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Survival race jogs memory - 27/01/2003

The battle for survival at the bottom of the Premiership is jogging a few memories of last season. We found ourselves in that very position this time last year. We know how tough it is. West Ham United and Bolton Wanderers both lost in midweek, and the pressure is sure to be building on those teams scrapping to stay up. It is a surprise to see West Ham struggling so much, given the quality of players that they have in their squad. They have recently added Lee Bowyer and Les Ferdinand, an old mate of mine from my Newcastle United days, and are clearly giving it a real go. Those two will certainly help, but first West Ham must stop conceding goals. They were beaten 4-2 by Charlton Athletic at The Valley on Wednesday and could do with a couple of goalless draws or something to steady the ship. That would help breed confidence, particularly from a defensive point-of-view. If they can do that, then they certainly have players with the ability to string together a few wins. It is looking like three from the bottom four of West Ham, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Bolton will go down. Birmingham City have to be careful not to get sucked in. It would surprise me if they did.

There were six or seven clubs involved with us in the battle for survival last season. Ipswich Town put together a great run of results but, because they were so far behind earlier in the season, it still didnít lift them totally clear of trouble. They eventually went down with Leicester City and us. We had two big wins at Leicester and Bolton, and yet were still very much in trouble. It is extremely difficult to win three or four games on the bounce in the Premiership but, if any of the teams near the bottom can, I think it is West Ham. Itís now all about who can hold their nerve and collect the necessary points. It could be that 35 points will keep you in the Premiership this season. The pressure certainly increases as each game passes. As much as you try to play that down as a player, you know that youíre running out of time. Opponents also know that you are under pressure and are looking to capitalise. Itís going to be interesting to watch how it unfolds.

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