Shaka Returns

Shaka Hislop goes back to Reading on Tuesday evening with the grateful message: You were the making of me.

Reading was Shaka's first club in England, and he says:

"I'm desperately looking forward to this one; it is a club and a group of fans that I maintain in the highest regard.

"I have never played at the new stadium so I'm looking forward to that.

"The club has come on a whole lot and things have changed drastically since 1995 when I left.

"It was a tremendous time for me, both personally and, in particular, professionally.

"They gave me the opportunity to show my stuff and for that reason alone I will forever be indebted to them."

Much has changed since Shaka left and he says they are a club on the up and up:

"They have a lot of quality, and deserved to get out of their division last season, but they missed out at the play offs and it wasn't to be.

"They are favourites to get promotion this season, and deservedly so, despite a home loss this weekend.

"Phil Parkinson is still there - he signed at the same time as I did so he will be looking for a testimonial soon!"

Shaka enters the game on the back of two shut outs in a row and adds:

"It is always good to keep a clean sheet, and you have to look at it as a good day's work on our part.

"It was good to make a few saves but I was happy with my all round game - though I guess there were a few things I could have improved on.

"But that, perhaps, is nitpicking - I was happy."

He was acclaimed for several good stops at Derby, but, choosing his best, he says:

"The deflection; those are always the hardest to read.

"I just managed to get my hand to it, but it was a little too close for comfort.

"I think we had the chances to win the game and with the strikers that we have they would normally have been buried, but we can't complain - everyone has an off day.

"As long as we keep the organisation and the focus we will start picking the wins up."

Shaka is just grateful to be playing in the first team after the arrival of David James suggested his chances might become few and far between this term.

He says:

"I'm enjoying my football; I didn't expect to be playing any role at all and I'm happy to get a few games under my belt.

"I would just like that to continue; David is out for another couple of months yet and all I can do is hope I reproduce my form week in week out."

And would he expect to stay in the side when David returns if he is still playing well?

"That's up to the manager," he says, "I'm not going to be making any comments like that.

"All I want to do is play well and keep clean sheets, for myself as much as anything, and then the manager will make his decisions."

The Worthington Cup holds bad memories of two seasons ago when the Hammers had to play against Aston Villa again after they had fielded an ineligible player, Manny Omoyinmi, as sub.

The replay was lost and West Ham missed out on a great opportunity to win the competition.

"Of course I think about it," admits Shaka, "but you have to try and put these things behind you.

"We were all desperately disappointed at the time but things like that happen in football from time to time, and you have to take these knocks on the chin and get back on with it.

"It is a long time ago now."

Shaka says this time around the players are determined to go all the way and adds:

"It is a valuable opportunity for us, all and hopefully one West Ham can make the most of."

And, of the league campaign thus far, he says:

"I'm a little bit disappointed we haven't picked up our first win, but it has been a hard start. "It is satisfying we only have the one loss though and it is certainly something we can build on.

"It certainly is but they are all are - that doesn't change.

"But we have to start winning games and putting points on the board."

The Hammers are 13/2 to win 2-0 and 11/1 to triumph 3-0 - click for details.