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Neill keen to see Hammers as contenders

PUBLISHED: 18:02 26 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:23 05 October 2010

By JONATHAN CLEGG LUCAS Neill believes West Ham have a golden opportunity to establish themselves as top-six contenders in the opening weeks of the new Premier League season. The Hammers were handed a gentle start to the new campaign following the relea

By JONATHAN CLEGG

LUCAS Neill believes West Ham have a golden opportunity to establish themselves as top-six contenders in the opening weeks of the new Premier League

season.

The Hammers were handed a gentle start to the new campaign following the release of the fixture list last week and do not face top-four opposition in their first eight matches.

Instead West Ham kick-off the season with a string of winnable games against strugglers Wigan Athletic, Fulham, Bolton Wanderers and newly promoted sides West Bromwich Albion and Hull City.

And Neill is confident that the club can make a strong start to the new campaign by underlining their credentials as a top-six side - beginning with an opening day win over Wigan at Upton Park.

"It is early to say but looking at the first eight games we are confident with the squad we have that we can get off to a good start," said Neill.

"It is good to be starting at home as it should mean we get off to a positive start and state our intentions for the season.

"There are obviously two newly promoted teams who will also be finding their feet and Fulham, Bolton and Wigan all finished at the wrong end of the table last season so on paper it does look like we could start very well."

The West Ham captain is also convinced that the publication of the league schedule will help the club consign last season's injury crisis to the past and allow his Hammers team-mates to concentrate on improving on last season's tenth-place finish.

He said: "When the fixtures come out it gives you something to focus on straight away and you switch your mentality from being on a break and recovering from last season to preparing and getting fit and ready for the new season.

"Another thing it does is give everyone the chance to draw a line under last season and the injury problems we had.

"The injured players and physios have been working very hard over the summer to get everyone back for pre-season.

"It looks like the manager will have a near on fully-fit squad to choose from for the Wigan game, which is a very exciting prospect as I can really see this squad reaching its full potential this season.


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