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FAN FOCUS: Irons View Hammers Home The West Ham Perspective

How are West Ham feeling ahead of the clash with Sunderland? We asked the excellent Irons View guys to find out.

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How has ex-mackem Stewart Downing done this season? He seems to have re-discovered himself.

Pre-Christmas he was brilliant, he was one of the most creative players in the Premier League, and for some time he was neck and neck with Fabregas in scoring chances created/assists. Post-Christmas he hasn't been the same (much like our whole side!) plus injuries have meant him moving in and out of his favoured central role behind the strikers which saw him flourish early on in the season.

After a superb start to the season it would seem your form has dwindled recently. How do you see the rest of the season panning out?

Well, on paper Stoke, City and Everton are our only 'tough' games of our remaining nine. Though, we all know what the Premier League is like, and for a side who haven't won a League game since Jan 18th - no game is a gimme.

I would hope we can get back into challenging for a top eight finish, but we seem to have burnt out already. I'd love us just to get eight as that'd still be an achievement regardless of what 'could' have been.

Is finishing in a European place a realistic prospect this season?

Is it realistic? Yeah, of course it is, in that it's doable. However, right now, it's not. A win on Saturday could make it more realistic, as we need to pick up our form and hope Swansea and Stoke who have been consistently good all season drop theirs a tad. We're still top of the fair play league too, so could sneak in that way if England get that allocated extra place come the end of the season.

I was sceptical over the signing of Alex Song in the summer - how important has he been to West Ham this season? Do you expect him to play this weekend?

His importance cannot be understated, especially pre-Christmas. Post-Christmas though, as the team has struggled, he has become more and more of a worry and at times, a liability. His class is undeniable - however, his application at times is questionable. For a player who didn't have a pre-season, and has played every game he's fit (including player when ill AND unfit), you have to give him an element of slack. He was rightly dropped under the reasoning of a niggle, though, I'm sure it was more down to his very poor form of late.

He looked good against Arsenal, looking comfortable in possession again, but his insistence on trying to play the most difficult pass available to him punishes us often. As it did against Arsenal for their second goal when we were still in with a shout. I definitely expect him to stay, and if we can get on top early, I'd want to see him really dictate the play.

Sam Allardyce - an ex-player of ours from many moons ago - has been linked to the manager's job at Sunderland in the summer. I don't see it myself, I think we'll be going down a more continental route and Sam has been on record to say he isn't a fan of the Director of Football model employed by many teams these days. Do you think the end is nigh for him?

I'm not sure. Our owners have got pretty much everything right since they took us over, and I would go so far to say we've got one of the best home-based (i.e. not foreign owend) boards in the country.  The speculation of Sunderland being interested is neither here nor there, in the respect that our owners have always said contract talks won't happen during the season - but after the seasons end.

It's been reported by those with a bit of knowledge through the grapevine that the owners want to see us in the top 10 at least, and have a position in mind as to where we should finish, if Sam doesn't get that position it could push them into favouring getting rid of him.

I personally don't have a clue what I'd do. He won't get us relegated, but, can he really push us on anymore? We were right up there this season, but have faltered and then some post-Christmas, the players have been poor and as always escape the majority of the blame - but Sam - as manager should shoulder the majority of the blame there in my opinion.

Who are the real dangermen in your side that will be the difference makers on Saturday? We struggle against sides with pace in attack and I don't think a new manager coming in will change that.

In that case you'll be happy to of heard of Enner Valencia's ridiculous teacup injury! Diafra Sakho even when not playing well, or upfront on his own is a handful nonstop. Cheikhou Kouyate in midfield is an absolute powerhouse who can grab any game by the scruff of the neck. It would be interesting to see if any injuries clear up, as Sam gave Matt Jarvis his first start against Arsenal - as a player with pace and needing confidence, wouldn't this weekend be the 'ideal' opportunity for him?

On that note - what is your take on Sunderland removing Gus Poyet as head coach and replacing him with Dick Advocaat? Are you afraid that it might give us a huge boost ahead of the game?

I don't think Poyet was any good for you, for any period of time. His Cup run was very good, and was by and large very entertaining in the games it produced - but other than that, off the top of my head...there wasn't much else to write home about was there?

Mooost teams always receive a positive mental boost when a new manager comes in. Will your players? I don't know, as they could be feeling really down and out right now, but I can't say I've seen enough of them live/MOTD to comment on their body language and reactions in games. I honestly know absolutely nothing about Advocaat, but it's a no-lose situation for Sunderland.

It's only a short term deal, so whether relegated or not, there's the option to then review your situation and standing and go from there. So, in that respect, it's a smart move.

Who from Sunderland's side are you particularly wary of?

Most teams always encounter the odd ex-player scoring against them now and then, but at West Ham you can almost bet on it as a given that ANY ex-player will undeniably score when playing against us. So, with that in mind, Jermain Defoe.

How do you see the game going at the weekend?

I think you'll try to come out quick to try and stifle us and the crowd to give yourselves something to build on. If we can quash what I'm expecting to be an early storm from yourselves, then I'm confident we can turn our season around with a win.

Do you have a score prediction?

I'm going to go 3-1 to West Ham. Like I say, Defoe will score so that gives you an instant goal head start