From the Newsroom

The Times football writer Rory Smith previews Sunday's London derby between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur
The Times football writer Rory Smith previews Sunday's London derby between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur...

It feels like the West Ham United fans believe again - that seems to have changed and there seems to be more excitement and energy around the place than there was last season.

I first met Slaven Bilic when he was at Besiktas and, as a journalist, I find him to be very charismatic, very charming and quite funny. You can tell he is in a band and an entertainer - there is something about him that does engage you!

He is one of those managers, and there are a few of them, who you can imagine players wanting to play for. You look at him and you can get how he can command the respect and enthusiasm of his team.

Slaven can certainly spot a 'line' during a press conference or an interview, which journalists love because it writes their story for them, to an extent.

It's nice to get a manager who is not afraid to talk. A lot of them are very cagey these days - and you can understand that and say we are to blame for that - so it's nice to have a manager who will sit and chat with you and knows a soundbite when he sees one. It makes our jobs easier!

This Sunday, Slaven takes his team to Tottenham Hotspur and it's a massive game for both clubs. It's more interesting than normal, I think, because they are both going well.

Spurs are going well and have surprised a lot of people. Before the season, I don't think anyone thought they would be top-four contenders. People thought they a work in progress, but it looks like they're further along than we realised.

I think West Ham have hit the ground running quicker than people thought, too. Form goes out of the window in derbies and all that, but it's probably a more significant game for the rest of the country than it normally is.

It's a massive local game, but there is more at stake for the neutrals who are worried about their own clubs and how they will do. It's important for the Premier League and it's the first time for a while that that's been the case.

Spurs work insanely hard and have really come along and it's really surprised people by the way they won at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. They have got a way of playing, especially away from home.

The thing about West Ham is that they are of the time in football terms. They have worked out how to play on the counter-attack - and people don't seem to want the ball any more.

Football goes in cycles. There are only two ways to play, with the ball and without the ball, and West Ham have worked out a way to beat teams without having the majority of possession against big teams.

It's an interesting dynamic because Spurs are happier without the ball too, so it's a game between two teams who don't want the ball! It should make for an intriguing game. They are both very modern teams and that's a credit to their managers.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Ham United.