Shaka Sharpens Up

GOALKEEPER Shaka Hislop made his claret and blue comeback in the 4-0 Reserve win over Ipswich Town, and produced the type of match-winning performance that made him Hammer of the Year back in 1999.

Shaka played his first competitive match since returning to the Club against Ipswich and although West Ham dominated the game the goalkeeper was still required to produce a string of stunning saves to protect his clean sheet.

The 36-year-old was pleased with his performance and admitted that it was good to get a run-out for Kevin Keen's team.

"I felt that I needed a game in the Reserves," he said. "Unfortunately every time a Reserve game comes around I seem to be away on international duty, so it was good to get a run-out and get to grips with the pace of the game.

"I enjoyed it. It was a good night for us, although we could have played better, and it was good to be out on the pitch again.

"It was nice to make some good saves. Shot-stopping has always been a strong part of my game and it's one thing that has never really left me. But the main thing was that I came to terms with the pace of live action.

"It was a good challenge for us. Ipswich had some lively young players and as far as I was concerned they gave me a good test. It took some coming to terms with, but all in all I was delighted with the 90 minutes.

"It's taken me in the right direction to building up my match sharpness. There were some things that I was a bit sloppy with, but there were also a lot of positives and I'll look forward to my next run out."

With Roy Carroll nursing a back problem, perhaps it was all the more vital that Shaka showed some positive form for the Reserves. But the Trinidad and Tobago international insists that he simply has to be ready for action at all times and is not stepping up his preparation because the Hammers number one is struggling.

"I have to be prepared to be called on at any time," he said. "Roy was struggling a bit, but he coped very well against Aston Villa, kept a clean sheet and made some very good saves.

"Like any other player, goalkeepers can pick up knocks here and there, and I know that I could be thrown in at the deep end at any time.

"That's why my main focus is just to make sure I'm ready for whenever I might be called on."

Shaka is certainly enjoying being back at the Club after a three year absence from Upton Park.

"It's been fantastic," he smiled. "I came here for my first day and it was like I had never been away. I love the Club and it was great to see that the fans took me back straight away and showed me just as much support as when I was here before.

"I appreciate that and it's allowed me to settle back in to life at West Ham United."