Get with the Programme!

Fresh from making his 50th West Ham United start, Cheikhou Kouyate is the cover star for tonight's Official Programme
Cheikhou Kouyate made his 50th start in a West Ham United shirt at Aston Villa on Boxing Day.

The No8 has been a revelation since joining the Hammers from Belgian title winners RSC Anderlecht in summer 2014, winning the fans over quickly with his athleticism, power and habit of scoring important goals.

Eighteen months into his Claret and Blue career and Kouyate is more than happy with the way things have gone since his arrival at the Boleyn Ground.

“It has been a very good time so far for me,” explained Kouyate, speaking exclusively to Monday's Official Programme for the Barclays Premier League visit of Southampton. “I spoke with my mother and my father before I came here and I knew England was a very difficult championship, but since the first time I came here I have learned very quickly.

“My integration has been very good and very quick, thanks to players like Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Guy Demel, Winston Reid and MoMo Diame helping me. My adaptation has been very easy.

“The first day I arrived,Kevin Nolan came to speak with me and I appreciate it. Since then, I have played lots of games and I am learning more in every game and every day in training.

“I like my life in London, I like my club West Ham and I am enjoying my time here.”

One player who has helped Kouyate to settle better than any other is his close friend and compatriot Diafra Sakho, who followed him through the John Lyall Gates in August 2014.

The pair have been inseparable ever since, living in the same apartment block, eating and socialising together and confiding in one another whenever the need arises.

One only had to see the recent West Ham TV Me and Him! feature to see the genuine friendship and affection that exists between the two.

“This is my best relationship I’ve had with a teammate,” Kouyate explained. “After MoMo Diame left, Diafra Sakho came and he is my little brother, my brother from another mother!

“I see Diafra Sakho’s mother and every time she comes here, she speaks with both of us and cooks for me and Diafra and it’s very nice. This is normal. He is a very good boy and a good guy and I will never forget him.

“I am also friendly with Adrian, Enner Valencia and Mark Noble, who is like an African!”