Galey's Blackburn Ties

FORMER Hammers star Tony Gale has an extra special interest in this weekend's Premiership clash with Blackburn Rovers.

Not only will the game mark Hammers return to the top-flight, but it sees two clubs close to Galey's heart doing battle in the Premier League for the first time in over two years.

The stylish central defender was a crowd favourite during 10 memorable years at Upton Park, but he was a Premiership title winner during his only season at Ewood Park in 1994/95.

Nevertheless, the Sky TV pundit will be hoping Hammers get off to a good start this weekend.

"A strong start to the season is really important," explained Galey, "especially for the newly promoted teams, because it always gives you a bit of confidence getting some points on the board early on.

"It also means that you don't have to worry about picking up those points later on in the season when every club is under pressure.

"West Ham United's aim has got to be to finish well in the League and make sure that they are not in a relegation dogfight come the end of the season.

"But survival, no matter where the Club finishes, would be a great achievement.

"Alan Pardew's squad will be taking on some of the best teams and players in the world this season. That quality will be most keenly felt in the striking positions, where the players will be world-class. That means there can be no silly mistakes or lapses in concentration at the back.

"Mistakes really do get punished in the Premier League and you can't afford to make too many at this level."

Galey knows that the competitive Blackburn Rovers outfit will pose a stiff test for Alan Pardew's men at Upton Park on Saturday.

"They are a really competitive team," he said, "and were one of the most organised sides in the League last season.

"Blackburn were criticised a lot for their tactics, but they are not a dirty team. They just squeeze everything out of the resources they have available and because of their competitiveness no one gives them any credit for the very good football they actually play at times.

"Mark Hughes and his team have done a fantastic job at Ewood Park, but sometimes were not given the credit they deserved last season.

"They've strengthened the squad with some excellent signings over the summer and they'll be a really tough test for the Hammers.

"Of course, I won the Premier League title at Blackburn, so it's a club that will always hold a special place in my heart and I'm really looking forward to the game on Saturday."

• Tony Gale will be commentating on Saturday's game for Sky's Digital Football First programme. Tune in to get updates on the Upton Park action!