Fletch's Team Ethic

NO doubt proud to represent Wales in their two recent World Cup qualifiers against Austria, Carl Fletcher's international exertions have nevertheless probably cost him his place in the first-team.

After returning from international duty just a day before the Wigan game, Alan Pardew took the decision to rest the midfielder for what was a fine 2-1 win. The next two fixtures, wins against Burnley and Coventry, have again seen Carl amongst the substitutes, but the 25-year-old midfielder is far from unhappy about the way things are going right now.

"The team has had three really vital wins and that's all that matters," he insisted. "Of course, I want to play every week. But the fact is, I've been out of the side for the last three games, the team have been winning, and you can't really justify changing a winning side.

"My aim is just to work hard, do the right things in training and then when another chance comes along make sure I take it.

"The team is bigger than just one player, or even 11 players for that matter. We have a strong squad at West Ham, which is still right in the hunt for a Play-off place, and I'm just pleased to be part of that.

"Hopefully, we can keep this good run going with another three points against Millwall. It may seem obvious, but it's still important that we focus on winning every game that we play right now.

"There are some good teams pushing for those Play-off places, and it just proves how tough it is when you win three games and barely move up a place.

"It's getting very tight, but if we keep winning then when one of the teams above does slip-up we'll be ready to take their place."

Carl is behind Hayden Mullins and Nigel Reo-Coker for the centre-midfield berth at the moment, with Mark Noble another worthy candidate for the position after moving inside for the second-half against Coventry.

But the Welsh midfielder has nothing but praise for his colleagues.

"Hayden and Nigel have both done well over the last few games," he confessed. "It's good to see them both doing well in the side. They've got the places at the moment and it's my responsibility to get myself back in the side.

"Centre-midfield is one of the most hotly contested positions at the Club. We've got a lot of good players fighting for a place in there, and I'd like to think I'm one of them.

"When you do get your chance to impress you've got to take it, and Nigel and Hayden have done that over the last couple of weeks."

Carl looks set to continue on the bench with the visit of Millwall, but is hoping to sample the action at some stage of what is expected to be a tremendous atmosphere at Upton Park.

"West Ham Millwall games are always huge for the fans," he confessed, "but for the players every game is massive at the moment and I think we'll approach it in the same way.

"Naturally, the bigger the game the more you want to play. Hopefully, I'll get a chance, from the bench if not from the start, and hopefully we can put in a good performance and come away with another three points."