Fan Focus: Irons In The Fire... -ing Line

Richard Heathcote

Ahead of each game we speak to someone associated to the opposition to get their take on things. So this week being no different to any other, we talked to LBC Drivetime presenter and editor of West Ham Til I Die, Iain Dale.

Looking at the table, your season seems to have not been a great deal better than ours... or am I grossly mistaken? How's the season been so far in your eyes?

Iain Dale: It started very well, but it was always going to be difficult when we haven't had a single striker fit. How you can expect to play in the Premier League without a striker is beyond most of us. Beating Spurs 3-0 in a 4-6-0 formation gave us all false hope. Since then things have taken a disastrous turn.

Is there any pressure mounting on Sam Allardyce from within the fans at all, and would you get rid or stick with him?

ID: I didn't want Sam appointed in the first place, but to be fair to him he turned the club around and enabled us to play as a unit and in different ways. Our ‘soft touch' reputation has disappeared and we can mix it with the best of them. Of course there are voices who are demanding he is sacked, but who is the alternative? Paolo di Canio? I think not. I see no point in changing, but he needs to sign a top class striker in January.

Soon the club will be leaving the famous Upton Park to relocate to the Olympic Stadium. Does it sting somewhat or can't you wait to move as it's really one of the last ‘proper' football grounds in the top flight?

ID: My heart wants to stay at Upton Park but my head says it's the right move for the club if we want to move onto the next stage in our development. It's wrench as Upton Park has a lot of history, but there's no point in being a Luddite about it. Would Sunderland fans really want to go back to Roker Park? I doubt it very much.

West Ham seem quite desperate for a striker in the January transfer window. Is there anyone in particular you think the club should have their eye on?

ID: We missed out on Bony when we could have signed him at the end of last season. I think Demba Ba or Jermain Defoe are two of the most likely targets - both ex Hammers. But Sam never plays two up front, so would any of them want to play second fiddle to Andy Carroll when he is fit (if he is fit!)? That's the big question. Jordan Rhodes would be another option.

What do you make of Sunderland's season so far, and we're we right to get rid of a former fans favorite down there, Paolo Di Canio?

ID: I do think Paolo can make it as a manager but I was bemused by what happened at Sunderland. I think he went in and rubbed too many people up the wrong way right from the outset. He did a fantastic job at Swindon but maybe Sunderland was too big a job for him at that stage in his managerial career. We still regard him as a demi-God but it gave many people who fancied him as West Ham manager a lot of pause for thought. Maybe as a number two!

Ahead to our game, how do you see the Hammers lining up without our arch-nemesis in recent years, Kevin Nolan?

ID: Nolan has had a shocker of a season. He has only scored once, whereas at this time last season he had 5 or 6. He has been a good captain but too often he coasts on the pitch. His likely replacement is Jack Collison.

Where do you see this one being won and lost? Which weaknesses can Sunderland take advantage of and where do you see West Ham having the upper hand?

ID: Sunderland have more proven goalscorers on the pitch than us. We only have Carlton Cole and Modibo Maiga to choose from. Cole has scored one goal this season but Maiga has yet to score. However, in the last two games he has looked sharper. My guess is that this will be won in midfield. We have yet another injury with Stewart Downing out for ten weeks, and he has been our best player in the last couple of games. Joe Cole will replace him, I imagine.

May I trouble you for a prediction for this one...

We have played quite well at Upton Park this season, even when we have lost. I do think we might just scrape this, but you can tell I am not at all confident! 2-1.

BONUS QUESTION: Are both our teams staying up this season?

ID: Back in 2003 people said West Ham were too good to go down, when we had Carrick, Defoe, Sinclair, David James and Joe Cole in our team. But we did go down. You look at the quality players in our team and scratch your head looking at our league position. I really don't think we will go down, but you never know. As for Sunderland, I think Gus Poyet is a good manager and if anyone can rescue you, he can. I think Fulham and Crystal Palace will go down. The third place will be between 7 or 8 teams. See how I am avoiding answering the question?

Some sterling work there from Iain, and you can read more updates from him and his team on a daily basis over at the excellent West Ham Til I Die site. You can catch up with him personally on Twitter too @IainDale

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