With 13 goals in 26 Premiership starts so far this season, Marlon Harewood is currently the second most prolific English striker in the division, and certainly one of the success stories during our first year back in the top flight. We spoke exclusively to the 26-year-old about his thoughts on the campaign so far...
Q: You've almost reached your
target of 15 goals this season, will you be extending it
A: Not really, the way I'm looking at it now is that anything else I get now is a bonus. I'm not saying I haven't got faith in myself to score more, but it was hard enough getting to 15, so I'm delighted with that! There are still nine more league games and hopefully two in the FA Cup, so I'll just keep plugging away and hopefully add a few more to my tally. I think I'm fifth top scorer in the Premiership behind Henry, Van Nistelrooy, Darren Bent and Lampard, which is a great honour for me anyway. To get near those guys in my first full season in the Premiership is fantastic and, who knows, maybe I can push on and get a bit closer in the last few games. Whatever happens, I'm delighted with the way things have gone and I just want to keep working hard and enjoying myself.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about our first season back in the Premiership?
A: Everything! The whole experience has been amazing, and every game has been enjoyable for me personally. To be able to test yourself against the best players in the country is a great feeling, and even better when you come out on top against them. Of course, it's only enjoyable if you are playing well and winning, and we've done that more often than not this season. The general experience of playing Premiership football is just massive - the media coverage, the demands and the atmosphere among the fans - everything is so much bigger than in the Championship, and the one thing I have learned quickly is that you can't afford to switch off for one minute or let your focus slip. If you do, you get punished!
Q: Has the success of the team this year surprised you in any way?
A: No, not at all. Getting promoted was like a weight off our shoulders in many ways, and the lads were so fired up and confident in the summer. Making a good start was the key and, after that second half performance against Blackburn on the opening day of the season, everything just seemed to click. No disrespect to the teams in the Championship but I just think that, with the players we had, the style of football down there stifled us. Every team that came to Upton Park treated it like a cup final, and it was just a constant battle to dig results out. In the Premiership, we seemed to have opened ourselves up and been able to show what we can actually do on the big stage.
Q: Has the experience of the past two years played a big part in how some of the players have performed this year?
A: Definitely. I can only speak for myself but I think it's probably the same for the likes of Anton, Nigel, Hayden and Bobby. We all had to grow up very quickly and the tough times we went through have made us stronger as individuals and even stronger as a team. I think all of the lads have shown that they are top class players who can shine in the Premiership, and getting out of the Championship has been like a release for us. Plus, we've all been desperate to make sure we don't go back down there again!
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Q: Is the team spirit among the squad here the best you have experienced in your career?
A: I was part of a great team spirit under Paul Hart at Nottingham Forest but this is just as good. It has been built not just because of the success season, but because of what we went through last season and the season before that. And the good thing is that the players who have arrived since then have joined in with that spirit and helped it to grow. A lot of credit also has to go to the manager. He has taken plenty of criticism, which is obviously something a manager has to put up with at times, but the boys have seen him stand up to that and stay true to his beliefs. He has earned a lot of respect because of that, and I just hope we can all continue to be successful as a squad.
Q: What has it been like to train and play with Teddy Sheringham?
A: It's been a dream come true for me personally. I can remember growing up and watching him play for England at Euro 96 then scoring a goal in the European Cup final with Manchester United, and thinking what a superstar he was. Then all of a sudden, I'm playing in the same team as him! It's hard to describe it really - I was just in awe of him. And I've learned so much from training and playing with him, and just from watching him, too. He's always talking to you and offering little bits of advice, and there have been times this season when I've found myself in certain situations on the pitch and thought: 'Oh yeah, Teddy told me what I need to do here.' For the younger lads, it's just a dream to play with him, but the great thing is that he is just one of us, and so down to earth. You'd think he might be a bit above himself after winning so much in his career but he's still got that focus and enthusiasm, and that's why he is still playing.
Q: Have the lads got any surprises planned for his 40th next week?
A: We might have, but if I tell you then they won't be surprises!
Q: In your opinion, what will the players consider to be a successful season now?
A: I think it has already been a successful season in terms of what we set out to achieve, but there is a chance for us to grab some real glory now and I think the lads would be disappointed if we don't make the most of any opportunity that we get to do that. Funnily enough, we had a guy come in last week to speak to all the players and, to be honest, he made us all think a bit. He was asking us what our goals were, if we were comfortable, and if we felt we could go further. It was all about challenging us to take our success to the next level, and I think everyone here is determined to do that.
Q: Are you expecting next season to be harder?
A: Yes, definitely. The expectation is going to be much higher among our fans, and other teams will be more aware of us. They will know more about our style of play, and the strengths of our players, so we know that we are going to have to perform to an even higher standard than this year. I think
Q: Finally, has your new baby son been giving you plenty of sleepless nights?
A: Oh yes! Theodore is a day sleeper and tends to stay awake of a night, so I've been having to catch up on my sleep in the afternoons! He's great, though, and so is my other boy, Pharrell. I'm starting to put a football at his feet now, but he's more interested in his little brother!