Kevin Keen On A Win

Kevin Keen says the trip to one of his old clubs, Stoke, will be a very tricky proposition at the weekend.

U17s coach Kevin Kevin Keen joined Stoke - and Lou Macari - early on in the 1994/95 season - and scored on his home debut against the side he had come from, Wolves.

He won several Player of the Season awards along the way at Stoke and, despite doing so in 1998/99, Brian Little released him only for new manager Gary Megson to re-sign him that same summer for another season.

After the club was taken over by Icelandic businessmen, Gudjon Thordarson was installed and he was allowed to move on a free to Macclesfield Town.

Looking at the match that West Ham need to win to keep their playoff hopes bubbling along, Kevin says:

"That is going to be a very difficult game, especially after their result last week with a 1-0 win at Sheffield United.

"It is a difficult place to go and play; they are very passionate about their football.

"I was lucky enough to play for West Ham, Stoke, and Wolves - three teams with very passionate support.

"It is a big club with a lovely ground; I know West Ham haven't been there since 1990 or something like that in the league but it is a lovely place to go and play and their fans will really get behind them."

Stoke are free from relegation worries but Kevin, famed for taking his shirt off to celebrate goals while at Stoke, warns:

"I am not sure if Stoke will be relaxed; they will be more up and at us, to tell the truth.

"Tony Pulis has done a wonderful job there after they have had two or three managers there over the last couple of years for different reasons.

"They are a very physical strong team with some talented individuals."

West Ham are back in the driving seat following Millwall's home reverse against Watford on Tuesday using up their game in hand, and Kevin adds:

"After last night's result with Watford beating Millwall, at least it is in our own hands a little bit - and hopefully we can kick on and get the right results to carry us into the playoffs.

"I haven't spoken to Alan today but I was looking at the result last night, especially when Millwall went in front, and you were thinking they were going to go above us in the table.

"Then the result comes out, Watford do us a favour and beat them, and you think 'hold on a minute, it is all in our own hands and if we get the right results we are in there' - and I think that will be a little bit of a boost.

"We can do it and I think if we can get there we have as good a chance as anyone."

But Kevin reckons there is a lot of hard work to do and adds:

"Sunderland have had a good run of late and I saw Wigan on Saturday - they are quite a difficult team and that game on the last day of the season could be tough.

"But if we can get in there I think we have as good a chance as anyone, especially with two legs to get us to the final.

"I think at home we have picked up, and with the crowd behind us we can have a good result - and if we get to the final we are in with a good shout."

Times are much changed from when Kevin was a West Ham player and the gap between the top two divisions was not so great.

"It is very different; I have seen articles about Norwich and West Brom knowing they are safe and definitely going up, and it is going to be very difficult for them going into the Premiership.

"Just to maintain their status next season is going to be a real hardship," he says.

"There is a gulf in the finances and the teams that have been in the Premiership for several seasons in a row have been raking in money and spending it wisely, most of them.

"It is difficult to get in there and stay there - as has been shown by Wolves and Leicester this season.

"If we fail this year I think the new manager is building a real good squad for next season and I would be confident that we would have a really good run at it even if we don't make it this time - which I hope we do."

Kevin, who remains the youngest player to play for Wycombe where he made his debut at 15 years and 209 days against Hendon, has played in the reserves this season in an emergency but grins:

"The boots have been officially hung up and the only games I will be getting will be in the Sky Masters tournament in the summer - that and in training where I obviously run rings round all my young lads."