How are things looks on the injury front?
We are not going to have Declan [Rice] back and we are not going to have Micky Antonio. Like many other clubs, we have bumps and bruises this time of year and it is beginning to take its toll on a lot of clubs. I actually think it is since players have come back from international duty that there is a heavy injury schedule for many clubs you can see that through the league but hopefully we will be as good as we can be.
How would you rate Cresswell’s chances?
Well, we will make a decision on him today so we will see hopefully. He is a doubt but hopefully, he will be okay.
Do you feel you have the strength and depth in the squad to cope with this run-in with key players missing?
Who knows? We did not expect to be in this position but who knows? It is the same for everybody, Liverpool lose a couple of players and it makes it difficult for them and it is no different for West Ham, we lose a couple of players and it can be difficult for us as well.
Any time frame on Declan Rice and Michail Antonio?
No, we are not putting any time frame on it but I would be hopeful they can both make a contribution before the end of the season that is for sure.
If somebody had told you you would be in the position you are now with seven games remaining what would you say?
I certainly would not have believed them because it is a really strong division at the moment and it has been a strange year, it feels as if we have been going for about 18 months continuously and some of the clubs have. We had a little bit of a chance to have a break in the summer and have a little pre-season training which others didn’t which might have put us in better physical condition at the start but if anything we have been kicking on the second half of the season and our results have been improving. If we can keep that going then who knows, but obviously we are in a far better position than most people would have expected.
Everybody seems to have expected you to fall off but you haven’t and when you look at the run-in it is in your hands.
I feel as if we have to try and win our games and if we do that then we give ourselves a chance when you are ahead in the table of Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham for example, Everton, Arsenal it would be very difficult to say it is in our hands because you are talking about incredible teams with strong squads who have spent a lot of money. It will be hard but we keep going and take one game at a time at the moment and see where we end up.
Yesterday the PFA called on the concussion substitutions to be temporary rather than permanent, what do you make of that and do you think players would be more willing to come off if they have a head knock than currently?
The most important thing at the moment is player welfare and we get the concussion situation sorted out correctly, I think we are now taking it more seriously or trying to find out if there is any connection between concussion and dementia in football players. I couldn’t give you an exact answer on whether it would help if it is a substitution that you bring on and then take them back off again but I think what we have tried to do is to do something about it by having concussion substitutions but whether it is the right way around we have got it I am not sure. But most important is the player’s welfare and we have to try and keep that at the forefront of our mind.
How difficult a game are you expecting against Newcastle give how much is on the line for them at the moment?
A really difficult game but I don’t think we would go to any club in the league and not say it would be a difficult game, but they will also see it as a difficult game as well. There has been very little between a lot of the teams, you can see that there is not much between a lot of the result and a lot of the games have not gone maybe to plan as people expected. It has been an interesting season and Newcastle is a tough game and always has been.
Do you think the scrutiny on Steve Bruce has been fair?
I think Steve has done a good job, he has done what he has been asked. I have to say I think he has had really good support from his owner in difficult times and I think because of that you will probably see Newcastle stay in the Premier League when many people thought there should be changes. The owner gets criticised a lot for the decisions but maybe the owner has made the right decision.
A win on Saturday means you are guaranteed to be above Chelsea when you face them next week, how big a psychological advantage could that be for your team?
I don’t see it being that big, to be honest, because I see the situation as us trying to win whoever we are playing against. We are not sitting here thinking about Chelsea or Liverpool or any of the other teams, all we can do is try and play our games as we have done. The position we are in is terrific but there are an awful lot of good teams behind us and we can only take this game against Newcastle for what it is, try and pick up the points and we will worry about Chelsea when it comes around.
What are your comments on Jonjo Shelvey saying that West Ham’s squad on paper is not better than Newcastle’s?
I have not seen his comments but I think Newcastle have a good squad, they have good players and a good team but I have not seen them so I can only say what I have seen that Newcastle have good players and a good squad. It will be a tough game for us.
Are they the type of comments you put on the dressing room wall as an inspiration to your team or do your team not need any inspiration at all with the position you are in?
I don’t think they do. What you have to do to show you have a good team is to show consistency and what we have had is a level of consistency throughout the year and we will try and build on that if we can. But Newcastle have good players and have a good squad so I have no problem with that at all.
Coming towards the home stretch now, apart from Chelsea and Everton all the other games look relatively straight forward are you now going to admit if you didn’t make the Champions League you would be really disappointed with the season you have had?
I would never admit that! But would I be disappointed? Of course I would be disappointed, we are going to try and make it but I don’t think we have ever tried to play anything down. We have tried to be realistic and say look at the quality of the teams around us, we are competing really well with them. We are going to try and keep putting on shows and pull out results as much as we can but I am also not going to tell the players there is an expectation that they should make the Champions League because that would be completely unfair on a squad of players that people probably put them just outside the bottom three or four. So now to change and say we should be disappointed not to make the Champions League I would say no we won’t be disappointed but I think deep down if I don’t keep pushing those teams hard I would be disappointed and that’s what I want to do. I want to take it as long as we can and right to the end and let’s see where we end up.
Do you feel you have proved yourself to any doubter that you had?
No because I need to prove myself again next year as well. I think in the football world we are in, managers are not proving themselves. I am seeing some of the manager’s in the league at the moment who have stacks of winner’s medals, stacks of Champion’s League medals who are being questioned and I am thinking ‘my goodness this will be tough for everybody’ so it will certainly be tough for David Moyes but I think all you can do is try and build something here. We believe we are just at the start of it and it will never always go in a straight line and always upwards so we have to try and ride the bumps and hope when they do come we can carry them and we don’t get too carried away but overall we have had a really good season and we are getting close to having a great season.
Has Declan Rice taken part in any training yet?
Declan is training really well but it is all gym-based at the moment. He is working really hard in the gym because he wants to get back as quick as he can – he knows he’s got the Euros in the summer as well. For any club to lose Declan Rice would be a big blow, but we’ve been able to carry it and I hope we can continue to do so.
Has your perspective [on Europe] changed after the Leicester win?
We went fourth for the first time at the back end of January or February, we’ve dropped in and out and I think this is the third time this season we’ve gone fourth. When you’re beginning to touch it once or twice regularly then you begin to think, ‘maybe we can do that’. Have we hung in there? Yeah we have. But we’ve not shaken any teams off. We’ve got a little bit closer to Leicester, but we know breathing down our necks are Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton and Arsenal. All teams that could catch us on the points front. We’re well aware of that but I don’t know what else we could do but turn up and play the next game, try and win it. We’ve got seven to go. I’ve got my targets, the players know what they need to do. We’re not in any way stepping back from it, we’re going harder to make it happen. I’m not going to load the players with loads of pressure because there is a chance of being in the Champions League. I’ve just said to the staff this morning that you don’t get many opportunities to do this. We have to take every opportunity we can to get around the Champions League and be in it. If we can do it we will, but it is a long, long shot for us. I can’t see the bookies making us favourites to be in the top four.