Shaka: I'll never forget my time at West Ham

Shaka Hislop has spoken exclusively to after leaving the Club to start a new career in the USA with FC Dallas.

The popular goalkeeper made a point of contacting us in order to bid a personal farewell to West Ham United supporters, and admits that it was a huge wrench to bring down the curtain on a 14-year playing career in England - five of which were spent at Upton Park.

"I'm extremely sad to be leaving West Ham United," he says, "but at the same time I'm happy and content that it is the right time to leave and that I ended in a way that I could only have dreamed of.

"It makes me so proud to know that I finished my playing career in England with a Club that I love dearly and had such an amazing experience with the FA Cup final at the end of the season.

"I can honestly say that my last game in English football was without doubt the biggest highlight of my 14 years playing in this country. After the initial disappointment and heartbreak of how the game actually finished, I walked around the pitch in Cardiff and the image of the Hammers fans in those stands is a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I felt it was a fitting way to end my career.

"I've spent the last few days talking to the likes of Alan Pardew, Paul Aldridge and Ludek Miklosko, thanking them for the opportunity they gave me last year that enabled me to realise some of my dreams about English football and West Ham United in particular.

"I'll certainly take them up on their offer to come back and pay a visit in the not too distant future, and I'll look forward to meeting up with the many great friends I have made during my two spells with the Club. I'll never forget my time at West Ham."

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Explaining the reasons behind his decision to embark on a new life in the US with his young family, Shaka admits that it had always been his ambition to move nearer to his Caribbean roots at the end of his playing career in England.

"The opportunity was presented to me during the summer, and the possibility of moving to the States is something that I've been thinking about and considering for some time now," he says. "My kids are getting to the age now where I want them to have stability in the next few years, and my wife and I decided that we both wanted to move closer to Trinidad, where our families still live.

"I've given it a lot of thought, but eventually decided that it would be the best thing to do for personal reasons. I always saw my future as taking this route, and a big part of my long-term ambition is to contribute in any way I can to Trinidad and Tobago - at the very least in a sporting sense.

"Being on the south coast of the USA means that I can get home very quickly whenever I need to and, after the experience I have just had at the World Cup finals, that has taken on even more of a significance. There is so much passion for the game in Trinidad and Tobago, which has just been amplified this summer, and I want to be closely involved with that.

"And from a football point of view, joining Dallas is a very exciting and interesting challenge, and one I am really looking forward to. I lived in the States for four years before I came to England and the MLS is a league that has grown and grown since then.

"I've signed an 18-month contract as they are in mid-season at the moment, but I am not really looking beyond that - it's just a case of settling in to our new surroundings and taking everything as it comes."

And finally, the man who gave nothing but loyal and dedicated service during five seasons and more than 150 appearances at Upton Park offered his own departing message to the fans who will no doubt be sad to see him go…

"I've been racking my brains thinking about what to say to the fans," he says. They've meant so much to me during my time at West Ham - in the four years I spent here originally and in the last 12 months - and I just want to thank them for the wonderful support they have always given me.

"I will look back on my last year in English football with a lot of fond memories - it really was something to be a part of - and I look forward to coming back to Upton Park in the not too distant future, to sit with the Hammers fans and cheer the team on."