Anton's Preston Experience

PRESTON North End have featured in more than one landmark occasion for Anton Ferdinand.

The central defender who has made such outstanding progress this season made his debut against Preston at Deepdale as an 18-year-old Academy graduate back in August 2003.

Since that day he has gone from strength to strength, establishing himself as the lynchpin of Alan Pardew's backline.

Now Preston will be back to feature in another red-letter day in the 20-year-old's career, and Anton is out to make it a memorable one for West Ham United.

"There's a great feeling around the place at the moment and the main thing is we're really confident going into the Final," he said.

"We've lost once in 12 games and after the win at Ipswich in the semi-final there is a real buzz in training.

"Now we've got to show our character in the Final, just like we did at Portman Road last week, and let our football do the talking. We believe that we've got the ability to take the Club back to the Premiership and now we have to prove it in Cardiff."

Anton is relishing another big game clash with Preston, but the defender believes this game will be very different to the ones Hammers have faced against North End in the League this season.

"This will definitely be a different type of game," he said, "simply because of the circumstances that are surrounding it. There is huge pressure on both sides, but we believe that we've got the players to deal with whatever Preston through at us.

"We're going to the Millennium Stadium to win and we're not thinking of anything else."

The defender has grown in confidence over the past few months and alongside fellow Academy graduate Elliott Ward has looked every inch the home grown hero. Now he is determined to take this chance to repay the Hammers faithful for their support.

"The fans are so good and to win for them in Cardiff would be unbelievable," he exclaimed. "One of the reasons I really wanted to play for West Ham was the fans. They're incredibly passionate and the way they react to games like the Play-off Final is what makes them the best in the world.

"They've seen me grow up and have given me fantastic support, so hopefully we can give something back to them in Cardiff.

"Football is a confidence game and mine has really grown since getting a run in the side. I have to thank the gaffer for showing faith in me and hopefully I'm repaying him with my performances."

Anton and Elliott will face the stiffest test of their young careers next Monday, but Anton believes confidence in each other's abilities will see the pair through.

"Wardy and I have played together since we were young and know each other's play inside out.

"That gives us an extra bit of confidence every time we go out onto the pitch, no matter the size of the game.

"We have tremendous faith in each other and I think that rapport has helped us when we've played together in the first-team.

"It's going to be a huge game for everyone on Monday - the players, the fans, the staff and everyone connected with the Club.

"But we're confident that we can do it this time and take the Club back to the Premiership."