Matty's Relaxed Approach

WINGER Matty Etherington is hoping to have as big an impact on Monday's Play-off Final as he did in the fantastic semi-final win over Ipswich.

But the 24-year-old is determined not to get ahead of himself in the build-up to Hammers clash with Preston at the Millennium Stadium and is keen to stress the importance of a calm approach to the game.

"This year we are keeping the build-up relaxed," he explained. "We're trying to treat the game as a normal away trip and make sure we stay focused on preparing for the game and not get carried away with the occasion.

"I think having the experience of last season's Final will help in that we've been there before and know what to expect a bit more. Last season the Play-offs were a new experience for most of the lads, but this year we've got a fair bit of Play-off experience, with the players from last year and also the likes of Jim Walker and Shaun Newton.

"We've done a lot of good preparation and the gaffer has definitely got us in good shape. I think we wanted the Final to come quickly after the Ipswich game because everyone was on such a high after that win.

"But we've stayed relaxed and made sure we didn't get too carried away in training. Maybe last season we froze a bit when it came to the big day, but that's not going to happen this time around.

"We're a year more experienced now and I think the side has improved from last season."

One of the Championships most explosive players, Matt has often come in for some rough treatment by defenders looking to cut the winger's supply line to the Hammers attack. He is expecting another hard-fought clash against Preston, but insists he is ready for the challenge.

"Preston are a really strong, physical side," he said, "and we're going to have to deal with that. I took a few heavy hits at Ipswich, but it's something you get used. I came out of the second leg with a bit of a knock, but everything is fine now and I'm just looking forward to the game now.

"Preston are a better footballing side than people believe. The two players up front can be really dangerous and in midfield they've got players with ability. They're going to give us a very tough test, but we're confident that if we perform to the level we are capable of then we can do it.

"In last season's Final we didn't play anywhere near as well as we can, and that's something we're looking to put right this time. You don't often get too many opportunities to make up for your errors in football, but we have on Monday and we're determined to take it."

Matty and the team flew to Cardiff on Sunday and will spend the hours before kick-off clearing their minds of any outside distractions as they focus on securing West Ham United's return to the Premiership. As Matt explains, now the training is complete and from here on in it's all about mental preparation.

"Leading up to the game it's important just to stay relaxed," he said. "You try and find some distractions and make sure you are not dwelling on any negative thoughts.

"There's a good, positive feel amongst the squad going into the game. We believe that we've got what it takes to get the Club back into the Premiership, now we've got to go out and prove it on Monday."