Big Sam on Portsmouth

Sam Allardyce is looking forward to getting the promotion push under way again with the visit to Portsmouth on Saturday.

The Hammers are flying high in second place and the manager has been boosted this week with Abdoulaye Faye returning to training. Several of his players were also rested last weekend, meaning a strong squad will make the trip to the south coast.

Portsmouth, under young manager Michael Appleton, always pose a stern test at Fratton Park but the manager is expecting his players to maintain the momentum that has brought them 47 points from 25 games - just three shy of their 'two points a game' target for the season.

Sam, what's your record like against Portsmouth?

SA: I've not researched it actually; I've had some good results and some not so good. We all know how difficult it is to play there. Fratton Park takes you back a few years as it's a more traditional style of ground than it is the modern ground that we see today. The fans are very close to the pitch and are very passionate about their team. They seem to have a very good home record and don't lose many.

But in saying that we went to Middlesbrough who hadn't lost for many matches at their place and we were the first team to beat them in 14 or 15 games at home. So if we can hit that type of form we can beat anybody as long as we can start being more clinical in front of goal. Our chances created and our attempts at goal have been very good but recently we've not been as clinical in front of goal as we should have been.

Will you turn it round at the weekend?

I would hope so. Sooner or later when you start creating chances you'll start putting them in the back of the net. If we can get back to the clinical finishing we showed in the early part of the season, particularly away from home at places like Watford and Nottingham Forest, when we've then gone on to win the game.

Middlesbrough was our last away win and probably our best performance of the season away from home so we need to try and get back to that performance and that type of result.

You are currently tied with Southampton at the top of the table, with Cardiff and Middlesbrough just behind. Do you think it is now a four-horse race?

SA: No I don't. I think that Blackpool are very dangerous and Hull City are still there and Leicester will come on and run, so I think that there are a few that are involved in the top two spots. From then on it'll go right to the end of the season to see who will finish where and whether you're going to finish in the automatic promotion or the play-offs.

You'll see in recent history the likes of Blackpool have come from behind and then won the play-offs so what we want to do is to focus on automatic promotion and try to not think about the play-offs. But with the quality of teams in this division, we can't be guaranteed that we would get an automatic promotion spot. We have to go right to the end and see if that's good enough.

Are there any transfer updates you can give us?

SA: We're close to the George John deal, which is progressing but after that we haven't really got anyone that we can say that we're definitely signing in the next day or two.

We're totally focused on the weekend's fixture at Portsmouth and on the brighter side we've got the best squad available since the start or November with only two players, Guy Demel and Matt Taylor, missing from the squad.

That gives us a good selection problem for the lads returning from injuries and coming back into the squad. One or two are short of match practice but fit and available for selection, which at this stage of the season going into the business end means we're in a good position.

The question is can we be better than what we were in the first half of the season going into the last 22 games? Can we increase our level of performance? Can we stay fitter? Can we produce more than we've done already and achieve our ultimate goal which is to get automatic promotion?

How many players are you looking to sign?

SA: It depends on what is available and what we can achieve in terms of our targets. We have bid for several players and we've had several loans that have been rejected. All our bids for players that we've bid for have been unacceptable to the clubs that we've gone to. We'll have to wait and see and be patient to see if we can get the right person in to the club.

Will anybody be leaving?

SA: At the moment, no. We haven't got any that look like they're leaving at the moment but in this window you never know from one day to the next. I could walk into tomorrow and maybe someone we want to sign has popped up and maybe there is a player someone likes from our club and then we see where we go from there.