Anton's Ready For The Big Time

ANTON Ferdinand believes the contribution of his defensive colleague Elliott Ward was key to Hammers success over the final stages of the season.

With Elliott and Anton forming a solid base in the centre of defence, Alan Pardew's men went on a run of just one defeat in 13 games to secure promotion.
And, according to Anton, Ward deserves plenty of credit for the achievement.

"Wardy did fantastically well," he exclaimed. "Right from his first game he settled in really quickly and made the position his own.

"He was injured a lot last season and didn't play a lot of football. But he took his chance, and that's what football is all about.

"Wardy has always been a good player, and once he got a good run in the first-team he really started to show people what he can do.

"I think he probably surprised a lot of people, but I've been playing with him since the youth teams and I knew what he could do."

Anton is modest about his own contributions to West Ham United's incredible promotion effort, insisting old fashioned hard work has been the key to his dramatic improvement over the last six months.

"It was all about getting my head down on the training ground and making sure I worked hard at my game," he said. "I had faith that if I worked hard enough and wanted it badly enough then my chance would come.

"Thankfully when it did I felt ready and confident enough to take advantage. But you can't stop working in football, especially for us because next season we'll be making the step up to maybe the best league in the world.

"We believe that we can cope in the Premier League, but it's going to mean a lot of hard work in pre-season to get us ready for the challenge.

"I think we've got young and talented players in this squad who have been aiming for a long time now to make it into the top-flight. Now that we've achieved that for West Ham United it's going to be a case of making sure the Club stays there."

The 20-year-old defender has not played in the Premiership before, making his Hammers debut post relegation in the opening game of the 2003/04 season against Preston, the Club's first game outside the top-flight in ten years.

Ironic that West Ham's first and last games of their two-year sabbatical in the Championship should be against North End. But such idioms are not going to concern Ferdinand, as he focuses on proving himself in the highest echelons of the English game.

"It's going to be a huge test for me in the Premiership," he said. "I had some good experiences just before we went down, like making the bench at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

"But now I've matured as a player and I think I'm ready to take on the top-flight. It's going to be tough, but all the lads are really looking forward to it and we just can't wait for the season to start."