Hot-shot Fletcher saving the best until last

They say a footballer's career is all about seizing the moment - and Carl Fletcher is certainly making the most of the sudden opportunity handed to him at present.

Prior to last Monday's trip to West Brom, the 26-year-old midfielder had made just four starts for Hammers this season, with the consistent form of Nigel Reo-Coker and Hayden Mullins restricting his chances.

However, one man's loss is another man's gain and, after Mullins saw his recent appeal against suspension thrown out, Carl stepped in with an impressive performance up at The Hawthorns - and followed that with another superb display and his first-ever Premiership goal, a stunning 25-yard strike that set us on our way to the 2-1 final day victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

"Yeah, it wasn't bad!" he said. "I don't remember too much about it, to be honest, but everything just opened up in front of me and, if you don't buy a ticket, you're not going to win the raffle.

"I struck it well and I think the movement of the ball took Paul Robinson by surprise - our own goalkeepers have told us that if you strike the ball well enough nowadays then it moves all over the place, so I was just delighted to see it go in.

"More importantly, we went on to win the game, and with a very good performance, too. Maybe some people were expecting us to roll over a bit but, if anything, the performance was more important than the result today. We treated it as an important match, worked our socks off, and I thought we got our just rewards at the end of the day.

"It's great to have that confidence and momentum going into the FA Cup final next week. We've finished the Premiership campaign with two great wins, and that gives us belief that we can go to Cardiff next week and win the game. It's going to be a great occasion anyway, for the supporters and everyone at the Club, and I'm sure everyone is looking forward to it."

And Fletcher can certainly count himself among that group. Two weeks ago, the Welsh international would, in all honesty, have just been hoping for a place on the bench at the Millennium Stadium. Now, he looks set to play a key role as Hammers bid to end a 26-year wait for a major domestic trophy, and admits he is determined to seize that moment.

"Of course, it's the same for everyone in the squad," says Carl who, ironically, was born just a few weeks before the Club's last FA Cup triumph back in 1980.

"There are 11 places up for grabs and 25 of us who are desperate to play in the game, and I certainly wouldn't like to be in the manager's shoes when it comes to picking the team.

"I've been happy with my performance in the last two games, but I'm not taking anything for granted. Every day, you are training and playing to impress and hopefully be included in the next match, so I know that I've now got five days of hard work to prove I should be in the team.

"You don't know how often these occasions are going to come around in your career, so I'm determined to enjoy the build-up as much as I can and hope that I get my chance in Cardiff - and then take it."