Chris Calls For Calm Heads

DESPITE a career that has spanned 18 years, six clubs and five England caps, Saturday's Play-off semi-final first leg will still mark a first for defender Chris Powell.

The 34-year-old full-back has never been involved in the Play-offs before, but his vast big-match experience is sure to be vital as the Hammers take on Ipswich over two legs in the semi-final.

"The Play-offs will be a new experience for me," explained Chris, "but I've watched them plenty of times to know how important it is to stay calm on the day and keep focused on the job in hand.

"There's so much riding on these matches the tension and atmosphere in the stadiums will be unbelievable. That's something the players have got to deal with. Preparation will be key to that and this week has been all about readying ourselves both physically and also mentally for what we will face on Saturday."

Despite earning five senior caps for England, Chris has also never played at any of the major national stadiums like Wembley or the Millennium Stadium, and while his mind remains totally gripped by the semi-final clash with Ipswich, the former Charlton players admits to a personal ambition of playing in Cardiff.

"I think I'll miss out on Wembley at this stage of my career," he said, "but the Millennium Stadium is there and it would be incredible to make it with West Ham United this year.

"When I first played for England they had already moved out of the old Wembley and had started taking England around all the big venues.

"It's a regret of mine that I haven't had the chance to play in one of those stadiums yet, but there's still time."

Chris believes the psychology leading up to Saturday's game will be all important and the defender does feel that Ipswich will be put on the back foot after their disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion.

"Having played so well this season they must have been really gutted to miss out," he conceded. "Ipswich are perhaps at a mental disadvantage because of that, while we've been on an excellent run going into the Play-offs.

"But Ipswich are a top side and we'll have to be at our best to beat them over two legs.

"We're staying ultra positive going into the home leg, because we know that as far as we're concerned that could be the crucial one.

"I don't think it's a must that we have to win the home leg, because plenty of teams in other competitions this season have proved that it isn't the case.

"But we need a good start. It's going to be a huge atmosphere and it's important that we make the most of it.

"It's a massive game and that's sure to be reflected in the build up on the day. For the players, it's just important that we keep calm heads and trust in our preparation."