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Fan Focus: Hammering Things Out With LBC's Iain Dale

For this week's installment of Fan Focus we speak to Iain Dale, broadcaster for LBC and top West Ham writer for West Ham Til I Die.

It wasn't too long ago that this game would have been billed as (yet another) "six-pointer" but West Ham have pulled themselves away from the relegation battle now. To what do you attribute getting yourselves out of it?

Iain Dale: In part it was down to the return to goalscoring form of Kevin Nolan in February, when he scored 5 goals, with Carlton Cole getting in the goals as well.

Our defence has been great this season. We have more clean sheets than any other team, but because we had no striker for four months when Andy Carroll was injured we just couldn't hit a barn door and suffered as a consequence.

In February we won four games in a row.Without that little spurt we'd still be deep in the mire.

Some quarters are talking about Andy Carroll for England again. Is he really in such good form or is it just he's English and fit again?

ID: Andy Carroll gives any team something no other player can do. I wouldn't say he is in England form at the moment, but if I were Roy Hodgson I'd take him to the World Cup because he is very difficult to play against. He wins everything in the air and holds the ball up better than anyone else.

He's never going to be prolific. We play him on his own up front, but partnered with Rooney or Defoe, I think he'd come into his own.

West Ham made what looked like impressive signings in January with the likes of Nocerino, Armero and Borriello but we've not seen a great deal of them. What are they like and what seems to be the problem?

ID: They have barely played. Armero hasn't appeared at all yet we are told he has really impressed in training. Borriello has played a couple of sub appearances but is now out injured and Nocerino hasn't really done an awful lot in the games he has played in. None of them will start on Monday.

We've touched on him before, but the Carroll-Nolan tandem has constantly given us problems down the years. Will this be the main point of attack for the Hammers this weekend?

ID: Yes. They are a proven partnership and Nolan looked lost without Carroll up until Christmas. But his five goals in February largely came in games Carroll was suspended in. But they do have some sort of telepathy, it is true. My bet is that one or other of them will get a goal against you!

Do you think Sunderland can get away from the relegation zone or on what you've seen so far, are we doomed?

ID: I think Poyet has done wonders in many ways, but I do think you need to but three wins together back to back to escape. I just think you have too many average players in your squad, together with the odd gem.

What has happened to Fletcher this season? Johnson seems to play well when he wants to, but can't be bothered on other occasions.

I think you have a 50-50 chance of survival and in some ways I hope you do stay up as I'd like West Brom to go down with Cardiff and Fulham, who I think are the two dead certs.

Aside from the glaringly obvious in Carroll and Nolan, who else is in good form and could cause us significant problems?

ID: Mark Noble has had a great season. He's Mr Consistent and has taken on Scott Parker's role of running the midfield. Stifle him, and you stop the supply to the wings.

Stewart Downing isn't playing badly and you need to stop him whipping in crosses for Carroll to knock down for Nolan.

Collins and Tomkins are playing so well in defence that they are keeping out our player of the season Winston Reid. So they must be doing something right.

Finally, what's your prediction for the game?

ID: The Stadium of Light used to be a bad place for us to visit, but I really fancy us to turn you over, or at least get a point on Monday. Carroll or Nolan to score. Which means that they won't.

Thanks once again to Iain for answering our questions. Check out West Ham Til I Die for further chat ahead of the game, and also follow Iain on Twitter @IainDale

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