"We have got a lot of talent in that squad and if you are looking at another season in that division maybe wage bills would have to be trimmed again - and all of a sudden you are stagnating and getting to the stage of being a first division side.
"If we don't do it this season we have to do it next but for me this season is the one."
Assessing the division as a whole he says:
"I look at Norwich being clear and when I saw them at Upton Park I thought they were all right but no great shakes.
"We lost a 3-0 lead against West Brom, again sitting back, and then we went to the Hawthorns and gave away a one goal lead.
"But those two sides are no better than West Ham and we should be up there - we have thrown so many points away it must be driving Alan mad.
"What is missing is not just necessarily the players - although I am sure Alan would like to add to them, as anyone would - I think it is the attitude of the players which I am sure he will get going soon.
"You have to get back to back wins going which he just has and then you start to have the kind of run in this league which shoots you up the table; imagine winning five or six on the trot and all of a sudden you are up there.
"Once you are up there you start to be convinced that every game is really important and you get that automatic promotion mentality.
"At the moment they are in a cruising mentality, up to the Forest game anyway - I look at them and think 'you are cruising boys - you are not really giving what you can give' because they are good players, there is no doubt about it."
Tony is still in disbelief that West Ham went down and he says:
"It is okay when you retire because everyone remembers the good times but I am not one of those that forgets; there is no doubt we had some miserable years when I played.
"But when we had those miserable years down there and got relegated we weren't as talented a side as the boys that went down last season - and that was the big thing about it.
"That was a poor show; it didn't really get going until right at the death and then when Trevor took over after Glenn became ill.
"It has been a miserable year and I am sure everybody would just like to get that one out of the way.
"I think that most Premiership clubs are frightened out of their lives that a team like West Ham with the squad and the individuals they had last season went down.
"They all know that West Ham shouldn't have gone down and the bottom seven or eight - maybe 10 - will have managers in the dressing room saying 'look at what happened to West Ham, they had better players than us and went down' - West Ham has been a lesson to all.
"Without doubt we had a better squad than Spurs, for instance, so they are looking like West Ham the way it is going.
"As for us, we are going to need a bit of luck and the run of the ball at certain stages but I can't see a reason why we can't get automatic promotion still.
"I think Norwich will have a bit of a hiccup and come tumbling; they bought a couple of strikers to inject something but they are not going to go all year unbeaten and they are going undoubtedly going to lose five or six games.
"The key is for us to win those five or six and I have got every faith in the players, in Alan, and his staff because they have got to get the best out of them.
"People are saying 'can Alan do it at a bigger club?' and he has got every incentive to do it; no one is working any harder than Alan to get us out of the division.
"I really hope we can do it because the club doesn't deserve to be in the first."
Indeed, Tony thinks that Alan is the man for the job and adds:
"I have known Alan for years, since he was a non-league footballer playing for a friend of mine at Corinthian Casuals.
"He is a good lad and I am sure he is going to go places; he has got his focus but it had to happen that he had to take his time although he had that gardening leave to look at West Ham.
"He wouldn't have known the individuals, what sort of bloke Jermain Defoe was for instance, or David Connolly or Tomas Repka or Ian Pearce - they are different individuals.
"You don't go into a club and know what they are about immediately; he has only bought a few of his own players in that he knows what he wants them to do, so he is still working with other people's players.
"I think the learning curve is over now and that he will start getting some results now.
"I don't think he will be afraid of leaving the star players out if they are not doing it."
Tomas Repka and Jermain Defoe are both suspended for the Preston game but Chris Cohen has recovered from a gash in the head sustained in a reserve friendly this week to figure in a 17 man squad which includes Brian Deane, back from an ankle injury.
SQUAD: James, Bywater, Dailly, Hutchison, Carrick, Connolly, Harewood, Etherington, Quinn, Ferdinand, Horlock, Mullins, Pearce, Deane, Stockdale, Mellor, Cohen.