As a goalkeeper with more than 400 senior appearances to his name in a career spanning 14 years and five clubs, Shaka Hislop certainly knows a good defender when he sees one.
And, in Anton Ferdinand and Danny Gabbidon, the Hammers stopper believes he is currently looking at two of the very best in the Premiership.
After teaming up to produce another first-class display in the centre of defence against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, the in-form pairing left the field together as the chant of 'Anton and Gabbidon' rang out from the appreciative travelling fans, and Shaka admitted he was joining in with the applause at the final whistle.
"From my point of view, it's fantastic to be playing behind those two," he said. "Their performance at Bolton was no different to how it has been for the past few weeks and they continue to make my job very easy.
"They are getting themselves in the right places to win headers, intercept passes and receive the ball, and they are also there to do the not-so-pretty stuff, such as throwing themselves in front of shots and going in where it hurts.
[QUOTE]"Their performance at Bolton was no different to how it has been for the past few weeks and they continue to make my job very easy."[/QUOTE]
"Looking back, they both made a great start to the season and seem to have grown from there. That shows in the results of late, and the fact that we have kept three clean sheets in a row is in no small way down to their contribution.
"They have both shown a lot of maturity for two young defenders and have proved themselves to be the backbone of what is not only a solid defensive unit but also a very good team."
Shaka, who celebrates his 37th birthday tomorrow, also made sure his words of praise weren't only reserved for the two defensive heroes playing in front of him - insisting on paying tribute to the army of travelling Hammers fans who headed up to the Reebok Stadium.
"They were fantastic," he said. "Not wanting to take anything away from the Bolton supporters who did turn up, but you know that Upton Park is going to have very few seats for the replay and that our supporters will make it a very special atmosphere on the night.
"They came to the Reebok Stadium in their numbers again and, for large parts of the game, I had to ask myself if we were actually in Bolton or east London!
"For their sake, I'm glad we didn't lose, because
it would have been a long and arduous journey home, and I'm
sure I speak for a lot of the players when I say that they have
done as much as anyone to help us keep our run going in the