Jim Keeps His Cool

GOALKEEPER Jimmy Walker is delighted to have forced his way back into the Hammers first-team, helping Alan Pardew's men take a maximum nine points from their last three games.

But the popular stopper is keen not to make any assessment of his first year in London just yet, instead setting his sights on making this a successful first season at Upton Park.

"My aim is obviously to play as much as I can," he said, "and to be honest it's great to have the buzz back, playing in front of big crowds again.

"I haven't played as much as I'd like this season, but I've promised myself that I won't start analysing the year, looking at what went well and what could have gone better, until the end of the season, because there's still so much to play for.

"It's gone really well since I came back into the side, though, and I couldn't ask for any more than three straight wins.

"That bit of form is exactly what we needed and I've just been glad to be a part of it. Now we need to keep working hard and hopefully keep this good run going. We've got five games left and they're going to be five really important ones.

"Hopefully, I can keep my place in the team and if we can get that bit of success for the Club it would be a dream come true for me in my first season here."

The former Walsall 'keeper proved his quality last weekend against Coventry with two crucial saves either side of half-time when the score was 0-0. But Jim is modesty personified about his own performance, preferring instead to praise the efforts of the men in front of him, in particular young centre-backs Anton Ferdinand and Elliott Ward.

"The lads in front of me have been excellent," exclaimed Jim. "Powelly and Tomas bring so much experience and the two young lads, Anton and Elliott, are doing really well in there. They've handled themselves incredibly against some of the best strike forces in the Championship.
"Their performance at Wigan against two really top-class strikers was fantastic. They faced a different test at Burnley playing against the pace and power of Ade Akinbiyi, but they handled that really well and again on Saturday kept some experienced forwards quiet.

"It's my job to make saves and thankfully I was in the right position to make the two against Coventry. More importantly, two clean sheets against Burnley and Coventry is a great achievement for everyone in the team and we'll need another solid display against Millwall on Saturday.

"For my part, I try and talk to the young lads and use my experience to help them, because if they're playing well that makes my job a whole lot easier!"

Nevertheless, it's going to be a tough assignment for Alan Pardew's men on Saturday with the visit of local rivals Millwall. It will be Jim's first ever London derby, but the 31-year-old goalkeeper insists the players will approach the game like any other.

"It's definitely going to be a massive game," he explained, "but not just because it's Millwall. We really need the points, so it would be a massive game whoever we were playing.

"The players won't treat the build up to the game any differently. We're expecting an edgy atmosphere and we have to make sure we concentrate and keep our heads.

"But our approach will be the same to any big match. We just have to play our own game and hopefully all the hard work of this week will pay off and we'll get the three points we need."