Captain's Blog - 'A new challenge'

Everyone at the club is very excited at the appointment of our new manager, Gianfranco Zola.

As a player we all admired him and what he brought to the game in England. His mission statement as a manager is to try and bring that excitement to us just like he did as a player for Chelsea. We also welcome Steve Clarke and Antonio Pintus and have already enjoyed working with them both this week.

As with any change in management at a club, it gives the players a shake-up with new ideas and new people coming in as well as a new challenge. It is a clean slate for everyone as the competition for places intensifies.

This week's training saw us take part in intense sessions that saw the boys really push themselves to be in the manager's thoughts for this weekend's game.

From the terrace point of view, the noise levels will be raised in what is the manager's first match in charge and this in turn raises the tempo and the performance of the players on the pitch for all the right reasons.

We welcome Newcastle United, their players, staff and supporters. It will be a tough match, but we are at home, there is a good buzz around the place and with all that is going on with Newcastle, we must take advantage of it on the pitch.

I would like to welcome our new signings, two of whom played last weekend. Herita Ilunga who looks like he has been playing in the Premier League for years, and David Di Michele, who is a very intelligent player whom I predict will be a fan's favourite.

On the other side of that, I would like to say thank you and goodbye to George McCartney who has left us to return to Sunderland. We wish him well, but not too well especially when he plays against us.

Just as important, as captain and on behalf of the players and the club, I would like to wish Alan Curbishley all the very best. He, Mervyn Day and Glynn Snodin have made a valuable contribution to West Ham United which will go down in history.

Alan led us through the 'great escape' two seasons ago and helped to keep the club stable in what were testing times last season. I would also like to say thank you to Alan for bringing me to West Ham United and making me captain, which is something I am extremely proud of every day and will continue to be.

Following the game on Saturday, we will be in action in the Carling Cup on Tuesday, a short journey away to Watford. We are all excited by the prospect of a good cup run which we hope will end in glory. It will be another tough game but if you want to achieve this glory you have to go and beat teams at their grounds in these games.

In advance, I would like to thank all the fans who will be travelling to that match to support us. Back to today's game - I would also like to thank all our supporters ahead of the match, I am sure there will be a great atmosphere, it is then over to us to perform and send every West Ham fan home happy.

Lucas Neill signature

Lucas Neill