Avram on Friday

West Ham United manager Avram Grant conducted his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League opening-day fixture at Aston Villa.

Grant was asked about a wide range of issues, including Saturday's match, his aims for the 2010/11 season, possible new arrivals, the future of Hammer of the Year Scott Parker and the fitness of striker Benni McCarthy.

Avram on Aston Villa...

"I was very surprised by Martin O'Neill's departure because first I like Martin as a person. He's a very good person and, in my opinion, he's a very good manager and Aston Villa looks to me to be a very stable club. If a manager is going one week before the league is started, for me it is a big surprise.

"I never like to play against a team in the first game after they have changed the coach. I will tell you the answer after the game but for the moment I don't think it's an easy game - it's very difficult.

"I don't think [the departure of Martin O'Neill will make things easier] because it is the first game of the season. If it was the middle of the season, maybe, but the first game of the season players are always trying to impress the next coach. They will do their best. They have very good players so I expect a very difficult game for us.

"We had an OK pre-season. I was happy with the pre-season. I always like to do better but you know when you come to the league that it's a different story."

Avram on his hopes for the new season...

"The aims are not for one season. We have targets for the next seasons. At the end of the day, we want to put West Ham in the place they belong.

"I think West Ham was a very good club that played very good and very positive football. The tradition of positive football started here at West Ham with Ron Greenwood and then other teams followed this, so we want to play good football, to gives chances to talented players because we have a very good scouting system and Academy which is our base.

"Over the next season, as the owners said, we want to not fight against relegation, play good football and put a good base for the next season.

"At the end of the season, if we look back and say it was better than the last season, then for me that's a good start."

Scott Parker

Avram on Scott Parker's future...

"As I understand it, and I fully support this, the club wants Scott to stay for a very long time and are giving him a long contract. I don't know what's happening with this but I think everybody wants this deal because it's good for the club, it's good for Scott because he's very, very important for this club. I hope it will be done."

Avram on the importance of keeping the club's best players...

"They are very good players for us. We are going forward for the next seasons, not for one season. You see we don't take players for one year because we like to do things not for one year. Alongside these players we need experienced players who are very positive and good football players. The players you mentioned are very good players and are very important to us and we want to move forward with them, not without them."

Avram on possible new signings...

"Nobody has signed yet in the last day. As we always say, when a player signs, we will let you know. For the moment, there is no news. As I say, when a player signs, we will announce it. From my experience, especially in England, we need to see all of the deal before we can say anything about players.

"Of course, we are happy with the squad that we have but we have some areas that we need to improve. In any case, if there are any players until the 31st of this month who can improve the squad and make the competition even stronger, it will be good for everybody. We will continue looking."

Avram on David Beckham...

"I met David Beckham last year at the NBA finals and he's a very lovely guy. For me he's not just a very good player, but one of the best characters I've seen in football. But now he's injured, so I wish him all the best and we will see what will happen."

Avram on missing out on Miralem Sulejmani...

"You know, I like to fight about things I can change, even one per cent. This deal didn't succeed, no matter why, and we are looking forward. I will not look back at something I cannot change."

Benni McCarthy

Avram on Benni McCarthy...

"Benni has a problem and we have a programme for him to make him better. As you know, he needs to lose some weight to be fit. He's a very good player when he's fit so we're trying our best.

"I don't know [the answer]. I am here a little bit more than one month and he is a nice guy and is doing everything I tell him to do. I know it started one year ago and it's a pity because he's a very good player.

"Any player that belongs to the squad, you try to take the best of him, but it's not one way. The player also needs to do his job."