Alan: It's A Privilege

Alan Pardew is delighted to take over the stewardship of West Ham from Trevor Brooking - but he is keen to pay tribute to him for handing over the privilege of being the club's tenth manager while the side is riding high.

Alan, whose legally imposed 'gardening leave' is now over - meaning, at long last, a switch from wellies to football boots - says with gratitude:

"Trevor has done a fantastic job in keeping us right in there.

"And now we have got the 'tunnel' part of the season, as I call it, going into the winter, when the finishing line is still not in sight - but this is probably as crucial a time as any."

The fact is, Alan has been eating, sleeping, and quite possibly dreaming West Ham for the last month while being unable to do anything about the side's fortunes on the field.

Not, obviously, an ideal scenario for a manager who takes an interest in every aspect of how things are done.

But he is ready for the task ahead and smiles:

"I don't suffer too much from sleepless nights, but obviously the pressure kicks in; that can affect you in different ways - but it is a great challenge.

"Of course I have been frustrated and I have taken a step away, looking from the outside; but I have been able to reflect on things, which in itself is good."

Alan feels - albeit that it has been a somewhat reluctant sabbatical - that he has had time out of the spotlight to formulate ideas about his plans for the club.

"There are good things and 'bad' things to think about but I have been particularly impressed with the players," he says, "because when you get relegated there is always a period when you start thinking about the Premiership, dreaming about it, and not actually doing the business.

"But they haven't let that affect them and have carried on regardless; they have got some fantastic results, and I hope that continues, because teams that have gone down in the past have suffered."

Alan believes that, along with the quality at the club, there has to be more quantity - 'quality quantity', of course - to aid the promotion push.

"We have been lucky enough to keep some really good players," he adds, "and that obviously gives us an advantage.

"But we are short on numbers and Trevor has had to put teams together at the last minute, as it were.

"I want to get us out of that circle, bring some players in, and make sure we have enough bodies; that will be my immediate issue, I think.

"Sometimes it is horses for courses in this division and it essential for West Ham that we bounce straight back - and I am fully aware of that."

As well as looking to get the most out of the players currently at the club, Alan is looking to strengthen - whether permanently or via the loan system - the squad.

"There is a little pot and I have to use that to the best of my ability to make sure we make it," he says.

"With two or three key injuries you are in trouble with the squad we have got and we have to protect ourselves all the way to the finishing line, which is some seven months away."

As West Ham fans have found this season, especially when having to book time off to go to away games, the number of fixtures appears to be relentless compared to the halcyon days of the top flight.

Alan recognises this, and adds:

"There isn't a lot of time between games and you have to concentrate - and be able to delegate - because spending time on the phone is spending time away from the team."

It means, for the time being at least, that there is a delicate balance in Alan's time between working with the players he has got - and looking for some more to join them.

"The situation in this division is that there are so many games you can't spend time on the phone and away from the players, because if you do that the team is going to suffer," he explains.

"Luckily I am inheriting a really good staff, and it is very important everyone pulls together; I am looking forward to working with everybody."

Alan is looking for, as the cliche goes, evolution not revolution, and that will come, no doubt, as a relief to West Ham fans protective of the club's traditions - especially when it comes to bringing on homegrown players.

"There are certain things that happen at West Ham that have been happening for years to a very, very, high standard," says Alan.

"One of those is the development of young players - and I do not want to disrupt that.

"It is a delicate process of a young manager going in, especially from the outside, and having a close look at that with kid gloves on - and making sure if there is any sort of change, it is an improvement.

"But that side of things has been going great, and it is more essential than ever that you produce your own players."

As for the first team, Alan adds:

"Trevor has done a fantastic job and I am not going to change it drastically, but I have to bring my own thoughts and procedures to the training ground - and that will start as soon as I go to Chadwell Heath.

"West Ham is a massive club, getting 31,000 plus for a midweek game the other night and doing that sort of figure with back to back games.

"We are a working class club; the passion from the fans gets across to the pitch and we have to use that, not just at home, but away from home where they come in numbers and support with enthusiasm.

"We have to use it in a positive way and that has to continue, but we have to perform on the pitch to keep bringing them back."

As with any change, there is an element of worry, but Alan is keen to reassure supporters, perhaps those keen to stress that he has not yet managed in the top flight, that he is up for the challenge.

"You have got big characters at all clubs and I am looking forward to working with the likes of David James, Jermain Defoe, Christian Dailly...all of them, in fact," he says.

"There is no doubt that there are some great players at West Ham, some great characters, and you have to gel that together and get a team spirit.

"That looks really good at the minute and it is a really important factor for any side to get promoted."

Alan is a keen student of sports psychology, indeed 'professor' now in terms of the influence he has had at Reading - a side that, without star players, have produced the achievements that so impressed the board at Upton Park - and he intends to offer that wisdom to the current crop of players.

"Education of players is important and if they understand what you are trying to do that is the main thing; all footballers, no matter what their age, want to improve and better themselves," he says.

"What I look to do is open the door for them to do that, and I will certainly be making things available to them.

"But not all players take it on; there were certain players at Reading that didn't take 90% of the stuff I put to them.

"But for the ones that do, even if you take a small percentage of improvement, it renders the effort worthwhile - it is important that not only is the team successful, but that the team develops as well."

Some of the 'old school' cynics deny the influence of such factors, but Alan insists:

"You ignore that at your peril, because if you do others are going to get an advantage on you; it is not for every player, because they don't all take to it, but if you can improve someone to a slight degree it obviously doesn't do any harm, and it is an educational process.

"The training and the fitness of players, instead of being down to a manager's whim is in the hands of professionals, but the coaching and the football matters will never change - that will come from the experience of a player who has become a manager, and is using the experience he has had."

Matters mundane, perhaps, to the fan who just wants to see new faces at Boleyn Towers, and indeed, while Alan looks to get the best out of the present squad, as well as preparing his side to face Nottingham Forest in the week, he has to look at transfers in - but, at a tricky time, when?

"You can never say never," he says, "because it is a very difficult market at the moment and all of the Premiership squads are much smaller than they used to be.

"Not so many players are 'accessible' and there is not so much money changing hands between clubs.

"When you really want someone, a very inflated price is being asked, and the top players are at a premium at the moment, whatever level you are at.

"Obviously we need some faces, though, and we need them quickly - and I am going to work on that as soon as I get in."

Alan agrees with Trevor that the home form, unbeaten as it is, needs to improve, and he explains:

"You have got to look at it as anything other than a win at Upton Park is not going to be regarded as a success in this division.

"There will be games when certain factors go against you; you could have a player sent off, or you have a day when it is not really happening, and sometimes you have to accept a draw in those situations; we have to try and win every game and no one can accuse me of not doing that - quite the contrary.

"I like to try and use all my subs most weeks, and think it is important to get fresh bodies on the pitch on most occasions to make sure you secure a win or at least get something out of the game."

Transfers in is one thing, but transfers out - a subject that will be reawakened by the press ahead of January - is another.

"Any team that isn't in the Champions' League is vulnerable, and we are no exception - but we certainly don't want to lose anybody," says Alan.

"Some of our young players have been performing terrifically this year, the seniors as well, and it essential that we don't lose anyone - and we will try our damndest not to."

As for the notion of 'We're West Ham - get us out of here' by which Alan will be judged in May, he says:

"The key element of getting out of the division is staying focused for all 46 games, because when you come to the end of the season and you are talking about a point or goal difference, you realise that every game is absolutely essential.

"It is very easy to lose focus in a period in a season; it can be so costly but at the moment we haven't done that.

"As I said, the reaction to relegation has been really strong and now it is a case of trying to keep them motivated for the rest of the campaign - and if they do that, this team can get promoted.

"But we will have a patch where it is not going so well and it will be important we snap out of that quickly."

Alan is quite conscious of the fact that he is only the tenth manager in West Ham's history, and he adds:

"Stability in a manager's career is rare and I am looking forward to the challenge at a club that has a great history with its managers.

"I hope to be part of a success story but the bottom line is winning things - which is what I want to do, and one of the reasons I came to West Ham."

As for the day's activities against Burnley, he says:

"I can't stand in front of the players at half time and full time and correct them, asking them to be motivated for me when I haven't coached them.

"I don't know their characters and personalities because I haven't seen them work, so it would be unfair on them and unfair on me - and with Trevor doing such a good job I think that my time can wait until Monday."