Alan's Big Kick-off

ALAN Pardew is setting his sights high on the eve of West Ham United's return to the Premier League against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

The Hammers boss knows that survival in the top-flight is top of the Club's agenda this season, but with a strong squad and a complete backroom staff in place, Pards is confident he can guide West Ham United to a strong first season in the Premiership.

"We know that if we survive in the Premier League at the end of the season it will be classed as a success," explained Pards. "The achievement of promotion last season was huge and it's essential that we stabilise West Ham United as a Premier League club.

"But aiming for fourth from bottom doesn't leave you with much room for error, and we are not going to be setting our sights so short this season.

"Our aim is to go out and attack the season, test ourselves in the top-flight and make sure that we achieve as high a position as we are capable of doing.

"I'm very happy with the squad and the new players that we've brought in have added to what was already a strong group. There is a tremendous spirit around the team and we have got to think that we can finish a lot higher than one place outside the relegation zone.

"The teams that have come up from the Championship are looking strong. Sunderland, Wigan and ourselves have all strengthened their squads and I don't think the three promoted teams are as certain to struggle as many people are saying.

"We've got to be positive that we won't be pulled into a relegation battle at the end of the season, and I'm sure the other promoted teams will be thinking the same way. I do believe that the existing Premiership teams will be drawn into it a bit more this season and it will be more of an open League."

With Upton Park sold out for the visit of Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, Pards is expecting a bubbling Boleyn Ground atmosphere to greet his team for Hammers Premier League return.

"Our home form is going to be important this season," admitted Alan, "and our fans will of course play a key role in that. There is nothing better than playing in front of our home crowd when the Stadium is full and they are all behind us, and we're looking forward to a fantastic atmosphere on Saturday.

"The fans deserve Premier League football and I'm delighted that this team have been able to bring it back to them.

"Now it's our job to make sure they keep it, and I can assure all our supporters that this squad will be giving everything to make sure we do the Club proud in the Premiership this season.

"This is a huge challenge for everyone at the Club, but the players have been looking forward to this moment ever since we won promotion. They've been working tremendously hard during pre-season to make sure that they were ready for the Blackburn game.

"Everyone is excited - myself, the players, staff and fans because this is a moment that the Club have waited a long time to see.

"The squad is ready and the players are hungry for success. We've got a great mix in the squad, from the young players that want to prove they can do it in the top-flight, to the more experienced guys who have been here before and will be around to make sure the others do things in the right way.

"We've got some players who have tasted the Premier League before but will feel that they could do a lot better this time around. The likes of Matty Etherington, Bobby Zamora and Hayden Mullins will all be determined to show what they can do this season.

"Then we've also got players who will be playing at this level for the first time, but they'll be no less determined to prove that they can compete against some of the best players in the world.

"There is a lot of optimism around the team. The character of the squad is something that I've always felt is important, and we've certainly got strong characters at West Ham United.

"It's going to be very tight this season, but I hope and sincerely think that we'll achieve a good finish in the Premier League this season."