Big Sam on: Aston Villa

Sam Allardyce is happy to see the treatment room emptying as West Ham United prepare to face Aston Villa on Saturday.

Diafra Sakho and Winston Reid could return after suffering injuries, while Andy Carroll continues his rehabilitation in promising fashion.

The manager spoke to the media ahead of his team's weekend assignment, with team selection at the top of the agenda.

Good morning Sam. First of all, can I ask about Andy Carroll? He played a behind closed doors game in the week, how did it go and will be be able to take part this weekend?

SA: "It depends how he feels this morning and how he trains on Friday - that will be the deciding factor on whether he gets into the squad or not. If he continues the way he is, if not this weekend, then by the end of the international break he should be okay and ready to join the squad."

He has been out for a while. In his absence others have come in and done well - how much of a challenge does he face to get himself back in there?

SA: "Everybody faces a bigger challenge than they did last season because the strength in depth of the squad has been proven to be very strong up to now. Even my trusted captain has found it difficult to break his way back into the side, so he's frustrated as are other players like Matt Jarvis, Ricardo Vaz Te and Joey O'Brien. These were my regular players last season but because the players have done so well when they've not been available, it's difficult for me to put them back in based on the performances and results."

Sakho was missing last week, is he back for this one?

SA: "He's training on Thursday for this first time, and Winston Reid will do some light training too. We'll wait and see how the session goes and the final decisions will be made on Friday as to who is available for selection."

Has Stewart Downing done enough, in your eyes, to get back in the England squad?

SA: "I think it's about position now. We've changed Stewart's position and it seems to have allowed him to flourish more in an attacking formation. Whether Roy sees if he's done enough in that new position to combine with the players he's got there will be interesting to see.

"Certainly in terms of experience and football, he's on top of his game and playing exceptionally well at the moment, He's already scored two goals this season, which is one more than last year, so he's not only creating and assisting more, but getting more opportunities to score."

In terms of this weekend's game, you're up against a team who are going through a pretty tough time. Do you have sympathy for Paul Lambert there?

SA: "Always, because there's a huge pressure that comes upon you when you lose so many games on the trot. He must be wondering what he's doing wrong at the moment, because I watched the game against Tottenham last Sunday and thought how unlucky he was that he lost that game one to a sending off, and two to a deflected free-kick. That seems to happen when things aren't going for you.

"You have to believe in yourself and your team, which he does, to come back. We have to make sure we try and continue their poor run. He'll remember when they pulled off a result at Liverpool and say that's what they're capable of, so I'd imagine it'll be a very difficult game in terms of trying to break them down and we'll have to be really aware of not leaving too many spaces to let them play that good counter-attacking game that they seem to adapt to well away from home."

Some comments from the Joint-Chairman this week seemed to suggest that Winston Reid was still a little way off agreeing a contract. Are you still hopeful that those talks can get back on track?

SA: "Well I haven't given up because I feel that we're progressing very nicely and that we can give Winston what he wants if he stays with us. We're building our Club slowly at the moment, but our ultimate goal is to be as ambitious as we can and if we can carry on building slowly but surely we can all achieve that goal. If Winston is impatient and sees it somewhere else, we'll have to wait and see."

Expectations among the fans have risen. Have your targets changed?

SA: "Not yet. Only ten games in it's too early [to do that]. Look at Aston Villa's start and everybody was going on about what a fantastic start they had - I think it was ten points in their first four games - and how quickly it can turn. It's far too early for us to start changing where and what we want to do. Our big test comes at the end of November and December when the games come thick and fast.

"I believe this time around, if we keep the squad fit, we will have a much better November and December than we've had in recent years. That's been our bad couple of months or our bad six weeks ever since I've been here. Until we get to the end of that, we're not going to change any areas we try and hit."

How much of a challenge is it for you to manage the players when they're fighting for their places?

SA: "I have to manage the disappointment and I have to look at the individuals and try and make sure they stay focused. The biggest problem you have with a fully-fit squad is making sure you keep the focus and concentration of that player. However long it might be that they feel they're not getting back in the team, it can change in a split second and if they're not physically and mentally ready and prepared to step into the team then we all suffer, particularly them.

"That's their responsibility, but my responsibility is to keep them focused and as fit as possible, eager waiting for that opportunity. Recently we've had quite a few changes, and since players have stepped in like Carl Jenkinson and James Collins, they haven't lost their places. At the moment that's where we're at and the players who are waiting patiently for an opportunity have to make sure they're fit enough physically and mentally to play their very best, help the team win and say 'I expect to keep my place.'"