Powell aiming to set-up semi-final date

Former Hammer Chris Powell says he is desperate to face his old club in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park next week.

The 35-year-old left-back travels with his Charlton Athletic team-mates to Middlesbrough tonight for their quarter-final replay and admits that the opportunity to line-up against the team he helped lead into the Premiership last season would be a dream come true.

"What an occasion it would be," he says. "I'm desperate for us to beat Middlesbrough and get through, because the thought of playing against West Ham in an FA Cup semi-final is simply incredible.

"It's amazing how things have turned out this year and it just goes to show how quickly football can change. It's lovely to think about a possible Charlton v West Ham semi-final, although we've still got a lot to do before that becomes a reality.

"We've played Middlesbrough three times this season and haven't lost, so we are confident and looking forward to the replay, but it will be a tough game because they are on a bit of a high at the moment."

Chris was back at Upton Park only last week as part of the Charlton side that grabbed a 0-0 draw in the Premiership and, following his sudden return to The Valley last summer after playing his final game for the Hammers in the Championship play-off final at Cardiff, it's clear that the former England defender will always retain a special fondness for the claret and blue.

"It was lovely to come back and get a decent reception," says Chris. "I'd like to think the West Ham fans appreciate the part I played last season, and I'll always remember the time I spent at Upton Park.

"It was a shame to leave, because I was looking forward to being a part of the challenge back in the Premiership, but I'm delighted to see how well the team have done. They've exceeded everything people expected of them, but I always felt the players had it in them and it was just a case of how they would handle the step-up.

"Pards has made some excellent signings and the players who were here last season have adjusted well - Marlon has scored goals, young Anton has taken to it like his older brother, Nigel and Hayden have been superb, and I think Matty Etherington has been a key influence.

"I suppose the real test for West Ham is going to come next year," adds Chris. "The second season is normally always harder, and we found at Charlton that the same level of excitement wasn't there among the players and the fans.

"They've got enough quality and the right kind of fan-base to make an impact again, though, so I no reason why Alan Pardew can't build on the success of this season and take the club to the next level."