Pards urges players to be ready for a battle

Alan Pardew has called for his players to come out fighting and attack the game against Blackburn Rovers on Sunday.

Following a run of eight successive league and cup defeats, the Hammers boss acknowledges that the pressure is now firmly on but insists he is in confident mood after been encouraged by the spirit and belief in training this week.

"We have got to go out there and fight, but in the right way," says Pards. "You can fight in the wrong way, get over zealous and find yourselves down to 10 men or have players with high stress levels, and we don't want that.

"At the same time we are not, despite our recent run, going into this game on a negative note, because if we took that step, we would be in big trouble against Blackburn. We want to go into this game on the front foot and be attacking.

"I certainly think the application of all the players has been very good and there are players putting themselves up for Sunday, no one is hiding. For me, that is a sign of good things, everyone wants to play their part."

The Hammers boss looks like having a healthy squad to pick from for the clash with Mark Hughes's side. Tyrone Mears, James Collins and Lee Bowyer all returned to full training this week and Yossi Benayoun has fully recovered from the knock that kept him out of Tuesday's Carling Cup defear at Chesterfield.

While Teddy Sheringham had to sit out Friday's session with a sore knee, he is expected to be available for selection, and only Carlos Tevez remains a doubt as he still carrying a knee injury.

"I genuinely feel it's important that the game is attacked by our best possible team and that's the team I will pick, said Pards. "Teddy has come off the bench in recent games and done well, he also did well in the game at Portsmouth, so he's in contention without a doubt, as are many of the players.

"We will need the type of character that Teddy possesses, and we've got a quite a few in the team - those who are going to not only put in the performance we need, that is to be assured and confident on the ball, but also to cope with the pressures of the match, in terms of dealing with the day itself to help us win the game."

Hammers beat Blackburn in our very first match back in the Premiership last season and did not look back from there, using the result as a springboard for a successful campaign, and the manager believes there is no reason why they can't draw on those same elements for this Sunday's match against Rovers.

"No game is the same of course, but I don't think there is anything wrong with looking back, reflecting and taking from what has happened before," says Pards.

"Hopefully we can use it in the same way as we did last year, the catalyst for our season to begin, if you like. It will be good if we can beat Blackburn and say, well come on then, let's see what we can do next, which is what we did after beating them in the first game last year.

"You could say our confidence has been knocked a bit this season and in my experience in football, one victory can restore that confidence very, very quickly. For us, the way it has worked out is that it's taking a bit of time. We want to get a win in quickly and I know with that, our confidence will come flooding back."

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And while criticism from all areas is part of the job, especially when things are not going well, Pardew feels that some of it, targeted at individual players, such as captain Nigel Reo-Coker, has been unfair.

He also believes that the reputations earned by the players last season will come to the fore when the team's confidence is back on full throttle.

"I feel Nigel has come under some very harsh and unfair criticism," he says. "I have asked him to play in a different position for me recently, which he readily put himself up for, not only because he is a good captain, but because that is the type of person he is.

"With Yossi missing in the last game, I had to play him out on the right, it's not Nigel's position but he went out there and did what was asked of him to the best of his ability. We have Yossi and Lee Bowyer coming back, so Nigel will be back in the middle and I think we will see more of the strength that he most certainly has."

Pards adds: "The players earned reputations on the back of how well we did last season and of course, we have to justify ourselves. But I think it's unfair to say that they are not living up to that and there's no reason why they can't go on and play like that this season again.

"We have a talented squad and if we can get the performances going, put in a West Ham display that shows we haven't lost our belief, then the confidence will come back to show how we have the pace and power in the side to upset anyone."

Hammers know that it will be a tough physical battle against a Rovers side who will scrap for every ball, but it is having the belief going into the game that Pards insists will be a big key.

He says: "I feel that we are due for something to turn for us, whether that is a key player putting in a key performance or a little bit of luck falling our way. And to get the platform for perhaps doing that something different, the gift of doing the unexpected, which hasn't really happened for us yet this season.

"What I tell the players is to never doubt. It's all about believing in what you do, believing that your spirit is strong and you have enough character to cope with the negatives that come your way. The British way sometimes is to knock that, but you have to learn, certainly as a footballer in the Premiership, to live with that.

He adds: "I have positive staff, players who still believe in themselves, we've got a close unit and will use what we have from within to build the platform we need to get the win we want. You also, of course, hope that fortune favours you and we can get that victory that is much needed not only for the fans, myself and the players, but for the chairman through to the tea lady here at the Club.

"I know the fans are desperate for us to get that win, to see some magical moments return to Upton Park and watch how this team can flicker with life and spirit. We have learned a lot again in recent weeks and will use that experience to get the positive performance we need to try and win the game on Sunday."

By Laura Burkin