Aim high Hammers! Andy Gray
By Jamie Hunt
Last Updated: 25/01/11 7:11pm
After a great start Andy says sky is the limit for West Ham on their return to the top flight.
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If you consider all the plaudits that have fallen Wigan's way so far this season and how well they have done and what a fantastic job Paul Jewell has done, then look at the league table and you will find West Ham now above Wigan on the same points.
That tells you that although Jewell won six games in a row and that got them all the headlines, West Ham have done it the traditional way - winning a couple, losing a couple, winning one and drawing - and have just amassed the points gradually. That is a good way to go about it.
So with 25 points it is almost already a case of 'job done' in terms of their aims at the beginning of the season.
I have been very impressed with them. I have seen them a couple of times and, like Wigan, they have come up and they know they haven't got the best players, but they haven't tried to shut up shop and pinch games by nicking the odd goal. They have actually tried to go and play and tried to win games, particularly West Ham.
Occasionally when the other team is a little bit better than them, and plays well, they get done. But you would expect that, and you would accept that, if you were Alan Pardew and West Ham at the moment.
And Pardew is enjoying himself. You will get one or two games a year when you feel that is as well as you can play, like against Everton this week when he said West Ham gave them 'a footballing lesson'. That is not going to happen every time they walk on to the pitch so it needs to be savoured and enjoyed when it does happen.
Alan knows that there is a lot of hard work still to be done and they will have to dig in sometimes this season, but 25 points after 16 games is a fantastic return and it almost guarantees them Premiership football again next season.
What they have had, and where they have been lucky perhaps, is that different players have influenced different games.
Anton Ferdinand at the back has played well in games and he has been important for them. Yossi Benayoun has had some fantastic performances, as well as some ordinary ones, and with Etherington on the other side, the two wide players have been very important to them.
The wide players allow them to play two more controlled players in the middle - Nigel Reo-Coker, Mark Noble, Hayden Mullins who will dig in for them - and what they have done up front is mix it up.
When Marlon Harewood wasn't scoring, Teddy Sheringham tucked them away when he was in the team; and now Teddy has dropped out and Harewood gets a couple of goals. Then they stick Zamora in the team and low and behold he goes and gets three in three games.
So, I wouldn't say they have been lucky, but it has worked well for them. When players have needed to play well for them, they have done, and that has been important for them.
But they have not been about individual talent, they have been a team, and the old saying that there is no "I" in team suits West Ham pretty well. I like their ethics and the way they play, whoever they are playing they have a go at them, and that has brought them some success.
Now, if you don't aim high enough, you will always end up second best, so I think they will aim as high as they can get. They have got 25 points and we are not even half way through the season.
That would equate to being in the top seven or eight at the end of the season, should this run of form continue. And I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be aiming for that and they are definitely capable of finishing in the top ten.
If they achieve that it would be an unbelievable return for their first season back.
I thought of all the teams that came up, they were best equipped to cope. I haven't seen anything that changes my mind. I thought Sunderland would struggle, I wasn't sure about Wigan who I thought might struggle too, but if I was to have had a bet on which of the three would have finsihed highest, it would have been West Ham.