Former Player Blog - Ray Stewart

Ray Stewart made 432 appearances for the Hammers between 1979 and 1991, scoring an impressive 84 goals, the majority of which came from the penalty spot.

In our weekly column with a former West Ham player, Ray Stewart talks about the good job Sam Allardyce is doing, how to take a penalty and the positive direction the club is going in…

Although I haven’t been able to see every game, from what I have seen, West Ham have played very well this year. Apart from one or two bad results they’ve played very well and lot of a credit rests with Sam Allardyce. It isn’t easy to change the mentality or formation of the team but that’s what he’s done, in my opinion pretty quickly.  

The good work started with the summer signings made over last summer, I think they’ve strengthened the squad massively. Their impact has set the tone for the rest of the players and hopefully this summer will see similarly successful transfers.

With eight league games to go, it’s nice to see West Ham in a healthy position in the league. It’s nice not to be involved in a relegation scrap – that might sound negative but you can never take Premier League safety for granted, especially with how competitive it is.

Again, Sam deserves a lot of credit, since getting promoted, they’ve looked more and competitive each season and hopefully that continues.      

I think a top ten finish is definitely a realistic target. Hopefully they can finish eighth, top of this mini group we’re in with Swansea and Stoke City. I think that would be a fantastic achievement and a good building block for the final season at the Boleyn Ground.

I’ve seen a few people complain that there are no West Ham players involved in the England squad. But I have to say, I’m not too surprised, Roy Hodgson is free to pick who he thinks is best.

To be a West Ham player, you need to give your best for the club and for the shirt and in that respect playing for West Ham is almost more important than playing for England. Maybe that’s easy to say as a Scot!

Obviously, for the players it would no doubt be a great honour and a good experience and a new level of football. Unfortunately for them, England are pretty strong in the areas that West Ham have English players so it’s very difficult. I’m sure Sam will secretly be delighted because it gives them a bit of a rest and they won’t come back injured.

One of those who has been talked about for England is Mark Noble, a player I admire a lot. I’ve heard he doesn’t practise taking penalties in training but each player is different, he’s obviously more comfortable doing it that way. It seems to work for him, that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

I practised penalties every day after training. I was always confident in my ability but the more you practise, the better you’re going to get at anything.

 I would place cones in a certain area that I wanted to hit. I didn’t have a specific method or routine. I remember I particularly wanted to score against Gary Bailey at Manchester United because he was one of the best around at the time but also he studied penalty takers the most.

 That wasn’t very common at the time, it’s much more common these days for players to analyse the opposition, so it may help Mark acting on instinct as that’s harder to predict.
A further positive for the club is Winston Reid and James Tomkins both signing new contracts, it shows the clubs ambition as well as the players' commitment. To be successful you need everyone, from the Board down, pulling in one direction, keeping hold of your best players is certainly one way of doing that.

I also like Aaron Cresswell a lot. He looks very comfortable on the ball and he loves getting forward which everyone likes to see.