West Ham: Big Sam's nerves

By Giles Broadbent on August 17, 2012 10:28 AM |

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With six new summer signings, including the highly rated France international Alou Diarra, a start in front of a sell-out Boleyn Ground crowd and a pleasing pre-season draw against Champions League opposition, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is well placed ahead of Saturday's Premier League opener.

But Big Sam is nervous. He knows his team has to gel, that the pre-season run wasn't brilliant and Aston Villa, rejuvenated under a new boss, could spoil the party.

He said: "I'm always slightly nervous, apprehensive and not too sure what we're going to be like against Premier League opposition.

"If we're at our best we can do very well but the bottom line is we've got to be at our best every game. We cannot afford a dip or a slip up.

"In the Championship last season we could have been at 80 per cent and still won a game.

"We'll have to be 100 per cent every game to win in the Premier League but I'm really looking forward to getting started."

With a bid for Andy Carroll failing, the big summer signing came late, with 31-year-old Diarra only available for two training sessions but Allardyce is reassured by his experience at the top level.

"He's a class player with a huge amount of experience at international and Champions League level and at the top of the league in France.

"His game ratio is outstanding and his fitness is looking good and he flew through the medical.

"This lad is available to play every week. He'll bring an awful lot to our team and we're looking forward to settling him in and seeing what he can do."

Diarra said: "I know a lot about the club. I hope to show the fans I give everything in each game and try to do my best for the team. I am looking forward to playing for them in the Premier League this season."

Fellow midfielder and newcomer Momo Diame also caught the manager's eye pre-season.

"He's a talented player and he will grow with us and get better and better with us. He has that bit of quality you need when you go into the Premier League. His passing, his closing down and his tackling and getting forward all look very positive."

Confidence among the squad will be have been boosted by the 1-1 draw with UEFA Champions League qualifiers SC Braga on Friday evening.

"It will be a special moment. Particularly with the game being at home in the Boleyn Ground, it's important we get off to a positive start.

"The performance against Braga is more like what you want to achieve going back into the Premier League."

STADIUM DREAM

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce has said that a move into the Olympic Stadium would be a "dream come true".

As the club prepares for its first season back in the Premier League, Allardyce said the prospect of a move to Stratford, scene of Team GB's golden triumphs, would be an inspiration.

West Ham is in contention with a number of other bidders to take over the athletics arena and a decision is likely later this year.

Allardyce said: "It would be a dream come true. Everyone who is a part of West Ham United knows how much it would benefit the club if we were offered the chance.

"We've all seen the atmosphere, the surroundings, the walk up and it would take this club to another level if our bid is accepted."

Big Sam is an avid follower of all sport and has been inspired by Team GB's efforts, in particular cyclist Bradley Wiggins and rower Mark Hunter.

He said: "The Bradley Wiggins story is a great one. You can physically see the difference between this Tour de France and the previous one.

"He managed to lose three or four kilos so his body could stand the endurance at a lighter weight on the mountain climbs of the tour.

"That takes huge dedication and is the kind of commitment our lads need to show in order to gain that extra advantage."