Curbs steeled for Sunderland test

Alan Curbishley is well aware that West Ham United have "got a game on" when the club arrive at the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland this Saturday.

Roy Keane's side may be worried about their Barclays Premier League status as they sit just four points above the relegation zone but they have been boosted by a 1-0 win at Aston Villa last weekend. "Their home form has been terrific," Curbishley said when asked about the chances of the north-east club avoiding the drop. "We talk about money spent and they have had a go. A real go. I think where they are now if they can stay up they can push on. Everyone sees that as the first base.

"Once you get promoted it is about staying up. That result at Villa has given them a big lift and their home form has been terrific so far this season. We know we have got a game on there. They have got a big squad. It changes quite a bit most weeks and so we are expecting a tough game." Sunderland have also been boosted by having Carlos Edwards and Kenwyne Jones available, fitness permitting, after previous concern they would be stopped from playing after they failed to represent Trinidad and Tobago in midweek.

Curbishley has praise for the achievement of his opposite number. "Sunderland have invested heavily. I think they would look at it as a success if they survive this year. You can build on that and they will become more attractive next season and I think the backing won't go away with the people involved. It is vitally important they stay up. I don't think Roy would have perhaps enjoyed being down the bottom and having every game under pressure but it is all in his learning curve. He has had an unbelievable couple of seasons."

Looking to his own team, The manager added that he was well aware his men needed to be tighter in the opening stages of matches - having conceded the opening goal inside the first 20 minutes of each of the last five contests. He said: "It is something obviously we have been talking about and hoping to improve on. It would be nice for us to go in the lead. We have had to come back the last two games but it would be nice for us to go in the lead and see what happens then."