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It's down to you and the players - 11/05/2003

After 37 Premiership games spanning 10 months of the year, it’s come down to the 90 minutes played today. Sam has been talking about the stress of it all, and I can’t help but sympathise with him. It’s not just that it’s so tight, but with such a great recent record – including a win against West Ham, I can hardly believe that it’s still possible we can go down.

Today’s game is so difficult to call. Boro haven’t had a good end to their season, but last weeks big win will have given them a boost. There’s no pressure on them and they can play good, open attacking football. When you look at the players they have, particularly Juninho, you’d be stupid to believe they’re not going to provide a tough challenge. I guess we’ll also see a certain Michael Ricketts in the Boro squad, he’s not going to get a great reception from the Reebok and I’m praying he’s not going to be the player to come off the bench and grab a last minute winner – can football be that cruel? Yes it can!!

Di Canio getting the winner against Chelsea was a fairy tail for West Ham, if Ricketts gets the winner today it'll be a nightmare for us! But we should be positive, we've got a great record at home and I genuinely believe we can get a win this afternoon. Let's not worry about West Ham, but focus on the job we have to do. We've also got class players, players who can turn a game, and players who can keep it tight at the back. Speaking of which, what an afternoon for Gudni, he's been a great servant to the club and today's match provides a massive platform for him to go out in a blaze of glory.

West Ham seem to have the backing of the nation, whether it’s their reputation for good football or the illness to Glen Roeder, I’m not sure. But although we deserve some backing – it’ll count for nothing! What will count is the atmosphere generated in the Reebok – and that’s down to you. If you can generate a hostile, noisy environment you’ll have done us a big favour. The players know what they have to do and they need the backing of the crowd – even if West Ham are getting a result at Birmingham. Once again there’ll be a sell out at the Reebok and this time it’s the biggest game of the season – bigger than the crucial game against West Ham a few weeks back. Lets make the home advantage count.

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