Neil: I'm Staying

Neil Mellor says that he is more than happy to stay at Upton Park for the duration of the season - despite Gerard Houllier saying he was welcome to return early to Liverpool from his loan spell.

"I have signed for the year and the most important thing was to come here and get a bit of first team experience," he insists.

"It is a learning experience in life as well because I have come down here not knowing anyone or having lived in the south.

"It has really opened my eyes and hopefully it has improved me as a person as well as a player - and hopefully I can go back to Liverpool next season a better all round individual."

He has moved up the pecking order now he is fit again and Jermain Defoe has four more games of his five match suspension to go, and he adds:

"Sadly Jermain has got his five match ban, which is debatable, but the more competition the better when he comes back.

"As long as all the strikers are pushing each other West Ham are going to be the ones that benefit.

"Obviously everyone wants him to stay because he is a quality player and he has proved that this season with the goals he has scored already, so hopefully he can stay and help us get the goals which we all want for promotion."

Can he get into the England squad by the summer?

"Definitely; he has made a big enough impact already and I see no reason why Sven would not be looking at him, really," says Neil.

"You saw at Forest what quick feet he has when he put it in the top corner, against a good defender in Dawson."

Neil hopes to continue the winning habit, and adds:

"You want to be winning games, and that is two now, so hopefully we can be pushing on with the next home game and make it three in a row.

"We beat Preston away from home, in what was a tricky game away, but I am sure the fans would be pleased with a similar result which would start sending a message to our promotion rivals - and hopefully we can get amongst them again, up to Norwich and West Brom."

In fact the win over Preston was West Ham's introduction to the first division, and Neil recalls:

"It seems a long time ago and certainly it was a lot warmer than it is now!"

He is confident West Ham can start moving up the table and adds:

"We have got a good enough squad but it is about putting in the hard work and winning the battles early in the game before you go and play your own football to win the game.

"We are a way off but it is only halfway through the season and there is no reason we can't go on and start challenging.

"We are optimistic about getting in the top two which is what we have said all along is our aim this season - promotion is key."

Looking back on his contribution to the Wigan game, when he came on for Marlon Harewood, he says:

"It was nice to come off the bench and make an impact which I did with an assist that hopefully changed the game, which is what the gaffer told me to do.

"It was 0-0 at the time I came on but we got the win; there have been times this season where I have come on and been awful but on Saturday I was all right and that is the way it is.

"When I come on I want to make an impression and fortunately for me I did on Saturday - so I was quite pleased.

"The side winning was the most important thing, and getting through to playing Wolves or Kidderminster.

"But next to that I hope to score goals - and a little cup run would be nice."

Neil was delighted that David Connolly - who was outspoken about Neil starting the first game of the season at Preston ahead of him - got one of the goals at Wigan and he insists there are no hard feelings about those comments.

"He has put it in the net so what can you say? I am pleased for him because it has been a while since has scored.

"But he has been playing a big part in the team just off the front two and everyone was made up for him in the changing rooms afterwards.

"He has got his goal, which he deserved, and all the players congratulated him afterwards."

Neil is just pleased to be competing for a place again and he adds:

"I am hopeful I can get going again after being injured for a long time - certainly longer than I thought - and I want to stake a claim for the first team again."