Anton's Day To Remember

IT'S hardly a surprise that Anton Ferdinand is relishing this season's trip to Old Trafford.

On 27th February 2006 the 20-year-old Academy graduate is hoping to come face to face with brother Rio at the Theatre of Dreams.
It will also mark Anton's first return to Old Trafford since he was named on the bench there for the Hammers as a 17-year-old back in December 2002.

Since then, the defender has made a meteoric rise through the ranks. This time last season the England Under-21 player was on the fringes of Alan Pardew's first-team.

He ended the campaign as one of the Club's star performers, winning praise for his awareness and athleticism as he forged an impressive partnership with close friend Elliott Ward.

Alan Pardew admitted that their impressive central defensive union had turned West Ham United's season around, and now Anton is hoping to hit similar heights in the Premiership.

"I can't wait for the season to start," he admitted. "It can't come quickly enough for me, and that goes for all the players in the squad.

"Confidence is really high at the moment, there is a great mood around the team and we just want to get the season started now.

"Pre-season has gone really well for us, the gaffer has added some good players to the squad and we feel that we're ready to take on the Premiership.

"Every game is going to be massive for us and I'm looking forward to everyone one of them.

"But if I had to pick a venue that I'm most looking forward to visiting it would have to be Old Trafford. It's a fantastic stadium and I was on the bench there for the first-team a couple of years ago.

"That is a great memory for me and I can't wait to go back there. Hopefully this time though I'll be playing instead of watching."

To ensure that he is playing, Anton must hold off competition from new signings Danny Gabbidon and James Collins. But the Peckham-born defender is happy to be competing for his place.

"The competition within the squad keeps everyone sharp," he explained. "We have got some good players in defence and we all know that we have to play at our best to stay in the team.

"That's how it should be, and I'm just trying to do all I can during pre-season to make sure I'm in the team for when the season kicks off.

"Playing in the Premier League has been my dream for so long now and I want to make sure that when it does happen I'm up to the challenge.

"Elliott and I had a good partnership going last season. We got out a bit off the pitch and we're good friends, so that definitely helps us form an understanding when we play together.

"I've played with Elliott since we were both in the Academy and we know each other's games inside out.

"But I'm sure that whoever plays will do a good job for the Club."

Anton knows the challenge, both personally and for the team, will be huge. But the young star is confident Hammers have what it takes to survive amongst England's elite.

"We all feel that this squad is good enough to keep West Ham United in the Premier League," said Anton.

"It's got stronger over the summer with the players that have come in and the players are confident that we can do it.

"Of course, it's going to be a long, tough season and it won't always go our way. But there is tremendous character and spirit at the Club, as well as top players, and I think that will see us through."