Mullins In The Middle

SINCE arriving at Upton Park in October 2003, Hayden Mullins has been asked to fill a variety of positions.

From left-back to right midfield, the 25-year-old former Crystal Palace player has fitted in wherever his manager has asked.

The majority of Hayden's 61 appearances for the Hammers have come as a full-back, particularly this season. However, the former England Under-21 player returned to the centre of midfield for the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United at the weekend and admitted that he was pleased to be back in his familiar midfield berth.

"The manager pushed me into the midfield against Sheffield United I enjoyed playing in there," he said. "It doesn't really bother me where I play, just so long as I'm in the team. I've played in a few different positions for the Club and am happy to do a job wherever I'm asked to.

"But midfield is a position I've got quite familiar with during my career and I do like playing there. It gives me a bit of licence to get forward and I enjoy the freedom of the role.

"I think I did pretty well against Sheffield United, and hopefully I did enough to keep my place there for the next game. I'd like to be able to establish myself in a particular position. I don't mind if that's in midfield or at the back, but it would be good to get a solid run of games."

Like most of Alan Pardew's squad, Hayden was disappointed that the Hammers couldn't finish their FA Cup Fourth Round clash against Sheffield United in one sitting, with a replay now needed at Bramall Lane. But the Berkshire born player is confident the Hammers can progress, especially with a Fifth Round draw at Arsenal laying in wait.

"It was a scrappy game against Sheffield United," admitted Hayden. "We did well in the first-half, played some really good stuff and Marlon scored a great goal to give us the lead.

"We looked like the only team in it at half-time and really were in a great position to win the tie.

"But Sheffield United make it very difficult. They make it ugly, sitting deep, breaking up play and defending solidly. That's what they did in the second-half. Unfortunately, we got sucked in and gave away a poor goal.

"We're confident that we can get a result up there in the replay, though. We've won at Bramall Lane already this season and the prospect of facing Arsenal at Highbury in the next round is massive motivation for us."

Despite his desires on a Fifth Round clash with the reigning Premiership champions, Hayden insists that the League is a far more important concern for Alan Pardew's squad. And, with Cardiff visiting Upton Park on Sunday, he admits a win is vital for the Hammers promotion chances.

"We've had a couple of bad results in the League and we need to put that right on Sunday," said Hayden. "It'll be a tough game. Cardiff come to play football and they'll fight for everything.

"But we owe them one after the defeat at Ninian Park and the lads are really up for the game this weekend.

"Our aim this season was to get West Ham United back to the Premiership, and that hasn't changed. Everyone is still focused on achieving promotion and there is still a lot of belief around the squad that we can achieve it.

"Now we need to turn that belief into results. After the games on Saturday we'll know exactly what we need to do against Cardiff and getting a win really is important to get us moving in the right direction again."