Steve Bradford Bound

Not many players can say they have played a third of their senior games against one team in the same month of the year, but that will be the case for Steve Bywater when he takes the field at Bradford for his ninth game between the sticks for West Ham.

Steve was 18 in February 2000, when he made his debut as an early substitute for Shaka Hislop - in a game that finished 5-4.

And about 50,000 Hammers fans reckon they were there!

Almost exactly a year later, Steve played in a 2-1 victory at Valley Parade and he says:

"The last time I played them we beat them so hopefully we will get three points again."

And what thoughts of that amazing debut?

"It was all right because we won; I don't remember too much about it, though.

"I had just come out of the tunnel from getting changed and I was on.

"I do recall coming off the field and thinking 'thank God we have won' and Trevor saying 'yeah, we won, have a good night tonight' but I lost count of the score after I'd let four in!

"What a game that was; entertaining for the fans and a win is a win.

"I'll take a clean sheet and a win at the weekend, though; it is about pride.

"The main thing is the result, though - any win will do."

He is taking the pressure of following David James in his stride, and he says phlegmatically:

"He is England's number one but I don't see him that way, more as someone I went to work with, a colleague that did well, and hopefully I can do well in following him."

As for Rami Shaaban, with whom he has been working since he signed from Arsenal on loan, he adds:

"He is a good lad, funny, and not a bad goalkeeper - I have a lot of respect for him.

"There is loads of competition now and the main thing is we all stay fit."

Steve was delighted with the win at Wolves - where he was once on loan before getting recalled early due to an injury to David James - in the FA cup and he says:

"It was brilliant to go up there and beat a Premiership team and I couldn't believe how many fans there were.

"I spoke to a few the day after when I was getting my car serviced and they said it had been a really great day out - the lads felt the same as well, and it was a really great atmosphere on the way back."

Steve says the players took their delight at that win into the Rotherham match and adds:

"You could see it in the next game when everyone was buzzing about against Rotherham and it was like being on a roll from the week before.

"And we got a couple of new players who settled in quickly - as players do at West Ham, and the manager helps in that.

"Nigel was running about, getting a few tackles and blocks in, and encouraging everyone - he can run all day, can't he?

"When people encourage you you get a bit of a boost.

"Adam is another good player - the manager wouldn't buy him if he wasn't.

"They are quite young as well and I think everyone knows each other anyway; I know Bobby Zamora from the U21s and I have played against him for the reserves.

"Did he score against me? Maybe in the reserves with a deflected shot!

"He is a good lad and a good player and this is the right move for him - when he plays he will do well."

As for the departure of Jermain Defoe, he adds:

"He is a very good player and I suppose it is the fact that he needed to play in the Premiership if he wants to go to Portugal but it doesn't really matter to us now because we have got to focus on getting promoted with what players we have got."

Alan is assembling a squad not only brimming with quality, but one where there is competition for places across the outfield.

"We had loads in training the other day; we split up into two groups the other day in training but everyone is together.

"It is not as if there are cliques even if there is a big squad because everyone mingles and gets on."

As for his own performances, he concludes:

"I have done okay; I am just trying to give it my best but I don't look at my performance so much as wanting to win for the team.

"I am giving it 100% and hopefully Ludo is pleased for me."