Matthew Etherington said there was a fair bit of banter flying around on the pitch as he went up against his former team-mates on Saturday.

The former West Ham United winger who moved to Stoke City in the January transfer market after spending six successful years at the Boleyn, admitted it was strange playing against his old team for the first time.

"It was a bit weird because I only moved a few months back so to be lining up against the lads was funny," Etherington said. "And yes, there was some banter going on out there as you would expect.

"I am still close to Lucas and Ginge - in fact Ginge and his wife stayed up with me for the weekend, it was good to see all the lads and staff again."

With West Ham looking to cement a UEFA Europa League spot and Stoke looking to get at least the point that would surely mean Premier League safety, there was a lot to play for and Etherington was pleased to see both teams compete to try and get a result.

"I thought West Ham played very well, especially in the first half, they pinned us back and deserved the lead," he said. "But we did well in the second half and got back into the game and had a few chances. We were a bit disappointed in the dressing room afterwards but you dust yourself down and get ready for the next match.

"We are there or thereabouts now in terms of being safe, but we won't be resting on our laurels as we just need a couple more points to know we are really OK."

Having played a huge part in West Ham's promotion back to the Premier League in 2005 and helping take the team to the FA Cup final in 2006, Etherington's efforts were also rewarded with being named the 2003/04 Hammer of the Year at the end of his first season the claret and blue.

And the West Ham fans who travelled to support the team at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, gave the winger a huge cheer when his name was read out before kick-off.

"That was nice," admitted Etherington "It was good to get the reception I did from the West Ham fans. I loved my time at West Ham, it was just simply time to move on and try somewhere else, but there will always be a link for me with the club. As I said I keep in touch with some of the lads and will always look back on my time there with great memories, without a doubt."