Fitz: I'm Not Bitter

Oldham defender and former Hammers schoolboy Fitz Hall insists he has no grudge to bear about being released by West Ham - even though he was so upset at the time that he quit football.

The affable Walthamstow-born 21-year-old, an Arsenal fan, had been on West Ham's books at the age of 16 before being released, and he recalls: "I was here as a schoolboy and I got released at the age of 16. I was a centre forward then but I have blossomed as a centre half now.

"The problem was my height. That is what they told me but I was a young boy and they probably tell you anything to soften the blow.

"I was about 5'6" but I started growing when I left school and I am now 6'3".

"I played with Joe Cole and some others that moved on like John Terry, Bobby Zamora, and Paul Konchesky.

"I stopped playing for about a year, though, because it hit me quite hard. Then I got back into it at Barnet, moved to Chesham, and then Oldham.

"But I had stopped competitive football for about a year. I was just messing about until I got back into it.

"It took my family and close friends to get me back playing and I am just grateful to them that they did."

Fitz went looking for his former coaches after the game - to greet them, rather than gloat, and he adds: "I am not bitter at all. They released me as a centre forward and now I am a centre half - I am just happy to be playing."

Looking at the game, he says: "It was a good win for us. We defended well and scored the goal earlier on, so it was good - but hard.

"They attacked us quite a bit, but we defended well - as we have done all season - and we are just happy with the result.

"They kept the ball in front of us and didn't really get in behind - we were happy for them to keep the ball in front of us as they weren't really hurting us, and I think our keeper had about two shots to save.

"We were still getting chances, our centre forwards were holding the ball up well, and although they shoved a couple of balls forward we weren't under that much pressure towards the end."

As for his manager, Iain Dowie - the man whose goal put West Ham in the top flight in 1991 - he says: "He is a major influence. He kicks every ball with us when we are on the pitch and he is a quality manager who gets on with everyone, which is the main thing."

He denies the notion, expressed in one newspaper report recently, that he uses eccentric methods and says: "He just believes in working hard and we do a lot of defensive work - which paid off on the night."

And Fitz's own future?

"It is every young player's aim to get in the Premiership - but at the moment I am happy playing at Oldham," he smiles.