Hayden's Unfinished Business

HAYDEN Mullins remembers last season's Play-off Final only to well.

In his first season with the Club, Hayden had the Premiership in his sights only to have the top-flight dream shattered by his former team-mates at Crystal Palace.

Now the 25-year-old midfielder is determined to erase the memory of that defeat from his mind by beating Preston in next Monday's Final in Cardiff and securing a place among England's elite.

"For the players, the occasion of the Play-off Final is something you never forget," he said, "but when you lose on such a big stage it's one of the worst things you can experience.

"Alan Pardew told us after the Ipswich game to remember how badly it hurt last season. We certainly don't want that hurt again and we're determined to make sure that we leave Cardiff with a winning feeling this time around.

"I can remember how badly I felt after last season's Final and I can only imagine how the fans felt. We don't want that again."

Hayden believes the team is stronger and better equipped this time around, with a growing self-belief the cornerstone to Alan Pardew's team.

"The boys all felt that the second leg against Ipswich proved that we are capable of going all the way," he explained. "We used slightly different tactics, played to our strengths and beat a very good Ipswich team in front of their own crowd.

"The belief is high around the squad at the moment. We went on a great run over the last 12 games of the season, losing just one, and that has given us tremendous confidence to push on from here and show that we are worthy of taking West Ham United back to the Premiership.

"The squad has got a great blend of youth and experience and I think with everyone fit we're more than a match for any team at this level."

The Hammers will certainly have to raise their game from the team's two previous meetings with Preston this season, which have both ended in 2-1 defeats. But Hayden is confident that Hammers can get the better of their adversaries at the Millennium Stadium.

"This will be a different game to the ones in the League," he explained. "The surroundings, the occasion and the build-up will all be a lot different and hopefully our experience from last season will help us cope with that.

"Of course, we know how tough Preston can be and it's going to be a very tight game. The atmosphere will be important as well. I'm sure our fans will be really up for this one and if they stay with us then we've got every chance of going through.

"This is a massive opportunity for us to take the Club back to the Premiership, and that's what all the players want.

"Form my point of view, I came here because West Ham United is a proud club that had a great chance of going up to the Premier League. We came very close to doing it last year, but we've got another chance now and we're determined to take it.

"This season we have to finish the job by winning at the Millennium Stadium."