Keeping Up Appearances

HAMMERS goalkeeping coach Ludo Miklosko was a stalwart of the team in the mid-1990s that first put Upton Park on the Premier League map.

Now the giant Czech is tasked with grooming the current crop of West Ham United stoppers for the big-time, and Ludo believes Alan Pardew's squad is looking strong between the sticks as the new campaign approaches.

"The standard and quality is much higher in the Premiership," he began, "but in Stephen Bywater, Roy Carroll and when he is fit Jimmy Walker, we have goalkeepers at the Club who are good enough to handle it.

"We looked at a few options before bringing in Roy Carroll. We feel that he's a very experienced goalkeeper who has played in the Premier League for a number of seasons. Roy knows what playing at the top level is all about and that was the reason we felt he was the best option for us.

"Alongside Roy we also have Stephen Bywater, who coped magnificently well when coming on to replace Jimmy at the Millennium Stadium. Stephen knew that he might be put in that situation because Jimmy was struggling with a groin injury during the game.

"So, he kept himself warm throughout the match and when he did have to come on he was ready and did a very good job for the team. At this moment, it is difficult to say who will start as the number one goalkeeper, but what I can say is that they are both very good players. Whoever plays in the team is really up to them and the way they perform.

"Certainly we have healthy competition for places and that is what I aim for when it comes to goalkeepers, because they need to push and help bring the best out of each other."

With Jimmy Walker set to have an operation on his injured knee this week, Ludo knows that the Club may yet be looking to add another stopper to the squad before the season kicks-off.

"It is very difficult to say how long Jimmy will be out," he explained. "It was a bad injury and needs time to heal. In the Premier League we have transfer windows to work around now and if they close and then something happens to one of the other goalkeepers it would be a risk to only have two first-team 'keepers.

"We will be looking at possibly bringing in another goalkeeper before the start of the season, because you need three experienced 'keepers in this League."

Also under Ludo's charge are young goalkeepers Matt Reed, Darren Behcet and Eren Kemal.

"We are hoping that Matt and Darren will go out on loan," he explained. "They are both talented goalkeepers and they just need to start playing games and gaining experience in the lower divisions.

"Hopefully we can find them clubs to go to and they can both kick on from there.

"Eren had a lot of injuries last season but hopefully he is over those now and he can get through the whole of this season. He will be the goalkeeper eligible for the FA Youth Cup this season, but we are looking to bring in another young player as back up for that competition. He's a very tall boy with a lot of ability."

Finally, like everyone at the Club, Ludo is looking forward to the return of Premier League football to Upton Park.

"Everyone wants to be involved at the top level," he added, "and it will be just fantastic for the Club to be playing back in the Premier League.

"Everyone at West Ham United is looking forward to the start of this season and hopefully we can make it a successful one for the Club."