Tony Cottee Column: West Ham can finish in the top 10

“Outside the top seven teams, there are plenty of clubs that can talk about getting into the top half”

James Collins said that West Ham can realistically chase a top-10 finish in their first campaign back in the Premier League – and I make him right.

I know some people will think we’re getting carried away after just a one-goal victory against Aston Villa on Saturday.

But let’s be realistic – James didn’t say the Hammers were going to challenge for a European place, simply a top-half place and that includes eighth, ninth and tenth positions, which I think are attainable.

Outside the top seven teams, there are plenty of clubs that can talk about getting into the top half of the table and West Ham are one of them.

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James is quite right to say that is what we should be aiming for and I’d much rather hear that than that they would be happy just to avoid relegation.

The Hammers finished ninth under Alan Pardew in 2006 after getting promoted via the play-offs, so I certainly wouldn’t say it was an impossible task.

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Collins performed so well against Villa on his second debut for the club that it was as if he’d never been away.

To be honest, I don’t think he should have left West Ham in the first place.

Finances dictated that he had to go in 2009, but I was disappointed because we struggled to replace him.

I’m delighted that James has returned to the club because he’s a good central defender and a great lad.

Hopefully we can get James Tomkins in the team as well and the pair of them can develop a really good partnership together.

I’ve got to say that I think the win against Villa was a fantastic result.

It wasn’t necessarily the most exciting game in the world but it was so important for the team to get a first win under their belts.

You don’t want to be in a situation whereby you’ve played three, four or five games and still looking for victory.

It puts everybody under so much pressure, whereas a first-day win serves as a massive confidence booster.

Villa didn’t have a good time last season but it was always going to be a very difficult match for us.

People might say it was a good time to play them because it was Paul Lambert’s first game as Villa boss, but I think that only made it tougher for West Ham.

If anything, players are trying even harder to impress their new manager, so I don’t think that helped West Ham at all.

Obviously, Villa’s players weren’t happy to see Kevin Nolan’s goal stand after the linesman raised his flag for offside, but the referee was spot on in giving it.

Mike Dean can be appear a bit over-officious at times, but I like him and think he’s one of the better referees in the Premier League.

He was very certain about the Villa defender heading the ball on and quickly made it clear what had happened.

I think many refs would have simply trusted the linesman’s word, so let’s give Mike some credit for getting it right.

West Ham face a difficult first away game of the season when they head to Swansea on Saturday.

Swansea played some wonderful football last season and appear to have hit the ground running under new boss Michael Laudrup with their 5-0 win at QPR.

I’d like to see us squeeze up as a team and put pressure on Swansea rather than sitting back – and then hopefully they’ll come home with a result.

There’s been a lot of talk about West Ham’s style of football under manager Sam Allardyce.

But in the situation we are at the moment, we need to get the result first.

Would West Ham fans have preferred to see us play dazzling football against Villa and lose 5-4 or be solid and win 1-0?

To be fair to Sam, I thought we did play some good stuff last season – and I’m sure we will this term.

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