Alan's Final Countdown

ALAN Pardew leads his squad into the final week of pre-season preparations before Hammers make their return to Premier League action against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

And the Hammers boss believes his squad are ready for the challenge of the top-flight, having come through their pre-season programme with no serious injury problems.

"We had our final game against Osasuna on Saturday, which proved to be a good exercise," explained Pards. "Really we wanted to use the game to make sure everyone in the squad was fit. Thankfully, every player came through the game okay and now the final parts of our programme will be put in place on Monday and Tuesday.

"Those will be the days when we complete our physical work and then the final parts of the week we will concentrate on Blackburn and preparing the team tactically for that opening game.

"We've come through the pre-season with no injuries, and I thought we gave a decent performance against Osasuna. It was good to play a Spanish side for the final game, because they keep the ball well and force you to be patient.

"But we did those things very well and now we're ready for the challenge ahead."

Much has been made of Pards' pursuit of a striker in recent weeks, and the Hammers boss is confident of bolstering his strikeforce before the close of the transfer window. But he also has plenty of faith in the frontmen that are already part of his squad.

"The three strikers we have got at the moment, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood and Teddy Sheringham, deserve to start the season for us," said Pards. "They did terrific for us last season and I've got every confidence in them doing a good job for us against Blackburn.

"I have got one or two selection problems, but that's a positive thing for the Club and the team, and it's my job to send out the best side I can.

"The players are all hungry to do well for the Club. From the moment the first ball is kicked in the Premier League there is going to be pressure on us to win.

"That is the nature of playing for a Club with as much history and tradition as West Ham United. You need to have big characters, the spirit in the squad is fantastic and we feel that we are ready to take on the Premier League.

"Most importantly we've come through all our pre-season games with a fully fit squad. This has been a really intense pre-season programme for the players, but the way they have responded to the challenge has really impressed me, and I expect them to respond in a similar way to the challenge of the Premiership."