After a fine start to the season West Ham began 2015 in seventh place and looked well set to compete for a European place, why do you think that challenge for a top six spot has faded?
A culminaton of things really, there's no hiding that we had overachieved in the pre-Christmas fixtures - but, there was a feeling that even if we faded away, we'd still be playing well enough to maintain the much more realistic finish of top 8, maybe even, top 6. Also, injuries at bad times - Sakho, Valencia, Kouyate, Song, Carroll, Reid, Tomkins, Noble, Nolan, etc have all been injured at some point this season. We simply don't have the strength in depth in the squad to be able to cope with the injuries, whilst having the numbers there, the quality, just isn't.
I wrote an article when our bad run in this calender year started, stating we'd have been better off if Sakho's season had been ended due to injury (little did I know this would soon be the case anyway...!) and that we'd have been better off with Carroll fit. This was because, not only was Carroll playing some of the best football he has ever played, but, he is also much more suited to how our football has become for most of this calender year because of the poor form we find ourselves in. But, hindsight is a beautiful thing etcetc.
There are a lot of rumours about the future of Sam Allardyce, what are your thoughts on the manager and do you want to see a change over the summer? And if so, who do you want to come in?
Year 1; "Get us promoted at first time of asking" - He delivered.
Year 2; "Just make sure we stay up" - He delivered, plus we finished 10th
Year 3; "Maintain were we are and push on" - He failed, our first season up was much more successful in terms of league positioning.
Year 4; "Excite the fans more, build the squad with talent and push us on" - First half of the season he delivered. Second half has been abysmal.
It's hard to say he has been a failure, when he has delivered on more things that have been asked of him, than those he has failed to meet. I think it's now got to the stage, whether it be fortunate/unfortunate, that his position is untenable - rumours are now rife that Sam himself will turn down a new contract, and to be honest, you can't blame him for wanting to walk away. Especially, considering some of the stick he gets consistently, even when we are playing well and winning.
It's tough to say, as although we have a chap who gets fed information from people within the club, the season isn't over. No official moves can be made yet, the two main candidates though are Benitez and Moyes. Both of whom, I feel would be much better than Allardyce. My personal choice has always been Benitez though.
What else does West Ham need to do over the summer to improve on this season?
To be honest, it will be just building the squad depth in terms of quality. A lot of our best players have already been offered new bumper contracts to fend off interest, but first and foremost we need to tie down Jenkinson on a permanent contract as he has been a revelation for us. Also, some better attack minded midfielders. We've still got Lassana Diarra training with us, as he couldn't sign in January, so that'll be a good replacement for Song if he does - as expected - leave at the end of his loan.
Depending on who of us can jump out of the most tackles on Saturday, we'll also have to look to do our business quickly if we do trump you in the Fair Play Table, as we don't want to be left short, and end up humiliating ourselves again in Europe.
The Fair Play League is offering an unlikely route into Europe for West Ham and Everton – do you want the Hammers to qualify for the Europa League if it means starting your season in July?
Yeah, of course. I know the stigma attached to the Europa League, but, it's a bit indictive of how the Premier League is that top teams from other countries take it so seriously, whilst teams lesser than them bemoan the fact they have to play in a 'lesser' competition. I think that says more about the state of mind of the Premier League as a collective group though. I'm sure your fans have thoroughly enjoyed your trials in Europe recently, so, yeah!
The early start to the season would only be a worry if, like I touched on previously, we didn't get the majority of our transfer business done early.
Injuries mean a number of your strikers will be absent on Saturday, so who is likely to be West Ham’s greatest attacking threat?
Well, our only fit strikers are Carlton Cole and Enner Valencia. Carlton Cole, as much as I love him, is not the calibre of player I want to see starting games; it only serves to frustrate me even more that he could well start due to injuries to both Carroll and Sakho.
We've been playing around with the formation a bit recently, but they've all included Valencia as the main striker, Nene has recently been getting more and more game time, so it would be good to finally see him start a game up top alongside Valencia, or in his preferred role, just behind him as a second striker.
Next year will be West Ham’s last at Upton Park before the move to the Olympic Stadium. What are your thoughts about the move?
Mortified! I love Upton Park. But, saying that, I think the move is for the best, I like everything I've seen and heard about the stadium - and it will undoubtedly help to push us along as a club. I understand those who are against it, but it seems most of the reasoning is normally to do with sentiment, which is totally understandable.
And finally what’s your prediction for the game?
Either, it'll be the most gentlemanly draw ever; handshakes, apologies, smiles, letting players go past you, etc OR, it'll be an absolute dive-fest. "Remember lads, all we need to do is make sure they get more cards than us. You know what to do"
You can bet your house, your kids, your partner absolutely everything of value you own, that Lukaku will score. So we'll need to score at least two...and we struggle to score one recently. So an optimistic (jesus, it's not optimistic at all!!!) 1-1.