Pards Calls For Pumped Up Play-off Atmosphere

ALAN Pardew is looking forward to a blood-pumping atmosphere at Upton Park for the Play-off semi-final first leg against Ipswich Town.

The Hammers boss admits that Saturday's game will have a different feel to Ipswich's Play-off visit last season, but is keen to stress that the role of the Hammers faithful will be just as important this time around.

"There's a great feeling around the team at the moment," he explained, "and we're expecting another brilliant Upton Park atmosphere on Saturday.

"It won't be the same as last season's game because the circumstances of this match are different.

"It isn't as cutthroat because we know that there is another leg to come at Portman Road, and you can't expect to mirror that occasion.

"But the feeling in the Stadium is going to be crucial to the game and the players are really looking forward to the fantastic support of our fans on Saturday.

"It makes a huge difference to come out and hear just what it means to the Club's supporters. They can make the Boleyn Ground a spine-tingling stadium and that's what we want come 12.15pm on Saturday.

"Hopefully, the stadium will be louder and more buoyant than it has been all season. Playing at home first is a different feeling, but the atmosphere is still going to be vital."

Pards concedes that the tension of the Play-offs are almost unrivalled in League football. But the Hammers boss believes his squad are more than capable of handling the Play-off pressure.

"At West Ham United the players are used to playing in intense situations," he said. "There is huge pressure in the Play-offs and ultimately three of the four managers are going to end up disappointed.

"We've taken a lot of criticism this season, and that has definitely hardened the resolve of our squad. In the past weeks our supporters have been brilliant. They've backed us all the way and the players have really responded to that.

"Now we need their backing more than  ever, because with their support we believe that this squad has the ability.

"We've beaten each of the top three teams this season, which proves this squad knows how to win on the big stage."

Both sets of players on Saturday will have their own painful memories of last seasons Play-offs, Ipswich from that euphoric night for the Hammers at Upton Park, and Alan Pardew's men from the Millennium Stadium Final.

But the Hammers boss insists that won't be a consideration on Saturday.

"I don't think doubts are really a consideration for footballers," reflected Pards, "and there certainly aren't any in our squad going into the Play-offs.

"Football is about setbacks. You can't win everything and so naturally footballers must deal with the reality of defeat.

"Players have to rebuild themselves quickly and those members of our squad who were involved last season will have put that Final defeat out of their minds.

"If anything they'll just be desperate to put things right, starting with a good performance on Saturday.

"The fans are desperate to be out of this division and we are determined to do it for them."