The Big Interview - Neil McDonald

West Ham United assistant manager Neil McDonald is delighted with the Hammers' start to the season.

Here he talks about the impressive impact the new signings have had, Teddy Sheringham's new role and targeting a top half finish.

Neil, it's been an impressive start to the season, have you been surprised how well we've done so far?

NMc: "Not really, it's disappointing that we haven't got a couple more points on the board. I'm pleased with the points we do have. We've picked up our first away win of the season and now we've won two on the bounce at home which is great. That gives confidence to everybody for the rest of the season."

Fans and media alike have picked up on the positive performances as well as the results, is that something you've been working on?

NMc: "I think personnel recruitment has been very good over the summer. I've been at the club for almost four years now, in that time even the way people come in has changed. We've also changed the formation round a little bit and the style. I think last season we scored a lot of goals from open play and then injuries slowed us down. In the end we didn't get as many points as we should have done.

"I think the new signings have helped bring a freshness in. They can play the ball well, perhaps better than we've had before. We're creating more chances than we've done before, we're getting more of the ball and sticking the chances away more regularly."

We brought in nine new signings in the summer, are you pleased with how quickly they have settled in?

NMc: "I am because through experience with other signings it usually takes a couple of months for the new signings to settle in. Certainly if they're coming from another country that brings more things to deal with such as getting used to a new culture, buying a house and sorting out schools for the kids. That's something we do very, very well. We pamper the players if anything, making sure they're settled, making sure their families are settled.

"We try and sort it out so they live close together, that helps with the social side of things and helps them bond as a team. That then helps them to perform on the training pitch and in the matches.

"All the new signings have taken to the role they've been assigned very, very well. I've been impressed with how they've dealt with the pace and physicality of the Premier League. They've taken to it like a duck to water and long may that continue."

Have you done anything differently on the training pitch?

NMc: "We always work very, very hard in training. We concentrate on the upcoming games from the Monday and in every single session. The aim is that come matchday the players are thinking, 'I know what to do.'

"I think our pace in the team has vastly improved because it offers us the chance to switch things if we can't get through, then we can try and go in behind the defence. We've got lots of people who can know handle the ball well. That's no disrespect to the players we've had previously but that's certainly a big improvement."

Teddy Sheringham has come into the coaching staff as attacking coach. He's talked about how much he's enjoying it here. What has he added since his arrival?

NMc: "He's added a great amount of experience. The boys have really taken to his finishing exercises. He's played at the highest level and he's got a good eye for coaching. He plays a valuable role and his advice is important. He comes in twice a week to work on finishing, the boys are enjoying it so it's going well."

We've got more players to come back from injury, in theory things can only get better?

NMc: "Well you'd like to think so. We were a bit thin against QPR but now we've got players coming back from injury. Competition for places is always good as they put pressure on the starting players.

"Mark Noble has been a staple of the team for a number of years, but Alex Song has come in. So we've had to make a decision about having one or two sitting midfielders. Cheikhou Kouyate has come in and also done very well. We've got Kevin coming back and Stewart playing in a new role. So we've got lots and lots of options."

The manager has spoken about breaking the season into blocks. When you review the first section of the season, would you say West Ham have achieved their targets?

NMc: "Yeah we're there with one game spare. Hopefully we're going to be ahead of schedule. We'll refocus for the next eight games after Burnley. We have a whole range of targets, not just a points tally but number of goals scored from open play, number of goals scored from set pieces etc. It depends slightly on the opposition we've got in the next eight games. We'll reassess where we're at after Burnley and go from there.

"So it's a process of concentrating on little targets to reach the overall target of finishing tenth or even higher."

What is a realistic target for this season, a top half finish?

NMc: "With the personnel we have and the start we've had I think it is realistic, yes. It's about getting the balance of scoring goals and keeping clean sheets. We're scoring enough so far but not keeping the clean sheets yet. If we can get the dynamics right, and use the right formation then we'll bet set for a very interesting season."

Can you go into a bit of detail about what happened with Carlisle. You're still our assistant manager, can you shed any light?

NMc: "I got a call from the club asking for permission to speak to me. I spoke to them and went to one of their games which caused a bit of mayhem. I'm in a great position here at West Ham, I've got a great job here at West Ham. I love what I do. My family still live up north but I'm totally committed down here. I want to get back into management of course, but I'll bide my time. As I said, I've got a great job that I love. We've had a successful three or four years so long may that continue."