James' Mixed Feelings

James Walker earned the plaudits of his manager and Joe Cole at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night - but admits he would have swapped that for being on the winning side against Chelsea.

James, West Ham's keeper in all three rounds of the Carling Cup this season, produced a performance that Chelsea man of the match Joe Cole describes as "brilliant" while Alan Pardew admits:

"He showed what a good goalkeeper he is; he's not the biggest, but he's very, very agile - and he gives me a selection problem for Saturday.

James himself says:

"I totally enjoyed the game and it was nice to get back playing in front of a crowd; the West Ham fans were superb and I am a little bit gutted we didn't get something out of the game - I am torn with mixed emotions."

There was little he could have done about Kezman's winning goal after a sharp pass from Joe Cole, and he says:

"It was a good run and a good finish; I got a slight finger on it and looked round, hoping it would hit the post.

"I didn't realise how close it was until I saw the replay and that quite hurt - it was one of those where we needed a bit of luck for it not to go in.

"Then Anton's header at the death would have made it 1-0 to us if it had gone in and Kezman's hadn't; but it was not to be.

"If that had snuck in it would have changed the game but I hope they go and win it now.

"Chelsea don't make mistakes - they were after it on the night, but I think we showed the quality we have got in the squad; all the lads were superb and we played some great stuff against a top quality side.

"Tommy was outstanding again; he has been magnificent this year, superb, and it is just a shame we couldn't hold out and keep the clean sheet.

"It is a pity we lost because then I could have enjoyed it a bit more but playing in front of the West Ham fans was great; I have seen them in the last two rounds of the Carling Cup but they weren't as big games as Chelsea - the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and that is the feeling you want.

"I have played against some good sides in the past, including a West Ham side full of stars such as Kanoute and Lampard, but that side ranked as one of the best - it was nice to pit your wits against these players and we showed we can at least match them.

"We have to take it into the league because we want to be playing at Chelsea's level week in, week out, and I think that has to be the mentality every match now so we can get up there."

Whether James retains his place in the side for his West Ham league debut remains to be seen, but James is fulsome in his praise for his goalkeeping colleague Steve Bywater.

"Stevie has done great in the league and it was just nice that the gaffer gave me a run-out at Chelsea - I had been looking forward to it.

"There is nothing like playing in front of a big crowd in a big game - it is hard for me to sit on the sidelines but I have been biding my time."

If James couldn't quite keep out Kezman's shot, at least he was able to block Frank Lampard's penalty - "I think it was, if I am honest," he says about Andy D'Urso's decision to award it against Tomas Repka - and earn the gratitude of over 6,000 Hammers fans in the Matthew Harding Stand.

James reveals that it was the delay in the penalty being taken that helped his decision - and gave him the psychological advantage over Lampard, who had come on as a substitute.

"It swayed me a little bit because I thought the longer it goes on the less likely it is that he is going to place it," he says.

"I thought he weas going to smash it so I tried to stand up as long as I could - and I knew it was going to go middle-ish.

"I made a little dive to the right but stood up much as I could and I thought if he puts it in the corner, so be it.

"I just happened to be close enough to get a block on it; a penalty save is important at any time, a bonus, but I got the feeling this meant a little bit more!

"I am learning about the club and the way the fans feel - and they gave me a good lesson on the night - I enjoyed it.

"It is nice to get your name sung again - I haven't had it all season after getting it for 10 years, week in, week out.

"It shows you are appreciated and it gave me a lift; I enjoyed that, but I didn't enjoy the result."

Now it is back to earth - or Plymouth, anyway - on Saturday, and James says:

"To be honest I think the lads have been doing well anyway but it is going to be a totally different game against Plymouth, and we will have to have enough about us to play against sides that are going to close you down even faster - so the boot will be on the other foot on Saturday, but they are all big games."