Big Sam got the Hammers promoted, but has he done enough this summer to keep them in the Premier League?

It’s back at last! We’re back at last! The Hammers kick-off their first game back in the Premier League tomorrow in one of the most anticipated campaign openers in recent history.

We’re all still on a high following that famous Wembley victory over Blackpool in the Play-Off Final back in May and, as a new Premier League season dawns, a mixture of anxious feelings and excitement will see Upton Park bouncing on Saturday.

It has been a funny old pre-season, though. Several players were released as Big Sam began planning for top-flight football. The dead wood was let go and attempts to bring in new blood have been both frustrating and successful at the same time.

Eight players have joined the club this summer and all hope to make a big impact. The ones that stand out, though, are Modibo Maiga, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Alou Diarra and James Collins.

Collins returns to the club after spending the last three years at Aston Villa and it’ll be a dream second debut for him if he can help the Hammers get off to a great side against his former club.

We’re all hoping that Big Sam has brought in enough quality to survive in the Premier League, although he’s still got two weeks to add more if he feels he needs to.

On paper, the squad looks good enough to compete in the top-flight and it’s not too unrealistic to expect a mid-table finish. It’s vital that we stay in the division, though. Then the club can begin building for the future, which may or may not involve the Olympic Stadium.


Team News

West Ham United

Jussi Jaaskelainen, Stephen Henderson, Mohamed Diame, Alou Diarra, and Modibo Maiga will be hoping to make their debuts for the Hammers.

Jack Collison is expected to be out due to a long-term knee injury that has kept him out for the whole of pre-season.

Skipper Kevin Nolan is expected to feature despite missing the last pre-season match against SC Braga with a toe inujry.

Aston Villa

Matthew Lowton, Ron Vlaar, Karim El Ahmadi and Brett Holman are the players hoping to make their debuts for Villa.

There are no reported injury problems for Paul Lambert’s side.


The Match in Numbers

2012 – West Ham are currently unbeaten at home this year.

21 – The Hammers ended last season strongly, losing just once in their final 21 league outings – including their three Play-Off ties.

324 – Sam Allardyce is taking charge of his 324th Premier League match. Harry Redknapp (593) and Alan Curbishley (328) are the only Englishmen with more.

7 – Villa recorded just seven wins in the Premier League last season.

5 – The Villians haven’t won their last five away opening day Premier League fixtures. Their last was a 1-0 win over Newcastle in 1999.

150 – Darren Bent is two goals away from 150 league goals.

3 – Defender George McCartney could make his third debut for the Hammers, after making last season’s loan move permanent.

8 – Eight of the 16 Premier League matches at Upton Park between these two sides have been draws.


Head-to-Head (all competitions)

West Ham United – 37

Draws – 31

Aston Villa – 37