Izzy Looks Forward

Young defender Izzy Iriekpen admits that he feared for his career - but can now see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Izzy played the full 90 minutes of a reserve game against Arsenal on Tuesday after a knee injury that has kept him on the sidelines for over two seasons, and he says: "I just want to get a few games under my belt and hopefully show the manager what I can do. It is just relief that I am playing again because I thought I was going to have to give it up.

"I'd just like to thank everyone that helped me out and supported me. John Green and the physios have really helped me and the manager said to me just keep working hard - I'd like to thank them all for their support.

"I always hoped I could come back from it because I am still young and it is the beginning of my career.

"The knee is fine, there are just a few aches and pains here and there."

The highly rated central defender, who doesn't turn 20 until May, adds: "I know there are a lot of players ahead of me at the moment, people like Foxey, Raggy Soma, Ian Pearce on his way back, Steve Potts, but I just hope to get in the team myself to get match fitness.

"I know with a bit of luck and hard work I can do it and get back into international football again, into the under-21 squad.

"But firstly I have got to try to get into the West Ham squad, and then hopefully get a new contract because it ends this season.

"Hopefully the manager will give me something, but I'm not sure. I'm just happy to be out there playing football again.

"After not kicking a ball for two years and watching people train every time I went in just to get treatment, it makes me so happy to be out playing with the boys again.

"The support from the players was brilliant every day and that was really helpful - and I have seen a lot of Ian Pearce in the last couple of years!"

Izzy was glad he was not on the end of the tackle from Arsenal midfielder Edu that could have handed Ian another serious setback on Tuesday, and says: "That tackle was disgusting. He should have got sent off for that and I can't believe he wasn't given a red card for it."

Physio John Green adds: "It was nice to see Izzy back playing. Hopefully he will go from strength to strength.

"If he can get to the summer without any further problems and withstand the pre-season training programme, things should be okay.

"He knows the score and at the moment everything is looking really good for him."