Cardiff's Calling For Anton

ANTON Ferdinand's remarkable progress this season will be marked when the 20-year-old defender runs out at the Millennium Stadium in a week's time for the Play-off Final.

Anton made the trip to Cardiff last season, but narrowly missed out on a place in the matchday 16. This year the defender will be very much part of Alan Pardew's plans, and he's determined to leave the Millennium having sealed a return to the big time for West Ham United.

"Last year I missed out on a place in the side," he explained, "but I was still there, and losing that day hurt me a great deal, especially as I couldn't be out on the pitch to do something about it.

"This year all being well I'll hopefully play a full part in the game and get the chance to be involved and do my bit to help us make up for last year.

"I don't want to leave the Millennium Stadium with the same hurt as last season and that memory is definitely something that is spurring on the squad this time around.

"We've shown tremendous commitment and determination over the run-in. We knew what we needed to do and the squad have applied themselves really well and we've taken great belief from coming through the Play-off semi-finals against Ipswich.

"Now we've got to take it one step further."

Anton believes self-belief is going to be key to success in Cardiff. The Academy graduate has shown plenty of it since coming in at centre-back and has matured into a quality performer over the second half of the season.

And he says confidence is flowing through the squad at the moment, after another memorable Play-off semi-final night.

"We gave two really good performances in the semi-final," he enthused, "especially at Portman Road, and that was a special night. Everyone played a part, even the boys who weren't playing were there to support the lads and it was just a fantastic result.

"But it's important that we remember our job is far from done yet. The Premiership is our aim and we've still got a very tough game against Preston to come.

"But the belief is high at the moment and I think that really showed in our performance at Ipswich. We went there knowing nothing else but a win would do, and the way we went about our job on the night has given the team tremendous confidence.

"Now we need to keep that attitude going into the Final, because the situation is quite similar. We have to win the game and no other result will be good enough.

"Belief is high, but then I don't think it has ever changed this season. The unity between the players, coaches and staff at the Club is really positive and now we're starting to transfer that onto the pitch."

Anton has had to overcome more than a tinge of disappointment this week after seeing brother Rio's Manchester United robbed of the FA Cup in a penalty shoot-out defeat against Arsenal.

Now Anton has the task of brining Millennium Stadium success to the Ferdinand clan, who will be out in force in Cardiff next week.

"It'll be my family's second trip to the Millennium Stadium and hopefully we have more success than Rio did on Saturday," he agreed.

"He was really disappointed after the game, but I'm sure he'll be back there on Saturday to watch us.

"Loads of my family and friends will be down there and it should be a great occasion for them, and everyone connected with the Club.

"Now it's up to us to give them what they deserve, which is a win and a return to the Premier League."