New Signing Imminent

West Ham United are set to sign 27-year-old Slovakian international Vladimir Labant from Sparta Prague - if work permit and medical hurdles are overcome.

The left-back will fly to England on Wednesday night from Prague and look to complete the formalities in England.

The fee is believed to be around £1million and must surely represent a bargain for a player with 17 international caps.

The player himself, explaining why he is swapping the possibility of reaching the last eight of the Champions' League with Sparta for a chance to shine at Upton Park, says: "It is maybe not the best time to leave Sparta Prague because they are still in the Champions' League but the offer was good and you don't get the chance to join a Premiership club every day - that is where I want to play.

"It is definitely my ambition to get back into Europe with West Ham because once you have played in European competition, you want to again.

Several English clubs were after him and PSV Eindhoven tried to sign him in the summer, but he explains: "The Dutch league is a different proposition, and when I came over here to watch the Arsenal game it was very impressive."

Although 'Vlado' only knows the West Ham players by reputation, with the exception of one player, he is aware of Hammers' stars both past and present.

"I know only Tomas Repka personally, but I have seen the others play - and I know a little bit about West Ham's past with Bobby Moore and so on," he says.

Vlado saw Upton Park for himself when West Ham played Arsenal in December and enjoyed a taste of English football when Sparta faced Fulham in a pre-season friendly last summer. It was the recommendation from Tomas Repka that impressed him most, though.

"Tomas told me it was a lovely club," he adds, "and he felt wanted from the first moment he came - he is pleased that I am coming, and says it is a family club.

"He said it is just like home and everyone has been nice to him."

"Sparta have something like a policy whereby if a player has been there a long time and was good for the club they let them go if they get a good offer from abroad.

"I am a left back but I can also play left midfield. I know about Nigel Winterburn but only competition can make a player better - and that's what I want."

Vlado will hopefully become Glenn Roeder's sixth signing at Upton Park.