Enemy Lines - West Ham United

Bolton travel to West Ham United on Saturday and we have got the views of the opposition fans ahead of the game at the Boleyn Ground.

In a slightly different format this week, we catch up with a collection of Hammers fans from West Ham Online.

After an indifferent start to the season, we head to what seems to be one of our favoured grounds for the first away match of the season. Having avoided the so called 'New Manager Curse' last week we may come up against it again this week, after Avram Grant replaced Gianfranco Zola in the summer.

'Stewie Griffin' from West Ham Online tells us why he thinks this change was needed:
The change was absolutely necessary. Ignore the media hype, Gianfranco Zola last year achieved only 8 league wins - the worst season in our entire history - and had comfortably the worst record of any manager we've ever had.

The romantics would have liked him to do well as he seemed like a nice fella, but pragmatism has to prevail and he wasn't good enough. When the fact that he wasn't very good was coupled with a failure to strike up a relationship with the new owners, he had to go.

And how has his replacement gone down amongst fans, namely on this occasion, 'The Joker'?

A change of manager was needed but I am not altogether sold on Grant, seeing as he managed a team that were relegated (even without the points deduction) and had a good cup run. A good cup run does not make a good team or manager, IMHO.

So is his opinion one shared by other West Ham fans? Lets dive into the questions to find out.

Obviously you were one of a few clubs to have a managerial change during the summer, do you feel this was a necessary change and what have you made of Avram Grant so far?

LJC: I feel that Zola had to go, he simply wasn't up to it last year and a change was required. Grant was not my first choice but he certainly wasn't my last either. He along with G&S (David Gold & David Sullivan) have made all the right noises over the summer and I have been amused/impressed with some of the names they have chased over the summer.

Lee Trundle: Getting rid of Zola was a necessity as he was only taking us in one direction and that was down. It's too early to make an assessment of a manager, in Grant, who has had one competitive game in charge.

Pagey: It was definitely time for Zola to go as everything had gone sour and even the football being played was poor. I think most of us embraced the appointment of Grant - until last Saturday - and now we all want him out! Seriously, there's a long way to go and he has a good track record so we'll see what happens.

After a disappointing opening game, are there any particular areas of the team you feel need strengthening before the window shuts? How far have the players who have already signed gone to improving last season's team?

Stewie Griffin: How long have you got? Leaky defence, not enough goals, and a lack of pace throughout the team. Barrera looks exciting, Winston Reid didn't have a great debut, Hitzlsperger got injured in a meaningless international, and we've not seen the rest. Far too early to comment.

: >): We haven't really improved our first team, just mainly added squad fillers. Our defence needs sorting as it's all over the place and likely to leak plenty of goals again.

Deanooooo: We need a new right back, 2 new centre halves, new left back, new left winger, new right winger, attacking midfielder, two strikers and 14 back up players.

Last season you had a change of owners and at the time, opinion amongst West Ham fans seemed divided over Gold and Sullivan. What is your opinion of them now they're settled in the job?

The Joker: They have done great in stabilising the ship after doing their (well Sullivan's), very best to make a bad situation worse at the end of last season.

The treatment of Zola left a bad taste for me. He had to go but they should have had the balls to sack him rather than make his position untenable. Seemed cowardly and snide and I didn't like it.

But looking past that I am pleased that they have provided finances to keep us afloat and (so far) stop us having to sell our 'star' players (ok Scott Parker). But on the face of things it is nice to have some 'West Ham Men' in charge rather than faceless foreign investors.

Pagey: Aside from their insistence on talking to the press about everything, they seem to want only the very best for the club and only time will tell if this can be achieved. The main thing is that they are both West Ham fans and, finally, we might have owners who actually have the best interests of the club at heart.

LJC: I think so far they have done a good job and made all the right noises, but I do think it is still too early to tell. My opinion is that is seems like they are trying their hardest to push the club in the right direction and I back them 100% on that. On the flip side, I wish they would stay out of the papers for a bit and stop giving Spurs the heads up on potential targets.

The last few seasons have perhaps seen your club underachieve, do you expect that to change this year or are you expecting more of the same at the bottom end of the table?

Lee Trundle: I'm hoping for an improvement on last season. This won't be good enough for some sets of supporters that think we have a divine right to beat everyone every game. I'd be happy with a 12th place finish, but I'd content at finishing 16th and staying away from the relegation fight.

Ace of Spades: More of the same, this is a consolidation season for me. If we can get 10th, brilliant.

Pagey: I think we were all looking for a comfortable mid-table finish before the season began. After the Villa game, it could well be a season of struggle unless we sort things out. We have some tough games coming up and it will depend on how we're looking after around 10 games. I expect us, over the next five years, to slowly build into a strong side who are regularly competing for a top 8 finish.

Bolton are another team that have been stuck at the bottom end the league for a few years now. Do you think we now have what it takes to push back up the table under Coyle?

Stewie Griffin: I like Owen Coyle, a lot. My fear would be that he tried to get you playing too much football, rather than playing to your strengths. Saying that, you played us off the park at our place last season, so it might come off for you, but I can't see you pushing on beyond mid-table, if I'm honest, the top 8 are too far clear nowadays.

hoatzin101: You have a few very talented players such as Lee Chung-Yong, Martin Petrov, Matt Taylor and Gary Cahill. Bolton seem to be a much more creative team than they were with Big Sam. I expect a bright future for you guys.

LJC: No. As much as I hate fat face and his style of play, it just seemed more effective than Coyle's. That said, I like what he is trying to do and should be given time.

Which player is going to be important for you if you're going to get all three points on Saturday?

Pagey: We need Parker to control the midfield and Cole to get on the scoresheet. A clean sheet would be nice but there's more chance of Derek Bird winning 'Cabbie of the Year 2010'.

Stewie Griffin: Scott Parker is the obvious answer. But I'll go Matthew Upson and whoever partners him at centre back. How they deal with Davies will be critical to the outcome of the game.

The Joker: Upson and whoever partners him. Davies always causes us problems and he needs to be well marshalled. The lack of security our back 4 have given over the last season has simply increased the pressure on the strikers and midfield. Over the last season it has felt like we have needed to score 3 goals to win a match (and didn't even manage that at Hull!).

Ace of Spades: Cole, he's our goal scorer, on his day he is unstoppable.

Kevin Davies has been known to cause you problems in recent seasons, do you think he'll have the same effect this weekend or is there a different player you think will need to be watched?

LJC: I don't think Davies is the problem. It's our defence being unable to defend. If Upson decides to play then we will be ok.

Mr Kenzo: Yes i do, Elmander is the other player that can cause us an aerial threat so needs to be kept under wraps.

Pagey: Kevin Davies will definitely score against us. Even if we signed him, he would probably score an own goal on his debut. He's one of the most underrated players in the league to be fair. If we can keep him quiet, half the battle is won already.

Joey Woodwork: Petrov has raped us a few times when at Man City and has always looked a decent player if the injuries haven't taken their toll.

And finally, a prediction? Can you finally get one over on what appears to be your bogey team or will we be leaving Upton with 3 points again?

Pagey: I predicted us to win this fixture last season and we got spanked. Therefore I'll go for a 3-0 Bolton win.

Stewie Griffin: 3-1 to us, sorry. Nothing to do with your mob, but I expect a reaction after last week. 1st home game, new manager etc.

Ace of Spades: The final score, it depends on which West Ham show up? If Cole is quiet then you will win.

The Joker: I think it'll be a 1-1 draw with us falling behind early on before scrambling a late equaliser.

Deanooooo: You will probably leave with 6 points, via the courts or some unknown technicality.

Burnden Aces would like to thank everybody at West Ham Online for their contributions. You can view more answers to our questions here.

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