Galey's View - Sep 26

Former Hammers defender Tony Gale provides his expert view on recent events at Upton Park, exclusively on

"It was disappointing to see us lose up at Manchester City on Saturday, in a game I really fancied us to win. We had great memories from the last trip to the City of Manchester Stadium, when Dean Ashton's double strike earned us victory in the FA Cup quarter-final.

"That result played a big part in how last season finished for both sides - we went from strength to strength and ended on a real high, while City really struggled to lift themselves again and fell away at the end.

"Their poor form seemed to have carried over into the start of this season, but they gave themselves a big boost with the win on Saturday, which certainly eased the pressure that had been building on Stuart Pearce.

"It was a game in which the first goal was going to be vital and, unfortunately, we just didn't look like making that breakthrough. It looked to me as if the lads had lost a bit of their spark, especially after Anton was forced to come off early in the game - a big blow that left us feeling a little deflated.

"There has been a lot of focus and attention on the two new Argentinian boys since they arrived but, in my opinion, it's the players who played so well last season and did so much to build our success who have got to get back to what they do best.

"When you have had a successful season, as we did last year, the following campaign is always tougher. I experienced it when we finished third in '86 and then struggled to reach mid-table the next season. All it takes is a couple of injuries or a few players struggling to find top form and, before you know it, things are going badly.

"You've also got to take into account the way other teams now approach playing us. We are no longer the surprise package we were last year - opponents are giving us more respect and, most significantly, are doing more to combat our pacy, attacking style.

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"They know our game now - they know that Marlon has strength and likes to get in behind, they know that Nigel drives on from midfield, they know that Hayden holds in midfield, and that Paul Konchesky likes to overlap on the left.

"Teams know that we have pace, and I think they are purposely trying to stop our flow, taking the sting out of the game early on and making us play at their pace. Personally, I think the key lies in our boys starting to dictate the pace of the game again, as they were doing last season.

"I think we should all have confidence in the players to do that, and it probably just needs a little break - maybe a lucky goal - for things to start picking up again.

"There has obviously been plenty going on in and around the Club recently, and it would be foolish to suggest that the players haven't noticed it or been affected by it. It's a difficult time for Alan and his staff, because there is some uncertainty surrounding the place and it is working its way on to the pitch.

"For people to say: 'The players should just get on with their job on the pitch' is naïve - it's certainly easier said than done. Hopefully, the situation will be resolved sooner rather than later, so that any uncertainty is lifted from the players."

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"The result at City now leaves us really needing a win in our next Premiership game, against Reading on Sunday, in order to stop the rot and give everyone a lift. Before that, though, we have the UEFA Cup encounter against Palermo to look forward to, and I see it as a real chance to boost the confidence going into the clash against Steve Coppell's men.

"I understand that the squad travelled out to Italy on Tuesday lunchtime, more than two days before the game, and I personally think that is a very good idea. For one, it will give Alan and the players a chance to get used to the surroundings out there, and two, they will be getting away from a little bit of the uncertainty and negative vibes back at home.

"And there is no reason why we shouldn't be confident of getting the result we need on Thursday night. I know they are doing well in Serie A at the moment, but Palermo are by no means unbeatable and I saw in the first leg at Upton Park that we are at least as good as them.

"It could have been so, so different if Carlos Tevez had converted that chance just a minute before they scored, but 1-0 isn't an impossible deficit to overturn. Like most Italian sides, Palermo have a cynical side to their game as well as a skilful side, and they will attempt to disrupt the pace of the game again, by giving away niggly fouls and wasting time.

"That is something that the boys have got to manage and deal with. The Palermo crowd will be used to seeing their team play a defensive game, even at home, while our fans are not used to seeing us sit back against anyone, certainly not at Upton Park.

"But if we can stamp a bit of authority on the game early on, and perhaps catch them a bit cold, I can see us causing a few problems. Remember, we only need a one-goal lead to keep ourselves in the competition, and I am sure our fans will be in fantastic voice to cheer the lads on. Everyone I speak to seems to be going out there!

"This is an opportunity to give everyone connected with the Club a real lift, and really spark our season into life. I'm sure minds will be cast back to that memorable evening in Metz a few years ago, when we overcame a 1-0 first leg defeat in the Intertoto Cup final to produce one of our finest performances away from home in Europe.

"The crowd were unbelievable that night, and hopefully we can look forward to another one of those magical, unforgettable nights that West Ham United have always been famous for."