Anton's Aiming High

ANTON Ferdinand insists this week will be the most important of the season for West Ham United as the Play-off race runs right down to the wire.

But the Academy graduate remains confident the Hammers can secure a top six berth, especially after Wolves' win at Reading on Saturday saw West Ham move back into sixth place.

"Losing against Sunderland was really disappointing," he confessed, "because it was a great night, the fans were tremendous, and having led 1-0 at half-time we didn't do ourselves justice in the second-half.

"After our result on Friday we knew what Reading did would be crucial, and when we saw they had lost 2-1 at home to Wolves, it meant the Play-off race was still wide open.

"In fact, I think we've definitely got the upper hand going into the final game of the season now. We are the ones holding sixth place at the moment, and that means it's in our hands.

"If we can take all three points against Watford then I think we'll be sure of making it. A draw might do us, depending on how Reading get on, but we don't have to be relying on other teams results.

"We're going to go into the Watford game focussing on three points and believing that nothing else will do. It's a vital game and this is going to be a big week for us leading up to Sunday's game."

Anton has made stunning progress this season. The 20-year-old has secured a spot at centre-back and become the lynchpin of the Hammers side in recent weeks, impressing with some cultured performances at the heart of Alan Pardew's defence.

Alongside close friend Elliott Ward, the manager credits him for helping to turn round West Ham's season, but Anton is keen to shun the plaudits in favour of continued improvement.

"I've been really pleased with the way things have gone," he said, "both for me and for Elliott. We also used to say that it was our goal to be playing in the first-team together, and having achieved that now we've got to make sure we do well enough to stay there.

"I think we've both had to learn quickly, especially Elliott because he came straight in for his debut only a couple of months ago.

"I think he's done fantastically well and has deserved the praise he's been getting recently.

"We were both a bit disappointed against Sunderland, and also the previous week against Brighton. But it's all about learning and getting stronger at this stage.

"For me, I try and take things from every game, lessons which hopefully will improve my performance the next time I go out onto the pitch."

Anton credits hard work as the key to his progress this season, and insists that's exactly what Alan Pardew's side must do this week, as they look to banish the memory of Sunderland and claim a Play-off place at Vicarage Road.

"It's all about working hard on the training ground," he insisted. "If you work hard enough and have the right attitude then ultimately you will get your rewards.

"I've learned that this season, because I've tried to do my best in training and thankfully things have gone well for me on the pitch.

"This is one of the biggest week's of the season for us and we've got to make sure we prepare in the right way and are confident going into the Watford game.

"The belief in the squad is high. It's a massive boost being in the top six going into the final game of the season. Now we need to focus on beating Watford and making sure we are in the Play-offs."