Curbs braced for Bolton battle

With 33 games played 12 months ago, Alan Curbishley's West Ham United found themselves five points from safety.

Fast forward a year and it is Bolton Wanderers who are desperate to get out of the drop zone and away from the two teams below - while United sit comfortably in mid-table. Gary Megson's struggling team are four points adrift and Curbishley knows what to expect from Saturday's hosts from personal experience. "I'm expecting a very high tempo, very passionate game," he said. "With their recent results that they'll see our game as a stepping stone to try and get out of it.

"As I said last year when we were in it, we just looked to the next game and didn't worry too much about what had gone on and what was going to happen afterwards. That would be my advice to the teams that are down there. You've just got to get on with the next game." As for his own approach at the Reebok Stadium, the manager said sympathy cannot come into his thinking.

"The one thing we'll be stressing is that we were in a similar position and nobody set about helping us out and you never know when the circumstances will change," he said. "We will be going there for ourselves and no one else." Curbishley did have praise for the way Megson has rallied his troops, especially with the departure of Nicolas Anelka. "They're still there with a chance of getting out of it with five games left and all to play for."

As for the game itself, the manager is expecting as tricky an encounter as that given by Portsmouth in midweek, when his charges came up against a packed midfield and lone striker. "A lot of teams play it. It is not a problem. You have to be aware they take every opportunity to get the ball in the box and challenge for it and make it very difficult for you and we have to be strong enough to deal with that."

For Curbishley, the incentive is there for his team to make their personal cases for his plans next season and, in some cases, their international aspirations as well. Allied to that is the benefits to the club's standing of as high a finish as possible. "We have still got five games left, and I'm a firm believer that the next game is the chance to pick three points up," he said. "That is how we see Saturday. We know how Bolton are feeling. We have been there before - but we need to go and do our job. We need the result as much as anybody for ourselves and our fans."