Alan's Easter Training

SINCE drawing 2-2 with Leicester City at Upton Park almost two weeks ago, Hammers have had time to reflect on eight games, beginning with Wigan Athletic on Saturday, which will decide the fate of their season.

For manager Alan Pardew it's been an opportune moment to work with his squad without the added pressure of a matchday, but with two tough games in the space of four days against Wigan and Burnley coming up, the Hammers boss knows it's now time to get back to business.

"We got in plenty of good work over Easter," explained Pards. "We had two international players, Carl Fletcher and Gavin Williams, away with Wales and without a game it was a bit of a fragmented period.

"But the squad got some good rest in, as well as some encouraging fitness work, and are fresh going into two very important games.

"We've used the time to get Matty Etherington back to fitness. He was injured against Crewe, but the rest has enabled him to come back. It was also good for Teddy Sheringham to get some rest in. He's going to be really important for us over the last eight games and the time off over Easter will have done him the world of good."

At present, West Ham sit four points off the Play-off zone with a game in hand over sixth place Reading. But Pards is reluctant to set his team a points target for the end of the season, insisting instead that the Hammers must focus on one win at a time.

"We need wins," he admitted, "but at the moment it's difficult to say how many points it will take to make the Play-offs, because nobody is putting together a consistent stretch of performances.

"In any case, I don't think it'll do us any good to start setting points totals. We've got some really tough games coming up and we need to win them.

"Right now we're just focusing on going to Wigan and coming away with three points."

In preparation for two matches in the North West on Saturday and next Tuesday, Pards has decided to keep the squad together around Manchester over the weekend to eliminate travel fatigue.

"We're going to stay together in the North West this weekend," he explained. "It'll be like a mini-training camp and after giving the players some time off over the Easter period we'll look to keep the squad together going into these two games.

"Our league position certainly hasn't dented belief in the squad. We are a good enough squad to win promotion and on our day a capable team.

"Unfortunately, we haven't had enough days so far this season and we need more of them over the next couple of months.

"The key is to make the Play-offs, because once we do I think we'll be an entirely different proposition. The pressure is on over the last eight games and we need a really good start at Wigan to hopefully get us moving in the right direction again."