Ian Pearce says his former Hammers strike partner Jermain Defoe is always dangerous
Beware of wounded Black Cats.
That's the warning from former West Ham United favourite Ian Pearce as Big Sam's troops look to get back to winning ways against Saturday’s visitors to the Boleyn Ground.
"In Dick Advocaat, Sunderland have a new manager who the players will be looking to impress in his first game in charge," counsels the lifelong Hammers fan. "And nobody needs to be reminded that Jermain Defoe always enjoys scoring a goal or two, as well!"
Indeed, Ian, who made 163 league and cup appearances in the Claret and Blue following his £2.3m transfer from Blackburn Rovers in September 1997, knows at first hand all about the threat of his former Boleyn Ground team-mate, Defoe.
While the popular Pearce made his mark as a defender during his six-and-a-half-year spell at the Club, he is also fondly remembered for an unselfish versatility that saw him wearing many shirts, including that of stop-gap striker.
"Central defence, right-back, wing-back or centre-forward, West Ham fans will tell you that I could play badly in all positions!" jests Ian, who netted ten times for the Hammers before moving way out west to Fulham, in January 2004. "Seriously, I loved it whenever I got asked to help out by playing up front and I can remember partnering Jermain in some matches, when he was just a kid.
"Even though he was the youngest out of the two of us, he still made me do all his running," smiles the 40-year-old, who is currently enjoying life as Brighton & Hove Albion's chief scout in the London and South-East region. "And I was never happy when the the manager used to drop me just to get that Fredi Kanoute back into the attack!
"Seriously, when I look forward to Saturday’s game, I think that West Ham will simply have too much for Sunderland and I really do fancy us to get all three points.
"Despite the disappointments of recent weeks, we’ve still done really well to go into March in a top-half position and the arrivals of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia have made for some really exciting play up front.
"Now as we head towards the final part of the campaign, the players will want to finish as high as they possibly can so that the club has a solid platform going into next season.
"Football can be a ruthless business and nobody is guaranteed anything heading into the summer, so these next few games will enable the squad to show everyone that they're worth their place for a very important next season," concludes Ian, casting an envious eye towards Stratford. "Sure, everyone will miss the Boleyn Ground – what a place it is to play football – but as a club you've got to move on and keep up with both the times and your rivals.
"The Olympic Stadium will certainly enable West Ham United to do just that, when they move there for the 2016/17 season and, believe me, every player will want to be a part of that, too."
*Ian Pearce was speaking to lifelong West Ham fan Steve Blowers.