National fever grips Hammers

West Ham United goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen will be an intrigued spectator on Saturday afternoon when the Grand National gets underway at Aintree.

The Finnish gloveman was pinpointed by manager Sam Allardyce as the Club's horse racing expert when asked if he had any tips for the race in his pre-Liverpool press conference on Friday morning.

Jaaskelainen will be organising the annual sweepstake for the squad and staff before Saturday's showpiece event but he admits that the players have not had much success in recent years.

"I've been doing that for the last ten years," he explained. "Maybe a couple of the other lads might be helping to organise it as well this year.

"The sweepstake always goes to one of the staff members, it's weird. There's 40 runners, 30 players and ten staff members and every year it goes to a staff member, it's weird that way."

One of those staff members who the keeper is referring to is manager Allardyce, who himself knows a thing or two about horses.

Whilst at Bolton Wanderers, Jaaskelainen and Big Sam part owned a race horse with some of the other players,but the stopper admitted his liking for the sport goes back to a young age.

"I've liked it ever since my Dad used to take me to the racing in Finland, it's always been something that's stayed with me.

"I do like my horse racing. We used to own a horse together when we were at Bolton Wanderers, the gaffer and a few of the players."

Hammers fans will be disappointed to find out that the 38-year-old has no hot tips for this year's race believing it is the hardest race in the world to predict.

Jaaskelainen may not be able to offer any punters who are looking for a flutter a tip on the event, but he will, like the rest of the nation, be sat down in front of the television at 4.15pm on Saturday afternoon.

"It's so close and difficult to predict a winner. You have to look for the trainers that are in form and the top jockeys, but I think it's the hardest race to predict a winner."

"It's one of those races where anybody can beat anybody and it's quite difficult to find a winner. As a race, it's the biggest race in the calendar so it's going to make an interesting watch."