Good To See Michael Back

Tony Gale is delighted that Michael Carrick is back in action.

"I think Michael could play for one of the big three, he is that good," he says.

"I think he has understandably had a bit of a struggle adapting to the first division and adapting to all the changes at the club but he is that talented - and I know Arsene Wenger was a big fan of his when he played against Patrick Vieira - that he could play for one of those big clubs.

"But he has got to do it for us first and foremost and I think he is vital - as is Mattie when he gives us that balance on the left hand side."

Giving his reaction to Jon Harley returning to Fulham without a permanent transfer being agreed, he says:

"He did quite well for us when he was there; he is decent on the ball but maybe a little bit limited in one on one situations and lacking in a bit of strength when he came back to the first division.

"But he did a decent job for us filling in for Rufus."

Tony hopes that Bobby Zamora can put in good performances until the end of the season and adds:

"I think he has got to improve because he has not thought it as easy coming back to the first division as it would have been - and he has the expectancy of all his family and friends as well.

"I know Bobby has got skill, there is no question he can finish and he has a sweet left foot, but he has to get stronger when he has got the ball and bringing in other people into play.

"In and around goal he has got to learn to put his shoulder into people and lean into defenders, and when he does toughen up I am sure we will have a good player on our hands."

Speaking ahead of Stoke, he says:

"It is not an easy one; I can remember the game vividly at Upton Park, which was one of the worst games of the season, so I am hoping for more.

"They are not the most attractive side to watch but they can play with a bit of abandon after beating Sheffield United, whereas when they came to our place they frustrated us and got men behind the ball.

"They are physically strong and well organised, and good at set pieces - it will be a very difficult game.

"They will be up for this one because West Ham is everyone's big game because of our following.

"We have such great support and if we are in the hunt we could have as many as 7,000 going to Wigan.

"Good players perform in front of big crowds though we have struggled with that at home - the sooner we get to grips with that the better."

West Ham were last at Stoke in October 1990 for a 2-1 win in the League Cup tie, while the last league visit ended 1-1 at the very start of the 1989/90 season when Kevin Keen, who later joined Stoke scored.

Chris Kamara broke Frank McAvennie's ankle in the game.