James: Why I Signed

James Walker is hoping to give Steve Bywater a run for his money when the new season comes around - and he can't wait to meet Tomas Repka either!

James signed from Walsall recently and celebrated with a holiday in the south of France, and he says:

"I knew of Alan's interest earlier and had played against Alan's sides a few times, doing reasonably well against him.

"The move is massive for me, a great opportunity, and I am looking forward to the challenge after a great 10 years at Walsall that probably coincided with the best time in the club's history there, and hopefully I played my part in that.

"I felt it was time for a new challenge, though I could have signed a new three year deal, finished my career there and probably been the highest paid player of all time at the club.

"But this time it was a challenge I needed and as soon as I heard of Alan's interest I jumped at the chance.

"I am looking forward to it and it is exciting; it is probably just what I needed at this time."

As well as the chance to work with Alan Pardew, James reveals that the support he had witnessed at Upton Park also helped convince him moving to east London was the right move for him.

"I watched the play-off games and the support was phenomenal, especially in the home leg - the fans played a massive part in getting them through and it is exciting to think you could be part of that," he says.

He reckons he is coming into his best years now, making West Ham's capture of him a timely one, and adds:

"I probably thought this was my last opportunity; I am 30 and they say goalkeepers peak around this time and hopefully that is true.

"It was my last chance and I am grateful that West Ham gave me this opportunity - and hopefully I can pay them back by doing as well as I did for Walsall.

"I knew it was close to 500 and there was a lot of press coverage in the Midlands but fortunately I have been away for it and so the family has just been filling me in on what has been going on there.

"I had a great time and played a record number of games for them, breaking a few other records as well, but this is the right opportunity.

"I am just excited about the prospect of going; obviously as a club the main ambition is to get it where it belongs, in the Premiership - it is too good a club and too big a club to be in the first division.

"But I know how hard it is in a league where any team can beat anyone and we are going to have to be organised and up for it every week.

"And we have to miss the play-offs because I am sure no one fancies them again - we will try and get straight back up.

"I have played in a final myself, the second division one, against Alan's side when he was at Reading.

"It wasn't as big, of course, but I know it is difficult and it is such a disappointment for the losing side.

"It is such a great occasion for the fans and the players if you win - but such a downer if not.

"But I think it will give the club and the fans renewed determination and we have to turn it on week in, week out.

"If the fans get behind them like they did in the semi-final then there is no reason why they can't go straight back up as well.

"You look at the size of the club and the traditions - it is magnificent.

"When I went to sign I showed the family round and the young 'un was all excited."

James knows he has some illustrious predecessors such as Phil Parkes, Ludek Miklsoko, and David James to follow, and he says:

"West Ham have got some great players and there have been some great players there in the past.

"It is a massive stage to work on, and hopefully I can work hard and maybe play a part."

He competes, of course, with Steve Bywater, who signed a new contract this week, and he adds:

"I have watched a few of Stephen's games and he has done brilliantly to come of age, so it will be a big test for me.

"But that is why the 'Keepers' Union' is there and I know we will both work as hard as we can to get that spot - and whoever gets the nod at the end of the day will have the other person 100% behind him.

"The name of the game is you help each other, and I have got on with all the goalkeepers I have worked with in the past.

"Walsall brought a few in to try and dislodge me so the shoe is on the other foot - and it is a new challenge.

"First and foremost I enjoy playing football - the training and the games - and I think I got on so well with the Walsall fans because they could see I gave 100% in every game.

"Obviously I make the odd 'rick' here and there because I am only human, but it is not through the lack of trying.

"I will give my all at West Ham and hopefully I can make a few saves as well.

"It is a cracking side with some big players and we are trying for the big time; if the fans and the players can keep together there is no reason why we can't achieve the ultimate aim of the Premiership.

"One of the big reasons when I looked at the two year deal I was offered and when I talked to Alan was going for the Premiership, which was the big lure.

"I have played at every other level now and I want that challenge, which is what everyone does."

Despite spending all of his professional career in the Midlands, he is confident he will adapt to life in the capital.

"I have got a bit of family living down in Epping way, so I will stop with them a little while and get the family down as quickly as I can, settle in, and give it a right good shot," he says.

Part of the settling in process, he acknowledges, will be that first on-field 'discussion' of the pre-season with Tomas Repka - then he will know he has arrived.

"I have heard about that - I will look forward to it as well!" he grins.