Steve Smiling

Steve Lomas is confident he is getting nearer to full fitness after seeing a fair bit of match action recently.

"It has been a decent few days to get another game under my belt in the reserves and 45 minutes in the first team," he says.

"I am feeling a lot better, though nothing beats two or three games on the bounce because bit parts of games are not the greatest - when you come on it is sometimes hard to get into the pace of the game.

"It is easier coming on at half time, I think, as I did on Saturday."

As for the overall situation at West Ham, Steve says:

"We are sitting okay and hopefully we will kick on now.

"We have got a decent squad if you look at it and hopefully we can have a good run.

"It is good for the club that people are battling for positions and we have myself, Nigel, Carl, and Adam Nowland doing that in midfield."

Steve will be taking in how his country Northern Ireland fare as well as keeping an eye on a certain other game in the same qualifying group.

"I will be watching England against Wales and of course Northern Ireland against Azerbaijan," he says.

"It makes it more interesting when the home teams play each other and goes to show how good those Home Internationals were all those years ago.

"When players played against the other home nations it must have been good to go back to your club with bragging rights if you win."

Steve would be all for the Home Internationals returning and adds:

"I would like those games to come back but obviously the fixture list might have a deciding factor in that.

"The calendar is over-stretched anyway and if Sven gets his way there will be a break at Christmas as well so it will be difficult to see how they will come back."

Steve believes it is a crucial day to Northern Ireland's group on Saturday and adds:

"I think this weekend will set the standard - if England were to beat Wales and Austria were to get ahead of us it would be pretty difficult, but it will be clearer after this weekend."

As to his own future at international level under Lawrie Sanchez, he admits:

"I don't know what it is, to be quite honest, because the new man hasn't been in touch with me so I am a bit in the dark about whether he wants me to be a part of it.

"I haven't been in the squad since he has been involved and I have been fit at various stages so I don't know what the case is because I have had no contact with the Northern Ireland set-up whatsoever, even at the end of last season when there were a few gases and friendlies through the summer.

"All I can say is that I don't know what the situation is."

Steve will be interested to see if fellow midfielder Carl Fletcher gets the chance to face England on Saturday and adds:

"He has done very well and made the step up from Bournemouth, but if you look around I am sure there are players that can make that step - it is not as massive as moving up to the Premiership.

"He has been around the Wales squad a few times and he is a decent player - he has shown that since he has been here."