West Ham turn focus to Championship

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The Independent Online

Caretaker manager Kevin Keen admitted West Ham must learn to adapt quickly to the rigours of the npower Championship if they are to stand any chance of bouncing back to the Barclays Premier League at the first attempt.

The Hammers went down with a whimper yesterday after losing their final game of the season 3-0 against Sunderland.

A summer clearout is expected at Upton Park regardless of who is appointed as Avram Grant's successor, meaning it is essential the club makes the right moves in the transfer market before the window closes.

Keen, who refused to give up hope of being handed the reins full-time, said: "It will be a tough, tough season in the Championship.

"It's more physical than the Premier League - but not as much as it used to be - and there are more games.

"We have fantastic young players here and if we can keep hold of them, we have a fantastic base to build from and we can play the kind of football our fans believe in."

Keen was realistic about his chances of leading that revival, saying: "If I'm up against Martin O'Neill, Steve McClaren, Sam Allardyce, Neil Warnock, then it's going to be a tough ask.

"Because those boys have got a lot of experience, they've got a better record than my losses of two and wins of nil in the Premier League.

"So, it's up to the owners.

"I'm sure whichever way they go, they'll make the right decision."

And despite fluffing his audition for the job, the former West Ham winger insisted he was up to the challenge.

He said: "Some people say I'm too nice to manage. Always a nice boy, played football in a nice way."

Asked if he could be nasty as well, he added: "Yes, I effing can. Spread the word.

"I love the club. I played for them for nine years. It's in my blood.

"I feel I can really take the club on and contribute. If you ask the players if they want me to take the job, I think you'd get an affirmative answer from the majority of the players."

In stark contrast to West Ham, Sunderland ended the season on a real high, putting a miserable three months behind them to snatch a top-10 spot.

Perhaps more importantly, they finished above north-east rivals Newcastle, who blew a 3-0 lead to draw with West Brom.

Manager Steve Bruce knows all about relegation, having suffered it with Birmingham while West Ham's current owners David Gold and David Sullivan were at the helm.

His advice to his former bosses was: "You have to have a manager who has been there and done it.

"And you have to get rid of the players that will not stay.

"But you have to be careful that you don't strip it - that you have enough to get that balance right."

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