Pards Looking To Banish Birmingham Memories

HAMMERS boss Alan Pardew believes the painful memory of West Ham United's relegation at St Andrews in May 2003, will be driving Hammers on against Birmingham City this evening.

"Our fans will remember the relegation there," he said, "and it means a lot to the team to go there and put on a good performance.

"We are still carrying two or three players who were there when that relegation happened, so it will be a big night.

"For someone like Christian Dailly for instance who was there that day and who is an intelligent man it will be an emotional occasion going back there in terms of making sure we get a result.

"This is the first of three away games, which will all be very difficult but at the same time all three are winnable.

"At this stage every game is crucial because as a team we are learning all the time. We learned a lot from the game against Manchester United last week.

"It was a great game with great entertainment and as we have done throughout this season we competed well again. Apart from the Liverpool game we have not lost by more than the odd goal this season and that shows how well we have competed.

"Against United I actually thought we could have done a bit better, because they put us under a lot of pressure and we turned the ball over more than we have done in matches this season.

"But in the end we were undone by a world-class player in Wayne Rooney. For us, to see him at that level it poses an important question for our players - can some of them reach that level in their respective position?

"Of course, a centre-half is different to a striker, and in that position I thought Anton was again outstanding for us. Paul Konchesky again did very well and we've got players that hopefully can grasp the mettle and really push on."

One of those players could be teenage midfielder Mark Noble, who impressed on only his second Premiership appearance against United.

"Mark is at an age where he can look at Rooney and where he is and say that I am not far behind," said Pards. "Players come at different times and as a central midfielder Mark's will probably come later than Rooney's.

"Positionally Mark's inexperience has shown at times, especially against United. We want to protect him and bring him on in the right way, while also trying to give Mark as much experience as possible.

"He's maybe 20 games short of experience to be playing for us at this level. Technically we know he is good enough, but we are trying to bed him in at the very top end.

"With his first two games coming against Spurs and Man United he has acquitted himself very well. He's so enthusiastic he'd have four games a day if he could!

"And as a player whose family live just around the corner from the Boleyn Ground Mark is very important to the future of West Ham United."

Pards does believe though that his side will need to improve on their performance against United tonight.

"Although we won plaudits for our performance that day I thought that we weren't at our best," explained Alan. "We were wasteful in possession and we can perform much better than that.

"Tonight is a game were Birmingham will be looking to draw us in. They had a difficult start to the season, but recently they have picked up two very important results.

"We will be looking to push on from where we are, so there is a lot riding on the game for both teams. Birmingham will be looking on this period as a great opportunity to turn their fortunes around.

"We're in good shape with the way we have performed going into what is a crucial period before the transfer window opens."