Steve So Happy

Steve Bywater turned down lucrative moves from abroad to sign a new three year contract at Upton Park.

Steve, who would have been a free agent this summer, reveals he saw no reason to leave West Ham and explains:

"I am happy with the club and I know we have a chance of going up; the manager has been good and honest to me, and I enjoy working with him.

"Ludo has been a massive help to my game as well so it was natural to sign again.

"I probably could have gone abroad to one of the main clubs in Portugal or France but I am settled in London and my girlfriend is working there.

"I am happy there and I was playing - and to be honest it is about the people you work with so I was happy to sign and going elsewhere wasn't really an option.

Steve will have a new colleague to work with this season in the form of the one summer signing so far, James Walker, who played nearly 500 games for Walsall in a 10 year span.

"I don't know much about him," admits Steve.

"I know he is a good goalkeeper and it will be good to work with him.

"You need a good goalkeeper to keep you going yourself so it should be all right.

"I don't know what his personality is like but it will be good to find out."

James effectively replaces Pavel Srnicek, who left after his short term deal concluded, and Steve adds:

"Pavel was there and he is a good goalkeeper so I was getting challenged then, but it is a fresh start and if the manager thinks he is good he must be - otherwise he wouldn't spend the money."

Following David James' departure midway through the season, Steve enjoyed a run of games that was only interrupted by a two match suspension towards the end, and he says:

"It was just what I needed because I had been going into training and the manager didn't know what I was capable of doing - or if I could play in the first division.

"I was playing in the reserves but it was good to get the opportunity to step up.

"It was a fresh start and I was able to show the new manager that I was not a bad goalkeeper and I could probably do a good job for him.

"I just want to play every week and try and do my best."

Steve is confident of promotion next season and adds:

"I definitely think we can do it; we are having a whole season at it with the manager and we know what he expects.

"We know we can do it if we have a full season together and we are all up for it.

"Our form was quite good since the manager came in so if we can do that for a year we will be all right."

He is not worried by new entrants to the division, such as Leeds, about whom he quips:

"We play them twice in a year and we will nick six points off them!

"They will be hungry because they have come down but we will be even hungrier because we didn't get there last year - it is an important year for us.

"Teams like that who come down are going to lose some players and the ones that are still there might not want to be there anyway.

"They might have the wrong attitude, thinking they are bigger than division one and that is where you get caught out, by being over-confident."

Steve says everything will be done to avoid the potential agony of the play-offs this time and he explains:

"We have targets that we set and we want to progress - the only way to do that is to get up.

"We know how disappointing it was last year and you don't want to be in that same position of working hard for an extra four weeks - you want to get it sewn up by winning the title.

"It is exciting and brilliant if you go up through the play-offs, but if you don't it is hard."

Does he still feel the disappointment?

"Not now; I am just looking forward to playing, doing pre-season and then banging on with the season proper."

In the meantime, in between training on his own, he has been taking a look at Euro 2004 - and trying his hand at management himself!

"I'm not really into watching football," he admits, "but I like the big tournaments and I have a fantasy League team which competes with my mates.

"I am winning - and I would admit it if I wasn't.

"At the moment my star players are Zidane and van Nistelrooy - I am flying."

As for the criticism former colleague David James has received in recent days, he adds:

"I don't know why; he is doing his best.

"There are some good goalkeepers out there that are performing well, the likes of Sorensen, Buffon, van der Sar...who has made a couple of unbelievable saves.

"It is the elite of the elite and Jamo hasn't had much to do, to be honest.

"But if England get through it might affect my bonus points for the players I have so we will have to see!"