Manager on Monday

Avram Grant is experienced enough to know that a Barclays Premier League season is a long haul and not something that will be decided after one match.

The Hammers got off to a stuttering start with a 3-0 defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday but Grant has full faith in his players to learn the lessons and show the positive play they demonstrated in a strong summer's work.

There will be no better way to start that than two quick home games in succession on Saturday and Tuesday week against Bolton Wanderers and Oxford United. He knows it is vital to have fans behind the players, as they were in full voice and number at a rain-battered Villa Park. In fact, 2,800 turned out - a magnificent show of support.

"We know that it will take time but we need to build something for the future here at West Ham," the manager said. "You want to win immediately because it is easier to build with a good result and against Villa neither the result nor the performance was that good.

"We can learn and go forward because this is only the beginning of the season. For me nothing is new, I knew the problems before and we will try and fix them."


Thomas Hitzlsperger, his first signing, was absent at the weekend with a thigh injury suffered with Germany but the manager will hope to welcome back Valon Behrami sooner rather than later after his own international fitness issues. The likes of Tal Ben Haim and Kieron Dyer may also be pushing for selection by the time Bolton visit on Saturday.

"Thomas Hitzlsperger and Valon Behrami got injured in the international games. You know my opinion on this. Even though I was a national coach before these games may be good for FIFA but they are not good for the players, their teams or the national teams. The game is before the start of the Premier League and you can't learn anything from them.

"Unfortunately, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Valon Behrami were part of our plans and preparation before they got injured. You always want to start with your strongest squad."

At least against Bolton, the strong spine of Robert Green, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker and Carlton Cole should line up for a match that promises to be a Kids for a Quid sell-out. Pablo Barrera and Frederic Piquionne, who both offered a spark off the bench on Saturday, may also be looking to make their first starts.

"Their impact was good," Grant said of his new recruits. "We were on top of Villa in the second half before they scored their third and we missed two big chances. In football you need to score. We didn't do that. It is a good game to learn from. If you win or lose the most important thing is to learn and go forward."

Expectancy and excitement will again be high at the Boleyn this weekend but the manager will make sure concentration levels are at their optimum next time around. "The players were waiting a long time for the season. They were excited and lost the focus on the game.

"It wasn't good but it was the only the first game. There is a long way to go. I saw a lot of good things in training and in the preparation matches. I am sure we will go forward and have a good season."

More fresh faces may well arrive before Bolton with the manager looking for "competition" throughout the squad - and grateful to the Board for their backing.

"The chairman said he will try to do his best for the team during this first year. There are a lot of financial problems but he wants us to stay in the Premier League and go forward without fighting relegation like last year. That's a good target.

"If we play good football, develop our game and progress, then for me that will be a good base for next season both on the football side and the financial side."