Galey Backs Strong Start

Former West Ham and Blackburn Rovers defender Tony Gale is looking forward to the opening day clash between his two former clubs, and believes that Alan Pardew´s men have a great chance to get their campaign off to a flying start.

Tony, who won a Premiership champions medal at Ewood Park in 1995, is hoping to be at Upton Park for the curtain-raiser on August 13 and anticipates a tough game for the Hammers but insists they are capable of beginning the season with a victory.

"It was great to see my two old clubs paired together on the opening day," he says. "I covered a lot of Premiership games last season and, after Mark Hughes took over, Blackburn became a very well organised outfit.

"It´s a difficult fixture for the Hammers but it could have been worse and I am sure Blackburn will be expecting a very tough game themselves. This game probably wouldn´t have sold out had it been played later in the season but Upton Park will be packed for the opening day and the atmosphere will be terrific.

"It´s the sort of game that Alan Pardew would be happy to start with - one that we are capable of winning and one that will have the fans feeling confident and in good voice at kick-off. It will give West Ham the chance to make a statement of intent against a decent side who will be aiming for the top half of the table this season.

"I´m also pleased with the fact that we don´t face any of the top four sides in our first five games - that will give the team a great opportunity to get some early points on the board and build the confidence"

Tony also believes that the postponement of our away clash at Everton - originally scheduled for August 24 but cancelled due to the Merseysiders´ involvement in the Champions League qualifying stages - could turn out to be a positive factor.

"I think that could work in our favour, because I believe that Everton will be at their strongest early in the season," he says. "They are starting earlier than most other teams, and will probably be ahead in their fitness during August and September, so it may be better to face them at a later stage.

"It all looks very positive and I hope the team can get off to a great start, because that can have a great affect on the rest of the season. We all know that every game is tough in the Premiership but I´m sure everyone at the club is looking forward to it. This is when it really sinks in, and it´s brilliant for the fans to see the country´s top teams coming back to Upton Park again."

As for the other fixtures to have caught his eye, Galey has already marked out a few ´not-to-be-missed´dates on the calendar, and suggests an end of season finale that will certainly appeal to Hammers fans.

"I´m sure we´re all looking forward to seeing Chelsea come here on January 2," he says, "while I´ll be hoping for an enjoyable day when we visit Tottenham on November 19 - my 46th birthday. I also noticed that we play Spurs at home on the final day next May...perhaps we´ll send them down!"