Dean Ashton is determined to get back to his best for West Ham United in order to repay supporters.
The striker, who turns 24 the day before the visit of Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday week, has been moved by the passionate reception given to him in the past year. First in battling back after nearly 12 months out with an ankle injury and then in backing him in recent weeks as he has coped with a knee strain that caused him to miss the club's run of five games unbeaten in all competitions.
"I want to be out there for the fans," said Ashton, who is targeting at least a squad place against Tottenham. "Coming back especially pre-season and then in the first game, the fans were absolutely brilliant with me and singing my name all the time. That really, really boosted me up after the year I had. I just want to repay that by playing well, scoring goals and helping the team do well."
Ashton knows though the importance of taking it slowly, and is well aware that he has "got to get fit and get right" in order to show supporters that he is capable of adding to the three goals from eight first-team appearances this season. That said, he cannot wait to hear the chants of 'Deano, Deano' ringing out again around the Boleyn Ground.
"It is really special considering it is West Ham and the club that this is and the history it has had," Ashton added about having his name sung from all corners of the stadium. "For them to be singing to me is great and it just gives you that extra belief in yourself to go out and play well."
Ashton is particularly hoping to hear it at the most illustrious venue of all - Wembley - and has watched the team's progress to a Carling Cup quarter-final tie against Everton next month with interest. "Obviously a home draw was important especially at this stage," he said. "To get that is fantastic but Everton are a very strong team so it will be very difficult. We feel as if we can progress and we really want to get to the final. That's what we want to do and we can get there."
Spurring him on is the memory of the 2006 FA Cup final when he put West Ham United 2-0 up against Liverpool in Cardiff and had a key role in what was "a great day" for the club, despite the heartbreak of losing on penalties. "Getting to that was unbelievable for the fans, the players, everybody. It was such a good achievement I think we all want to be part of that again. People might sometimes frown at the Carling Cup but I think to get to the final at Wembley would be really special."