae made the difference of it being in our hands - and I am sure Bolton could do the same, but you can't linger on those issues.

"If Arsenal had held onto their lead at 2-0 up with half an hour to go Bolton wouldn't have got that point, and you could go to the Villa game when we pummelled them for 20 minutes at 2-2, which would have dragged Villa into it if we had got the 3-2.

"There are lots of incidences where we conceded late goals such as at Blackburn and Middlesbrough where we couldn't get the wins we should have done.

"You do drift back to those incidences but Sunday is upon us and we can reflect on them afterwards."

Of rivals Bolton, he says:

"Sam has done well with Okocha coming good and Djorkaeff doing that last season and sustaining it; they took a chance on Laville but he is suspended and will have to make a change at the back which is not ideal.

"We were very lucky we had Christian to come in with Ian suspended but they have to bring a newcomer in.

"They have not always found it easy to score goals and it is just a case of if Middlesbrough can defend okay.

"They have got three good draws in their last three games against Arsenal at home and Blackburn and Southampton away, but we have got three good wins against sides that we have come unstuck with, so a repetition of a draw and a win would keep us up, so you have just got to live in that hope really."

And of Birmingham, he concludes:

"They have done well in their first season back and they will want to give their fans a good send-off.

"The new signings in the transfer window were good ones, and Dugarry has added that bit of flair, while the English lads, Clapham, Upson, and Clemence, have all been regulars since going there.

"I think Manchester United were the last side to win there and it will be a tough game, but we have got some good momentum going and we just have to take that confidence in to this one.

"We'd never forgive ourselves if Middlesbrough did get something and we came off the pitch not having won."

As to the speculation about who might leave and who stay if the worst was to happen, he concludes:

"It will be a lot easier to face the summer without those implications..."