Shak On Flak

Shaka Hislop says that even if the flak is flying it doesn't bother him.

Shaka's laid back demeanour sometimes masks a burning desire for perfection in every performance - and a very self critical nature when things go wrong.

And, as goalkeeper, he gets to hear more than any of the other players about how the crowd are feeling.

"You can't run away and hide from it," he says.

"In many respects it makes you a better character and you have to live with it.

"It's part of the position; I knew exactly what I was getting myself into and it's not a problem."

It has been claimed that West Ham have concede more goals from outside the box than any other club in the division.

That could, of course, be taken as a complement: restricting the opposition to long range efforts isn't a bad way of going about things!

Of David Ginola's goal last weekend, he says:

"It was a well taken free kick and he put it in the top corner; there was not a lot I could have done about it.

"But that's typical of the luck we are having right now, and the way things are running.

"People seem to be producing their best against us.

"But we produced a solid performance and, if we deserved more, we have to be happy with the point after the run we've had.

"Everytone followed the game plan and worked well to produce the sort of football the fans have come to expect."

Shaka says that the recent run has not affected him, however, insisting:

"My confidence did certainly not drop; it's just one of those things as a goalkeeper you have to deal with.

"You can't hide, and it is not in the nature of the professional footballer to do that.

"I think I've developed a thick skin, and taking all things into consideration you have to.

"I give my best week in, week out and whether that is good enough each week is not really for me to say.

"But you go out there and give your best and that's all the manager asks - and all you can hope to do.

"The fans have been fantastic with me ever since I've arrived here.

"They moan every now and then but I'm sure they do that with every player.

"I enjoy a bit of banter with the crowd as much as anyone else.

"I feel as though I'm very close to them - and nothing has happened to change that."

Shaka reveals that contract talks are on hold until the season is over and says:

"That's ticking over and the first thing is to make sure we finish the season strongly to make sure we are in the premier league.

"Then we'll sit down in the summer and discuss some of the finer details that need ironing out.

"I don't think that is much of a problem as far as that is concerned."

After Derby the Hammers face his old club Newcastle United, and he says:

"I've always enjoyed going back there and I always get a good reception from the Newcastle fans so I'm looking forward to it.

"We've also got quite good results since I've been there, winning the first season and the 2-2 draw last season.

"So we can go there and look for three points - rest assured."

And, if Hammers' fans are a bit disappointed about the league situation at the moment, the geordie nation is not a little disgruntled either!

"They are a very demanding group of supporters - and rightly so," he says.

"It is a big club with tremendous ambition and tremendous resources and there'll be 50,000 screaming fans there letting their feelings known as much as any group of supporters in the country.

"But we could overtake them and I think we are playing well enough to do that - and hopefully we will."

Shaka is looking for a fresh start next season - and hopefully an injury free one.

He explains:

"I'm feeling a lot better now and think I've grown in strength from game to game.

"I've had quite a few niggly injuries in the course of the season and I could do with a good summer break to get everything working right.

"I started the season only about 75% and picked up little niggles as a result.

"But I had to deal with that; it's not in my character to complain about it.

"I'll start afresh next season."

Skonto Riga captain Alexander Rekhviashvili is on trial at West Ham but no decision has yet been made on the latvian international.