Royal Blue Mersey: First of all, what have you made to West Ham's season so far?
Iain Dale: Well it certainly looks better now than it did a month ago! It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster which wasn’t helped by the fact that we didn’t actually have any fit strikers for most of the first half of the season and we just couldn’t hit a barn door from five yards. Our defence has been our saviour. We have more clean sheets than any team in the league. Not something a West Ham fan would ever have expected to be able to say!
RBM: Have your seasons expectations changed? What were they and what are they now?
ID: We finished tenth last season and were looking to progress from that. Spending £15 million on Andy Carroll seemed to be evidence of the club’s ambition but unfortunately all our money was spent on him and Stewart Downing, when we really needed to buy another quality striker too. We paid the price. Having looked dead certs for relegation at Christmas, here we are in 10th place, seven points clear of the drop zone and with Southampton in our sights. They say a week is a long time in politics, but a month is a very short time in football.
RBM: From the outside looking in, it seems opinion is divided on Sam Allardyce - is he the right man for the Hammers or is it time for a change?
ID: At the beginning of January I felt the owners had to either commit to him or fire him. The truth is, they showed balls of steel in sticking with him. All the teams around us changed their managers, with the exception of Norwich, and I can’t say I would want to change places with any of them. Yes, our style of football is not like we’re used to at West Ham, but it’s effective. We actually do play with wingers, which is good to see. We are a much more physical team now and we can mix it with the best of them. Allardyce has done a good job generally. I did not want him to get the job, but I wouldn’t be among those calling for a change at the end of the season. He’s got a close dressing room and a good team spirit. They fight for each other and that is good to see.
RBM: A lot of West Ham's hopes seemed to have been pinned on Andy Carroll. He commanded a considerable sum from our loveable neighbours. Money well spent?
ID: The jury is still out on that one, but I’d like to think that if he stays fit between now and the end of the season I’d be able to give a definitive yes to that. He is an immense player and defenders genuinely have no idea how to play him. He wins virtually everything in the air and although he is not what you’d call prolific he has great ball control and brings others into the game and makes goals for his teammates. He is a very unselfish player and his telepathic understanding with Kevin Nolan is something to behold. I really believe he will come good and he should be travelling to Brazil in the summer.
RBM: Is it true Kevin Nolan likes his Christmas' off so gets booked or sent off on purpose?
ID: So it is said. He came very close to losing the captaincy over his ridiculous second sending off, but since then he has applied himself and scored five goals in the last month. Well, you can’t ask for much more than that, can you?
RBM: I do enjoy a trip to the Boleyn. It's one of my favourite away days. Are you for or against the Olympic Park move? Why?
ID: My hearts says stay and my head says go. Of course we all have a sentimental attachment to the Boleyn Ground but in the end who wouldn’t want to play in that fabulous stadium? If we are to progress as a club and challenge for Europe we have to have a bigger stadium. I truly believe we can fill it more often than not and it will mean ticket prices can hopefully come down. Anyone who has been to the Olympic Stadium knows what a special place it is, and although it will look very different to the 2012 layout I truly believe it will be one of the most impressive stadiums in the Premier League. The challenge will be to get the kind of atmosphere we can generate at a night game at the Boleyn.
RBM: What about Everton's season to date - what have you made of us and the job Roberto Martinez has done?
ID: I think Martinez is a great manager and you are very lucky to have him. I love his style of football and he seems to get the best out of some average players. I think Everton have overachieved given your squad and that is in part down to the manager. If we get even a point I will be happy as Everton are a bit of a bogey team for us of late. A win would mean 5 three pointers in a row, which is almost unheard of for us. Until this month we’d never won back to back matches under Allardyce.
RBM: Who are the players we need to look out for, and who are the players you will be trying to keep quiet come Saturday?
ID: The only way you’ll win is if you do what thirteen other teams have failed to do this season and get past James Collins and James Tomkins. They have been immense since Christmas and are keeping our player of the season up to Christmas, Winston Reid, out of the team. And even to get to them you have to break down Noble and Nolan. And if you get past the four of them, you then face Adrian, our new goalkeeper who ousted Jussi Jaaskelainen from the team just after Christmas. Until Southampton scored, he had kept four clean sheets in a row.
RBM: What formation and patterns of play can we expect from Big Sam?
ID: Sam will tell you he plays 4-3-3, but it’s more like 4-3-2-1. Adrian will be in goal with Demel and McCartney at full back, Collins and Tomkins in central defence. Then it’s Noble, Nolan and a resurgent Matt Taylor (or Diame – keep your thieving hands off him, by the way) with Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing on the wings. Up front Andy Carroll may return from his ridiculous three match ban, or the resurgent and in form Carlton Cole will deservedly retain his place.
RBM: Finally, give us a prediction for the game.
ID: If I am honest, I can’t see us getting more than a point, but you never know. I’ll go for 0-0.