Shaka Makes Mighty Comeback

SHAKA Hislop returned to Premier League action for West Ham United after an absence of almost four years in the 2-1 win over Middlesbrough, and it was like the former Hammer of the Year had never been away.

Commanding and comfortable, Shaka made light of the fact he was playing his first League game since January and making his first League outing in the claret and blue since a 4-4 draw against Charlton Athletic at the Valley in November 2001.

"I was very pleased with my performance," admitted Shaka. "It was my first League game since January, but I've trained well since I came here and felt comfortable about coming in.

"The fans were fantastic. I always had a great relationship with the West Ham supporters and it was brilliant to hear them give me a good reception. It was good to be back playing in front of them again.

"It was also good to be in the winning team for my first game back. I think it was a good team performance and a game that we deserved to win."

However, Hammers were grateful for the intervention of assistant referee Ralph Bone to award their winning goal. Shaka had sympathy with opposite number Mark Schwarzer, but explained that you have to take your luck when it comes along.

"Things happen in football and it can be tough but you have to accept them," he said. "If it happened to me I would have felt aggrieved and it was a good break for us.

"But in football you get good luck and bad luck and that's what you have to take. It went for us against Middlesbrough, but there may be a time this season when it goes against us and you have to take it on the chin and get on with it.

"We put in a strong performance and with the chances we had I think we deserved to take the three points. Over the 90 minutes we were the better side and Nigel Reo-Coker was disappointed to have his effort ruled out for offside."

The win over Middlesbrough was Shaka's first opportunity to play behind the central defensive partnership of Anton Ferdinand and Danny Gabbidon, and the experienced goalkeeper was impressed with the young pairing.

"It is a young defence with the likes of Danny, Anton and Paul Konchesky," he said. "Tomas Repka adds some important experience and he had a very good game against Middlesbrough.

"I've watched the two centre-backs all season and have been very impressed with the way they've coped at this level.

"They both have tremendous pace and have looked very solid this season playing against some of the best strikers in the country.

"It is a joy to play behind a defence like ours and hopefully we can put in another solid display in our next League game against Anfield."

With Roy Carroll likely to be out for up to a month with a knee injury Shaka has got a chance to cement his place in the side, but is simply determined to do the best job he can for Alan Pardew's team.

"The manager brought me in to compete with Roy for a place in the team," he added, "and that's all I've tried to do. Roy's injury is very unfortunate for him, but I've got a chance now and all I want to focus on is doing the best I can and hopefully help the team continue its strong start to the season."