Macca predicting hard work ahead

Neil McDonald believes that West Ham United's 4-1 defeat at FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday proves there is still much work to be done before the start of the new Barclays Premier League season on 17 August.

The Hammers went into the opening fixture of their pre-season tour of Germany having won all four of their previous warm-up matches since returning to training on 1 July. The step up in class was notable though as the hosts raced into a two goal lead early on. Joe Cole's clever finish offered West Ham hope just after the break, however they would go on to suffer their first taste of defeat as a third - from the penalty spot - and a late fourth completed the Bundesliga outfit's win.

"I think it shows us we've still got a long way to go to and a lot of fitness to catch up on," West Ham United assistant manager McDonald said. "Mainz played really well and showed if you move quickly to receive the ball you've got a better chance of scoring goals.

"We showed a little bit of character in the first 20 minutes of the second half to get back in the game through Joe Cole but then we just faded away a bit at the end. There's still plenty to work on and still plenty to do."

While no footballer in the world likes losing matches, McDonald believes that defeats - as well as victories - mean very little at this stage of the season. The former Newcastle United and Everton defender also cited the fact that Mainz's season starts two weeks earlier than their east London visitors' as a reason why they were sharper on the day.

"Defeats in pre-season, along with victories as well I suppose, are pretty meaningless. What we're looking for is performances all the way through. We were slightly down on the performance on Saturday. I don't know if that was the heat or the team we were playing against. We know we can do better.

"I think you could see Mainz were ahead and that their season starts before ours. It was a great test and they were obviously the strongest team we've faced so far. It shows us we've still got a lot to do on the physical side as well as the tactical side

"But that's the reason why we play these kind of teams. They are always very technical and you have to try to work out your shape and they do play some really good football. It's the second season we've come to Germany and the reason we do that is because we can face quality opposition like this and it sharpens everyone up."

That hard work will begin with a double training session on Sunday in new surroundings after the Hammers jetted straight off to Flensburg in northern Germany after the game. They will train for a few days near the coast before facing Hamburg in Flensburg on Tuesday evening.

"We're going to be working hard on the fitness and doing preparation for the next game as well so there's plenty to do. I know our game on Tuesday will be a tough test. They'll be two weeks ahead and they will play exactly the same way Mainz did. It will be another tough test but that's exactly why we came to Germany - for tough tests."

McDonald saved special praise for the hundreds of Hammers fans that turned out in the sunshine to support their team. The Claret and Blue Army was a mix of travelling fans from the United Kingdom and fans from Germany and together they provided plenty of noise and support for the team in white.

"The travelling Hammers fans were brilliant," he concluded. "They come and support their team wherever they are. Most are here for a few days but I'm sure some will stay for all three games. I'm sure they'll see stronger and better performances as the two games go along."