Tony Wants Winning Habit

AS the Hammers inconsistent form continues former West Ham United star Tony Gale insists that Alan Pardew's team must cut out their 'win one, lose one' displays to achieve promotion.

If they can, Tony believes the Hammers still have a good chance of pushing through the play-off pack and into automatic promotion contention.

"We are still in with a good shout," he said, "despite not playing to anywhere near our best and missing a lot of senior players. That should be really encouraging for Alan Pardew.

"But he'll be well aware that the team need to get into the winning habit quickly if they want to put pressure back on the front-runners.

"They need to develop a more ruthless mentality to winning and get a bit of a mean streak in their play. We need to win games no matter what at this stage of the season, and it's imperative that we go on an unbeaten run."

Tony concedes that the absence of key senior players at the moment has put pressure on the younger members of the squad to perform. And, despite praising the efforts of West Ham's young guns, he feels the senior players will be the key ingredient to Hammers promotion chances.

"I'm sure Alan Pardew will be desperate to get his senior players back into action," he added. "The young players have come into the side and done really well this season. It's difficult coming into a team where there is so much expectation on you to perform and I think the youngsters have coped very well with that.

"But the senior players, like Teddy Sheringham, Christian Dailly and Steve Lomas are really important to the team. Their experience is vital and during the run-in it will be important to have players who know who to win games.

"The Championship is a very tough League and you can't afford to make errors. Teams have to grind out results and you need experienced players for that.

"Against Wolves on Saturday a very determined performance from a young West Ham team was overshadowed by bad mistakes and conceding soft goals. That is something we have to start cutting out of our game."

Tony sees the trio of upcoming home games, against Derby County, Sheffield United in the FA Cup and Cardiff, as the perfect opportunity for West Ham to string an unbeaten run together.

"The next three games are really important for the Hammers," insisted Tony. "They are games we should be looking to win at home and if we can string some good performances together it will give us a great lift.

"Derby lost 2-0 at home to Sunderland on Sunday, ending what was a very good run that had seen them move up into play-off contention.

"They're a strong, determined side and they won't be giving anything away at Upton Park.

"Unfortunately, our own defeat at Wolves has allowed the teams around us to gain ground and we need to re-establish our position in the play-off places with a couple of good performances.

"I'm sure the FA Cup Fourth Round against Sheffield United will be an interesting tie, and one where Alan Pardew and his players will really want to do well after the League defeat to Neil Warnock's men at Upton Park.

"It's another game the Hammers should really be winning, and I think going through to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup will be a massive confidence boost for the team.

"Right now, the most important thing is to develop a winning mentality, whatever the game or opposition, and the next couple of weeks are the perfect opportunity to make that happen."