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Dave Evans, West Ham Correspondent
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Hammers new keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen insists that he is not guaranteed a starting spot for West Ham this season
When goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen signed on the dotted line for the Hammers earlier this summer, the assumption was that he would be automatic choice to be the number one as West Ham return to the Premier League.
That still may be the case, but the veteran Finland international is a lot wiser than to assume that. He is working hard in pre-season to try and earn that spot.
“The manager didn’t say what role he wanted for me, he just said that he wanted to sign me,” revealed Jaaskelainen.
“I know that when you go into pre-season, you all start at the same level and we then have to work on our fitness, get the game sharpness and hopefully get the starting place, but that is what we are all fighting for.”
Jaaskelainen’s rival for the goalkeeping duties is youngster Stephen Henderson and the Finn is already impressed by what little he has seen of him.
“He is a young and talented keeper,” he said. “I have not seen too much of him, but I know that if Sam has brought him in then he will be good. We have two keepers here, but I still think that we are going to need one or two more.”
Jaaskelainen spent nearly 15 years at Bolton Wanderers – eight of those under Sam Allardyce – but he insisted that it was a simple decision to make the move south.
“In the end, everything went through pretty well,” he said. “Obviously when you spend a long time at one football club it is hard, but I felt like I needed a new challenge and when I heard that Big Sam might be interested, I was absolutely delighted and signed as quickly as I could.
“He didn’t need to sell the club, I know what this club is all about and it is a big club.”
The keeper’s wife and three sons will stay in the north, but unlike Kevin Nolan last season, he does not see it as a problem.
“The relationship with my wife is brilliant. We decided together that this was the best thing for us all to do.
“At the age of 37, I still think I can get three or four years more especially with Sam and his backroom staff, so at the end of the day it was a football decision. It is only two hours between us on the train after all.”
Jaaskelainen becomes yet another former Bolton player to reunite with Allardyce, so what is the secret that makes players want to come back and play for him?
“He looks after the players very well,” he revealed. “There is science behind everything that we do which is extremely important.
“If you do your best for him, he gives you a lot of respect. His man-management is very, very good.”
Jaaskelainen has already impressed in pre-season with his cool, experienced persona. He kept a 90-minute clean sheet at Southend United on Saturday, but he is still not taking his eye off the ball.
“I would like to play as many games as possible, but I would never take anything for granted,” said Jaaskelainen. “I have to work hard to win my place in the team and then I have to keep my consistency levels up.”