Pards' Preston Preparation

ALAN Pardew believes this season's Hammers side is better equipped to emerge victorious from the Play-off Final.

Pards is keen for his team not to dwell on the disappointment of last year's Final, and although he will be watching the video of Hammers last outing at the Millennium Stadium, the Hammers boss explains that his team will be doing no such thing.

"I don't think there is any need for us to reflect too much on last season's Final," he explained. "This is a different game, against different opposition and we will be treating it as such.

"The team has a better balance to it than last season. We played Hayden Mullins at left-back last year for instance, but now we've got a more solid look to the team and there are parts of the side that work much better now.

"I've got a better feeling in my gut about this year's Final, our spirit is really strong and the positive atmosphere around the team has been really encouraging.

"If anything, the experience of last season will stand the players in good stead. It can often be like that when you've performed below the level that you expected, because you can't wait to get back and put things right.

"There are three or four players from last season who will go to Cardiff determined to play better this time around."

Pards reveals that the eagerness surrounding his team has been tough to contain at times this week, as the Hammers players have thrown themselves full-bloodedly into preparing for West Ham United's much-anticipated return to the Millennium Stadium.

"It's been a long break since the semi-final and in some ways we wanted the Final to come straight after the Ipswich game," he said.

"In training the players have looked really keen. I've had to pull back on the leash a bit because they are really hungry and desperate for the game to come quickly.

"I've had to calm it down in training this week and make sure we guard against the players picking up a needless injury.

"But over this weekend we'll be picking up the momentum and the excitement is bound to be there by the time we leave on Sunday."

Known for his precise preparation and attention to detail, fans need not worry that the Hammers players will be under prepared for Monday's Final. But Pards believes this year's training has surpassed even his own standards.

"We've done more thorough preparation this season," he concluded, "especially where the opposition are concerned.

"The players certainly won't go out and be surprised about what they find. They are aware of how Preston play and know what to expect.

"They're certainly a strong side and extremely inventive at set-pieces. That's something we'll obviously have to guard against, but at the same time we have to focus on our game and performance."