Hayden Hopes To Return

AFTER serving a frustrating three-match suspension for his red card against Brighton, Hayden Mullins is delighted to be back in the squad for tonight's clash with Leeds.

However, the 25-year-old midfielder is expecting a hard fight to regain his place in Alan Pardew's team after the Hammers secured back-to-back victories in his absence.

"The team achieved two fantastic results against Watford and especially last weekend at Sunderland," admitted Hayden. "After two strong performances it's unlikely that the manager will want to change the team around too much, and with no injury problems it might be difficult for me to force my way back in at the moment.

"That's obviously very frustrating because up until the sending off I had been playing regularly. But the Club has got strong competition for places and that is what counts going into a tough and busy Christmas period.

"After a couple of poor defeats the lads have got us back on track again now and we're going into tonight's game with a lot of confidence.

"Hopefully, I'll get my chance again soon, but I don't know whether it will be tonight."

The enforced absence of the former Crystal Palace player opened the door for ex-Eagles teammate Darren Powell to join the Club on a month's loan. Despite the added competition for a first-team place, Hayden has been impressed with the form of his former Palace colleague.

"Darren has done really well since coming here," said Hayden. "He's a very strong defender and dominates in the air. His height is also a goal-threat from set-pieces, which he proved by scoring the equaliser against Watford, and I think Darren has brought a lot to the squad.

"Before he joined Darren called me to ask my opinions of the Club. I told him that it would be a great move for him and that the Club is really looking to move forward. I don't know whether Darren will stay on a permanent basis, but if he did it would really benefit the Club."

Something of a Championship veteran, with seven seasons of football at this level under his belt, no one is more desperate to win promotion than Hayden. And the former England Under-21 star admits that there is no reason why the Hammers can't achieve that goal this season.

"This League is very inconsistent," he observed. "No one is running away with it and there are at least ten teams in with a realistic chance of promotion.

"Despite some indifferent results we are extremely well-placed going into the Christmas period. We're only six points off the automatic promotion places and a good run over Christmas will put us right in amongst the leaders."