John Hartson makes bold prediction that West Ham fans will love, but we've been here before

Photo: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport

Former West Ham United hero John Hartson has been discussing the goings on at his old club.

Hartson is still fondly remembered by West Ham fans after scoring five league goals in 11 games to save the club from the drop in the 1996/97 season.

The Welshman then went on to score 24 the next season, the second most goals in the Premier League behind Andy Cole, sealing his cult status with the East Londoners.

Hartson still looks out for his old club, who have been busy this summer backing new manager Manuel Pellegrini – himself an impressive capture – to the tune of more than £90 million with seven signings so far.

And Hartson has boldly predicted in The Daily Star that West Ham can challenge the likes of Arsenal in the top six this season as long as they gel quickly.

(Photo b Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

“I would probably say, it’s a brave call from me, and I like both clubs, two of my former clubs, but I think there’s a feel-good factor at West Ham,” Hartson told StarSport.

“It’s interesting to see how all (Pellegrini’s) players bond and play together – that might take a little bit of time.

“Obviously at Arsenal you’ve got a new manager and I think the expectations at Arsenal are probably slightly higher than they are at West Ham.

“It’s a great positive sign to the (West Ham) fans but they’ve signed so many in one go, all decent fees, lot of them for good deals. So I would probably say Arsenal will finish the higher, but it’s a trickier time for Arsenal and exciting times at West Ham, just because of the expectation levels.

“When I say that, don’t take anything away from the expectation levels of the West Ham fans, they want to see Pellegrini do well, they’ve gone all out to get a top manager.”

West Ham fans will be encouraged by Hartson’s analysis but we’ve been here before and the Hammers must be wary of believing their own hype.

When West Ham’s golden generation were emerging and the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe and co were rubbing shoulders with Fredi Kanoute, Paolo Di Canio and Trevor Sinclair in the Hammers first team they finished fifth in the league.

(Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

They were then tipped by the likes of Gerard Houllier as dark horses for future title challenges which were in actual fact replaced by relegation battles and eventual relegation under Glenn Roeder.

Similarly, after twice re-establishing themselves as a Premier League force in the ensuing years, West Ham surprised everyone by finishing just four points off fourth place in their farewell season at Upton Park – with a record points haul to boot.

Naturally pundits and ex players were lining up to predict a consistent push for Champions League football but two seasons of flirting with relegation was the reality at their new London Stadium home.

This time around there is no precursor from a stellar league campaign to suggest the Hammers are on the cusp of something great, quite the opposite.

But it says a lot about the optimism Pellegrini and the spending has brought to the club that Hartson feels West Ham can rub shoulders with the likes of Arsenal at the right end of the table.

The proof, as ever though, will be in the pudding and West Ham fans will be hoping it is not custard pie on the menu.

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