Pards Praises Captain Mullins

ALAN Pardew handed midfielder Hayden Mullins the captain's armband for the 2-1 victory over Birmingham City on Monday night, and if Teddy Sheringham does not return to the side for Saturday's trip to Blackburn, the 26-year-old could once again be named as skipper.

It underlines the progress Hayden has made this season in securing a regular spot in the centre of midfield. Just 12 months ago the former Crystal Palace player was being used as a utility-man, just as likely to crop up at right-back in the centre of defence.

It is a measure of Hayden's character and team ethic that he adopts whatever role he is given with no fuss, but the tremendous work he contributes to the team certainly has not gone unnoticed by manager Alan Pardew.

"I wanted to give Hayden the captaincy to show how important he is to the squad," explained Pards. "He is the type of player that just gets on with the job with no fuss at all.

"Perhaps because of the type of player and personality that he is he doesn't always get the recognition that his performances deserve.

"But Hayden has done magnificently for us this season and I wanted the captaincy to show how much we appreciate what he gives for the team."

Hayden has had to fight for his place in the side ever since becoming Pards' first signing back in October 2003. But now the England Under-21 midfielder is coming into his own competing at the highest level.

"He's had to come through some difficult times," admitted Alan, "but he's been determined and shown a lot of character. It's a testament to the player he is."

The player himself was certainly delighted that his manager had decided to pass the responsibility of captaining West Ham United to him.

"It's a great honour to captain the Club," he admitted, "and one game as captain and one win isn't a bad record!

"I was delighted that the gaffer decided that I could do a job in that role and it was even better that we came away with a win on the night.

"Now we face another tough away game at Blackburn, but we'll go there with confidence after the Birmingham game.

"We'll approach the game with the same positive attitude, aim to play the best we can and hopefully we can come away with something again."