Danny hoping to round off a memorable year

What a difference a year makes. Last May, Danny Gabbidon had just spent a season of strife helping Cardiff City to avoid relegation from the Championship by a mere four points.

Now 12 months on, the Hammer of the Year returns to the Welsh capital hoping to plunder an FA Cup winner's medal, against Liverpool on Saturday.

"Yeah, it's been an unbelievable season," smiles Gabbs, who, alongside fellow Bluebird James Collins, moved to Upton Park last July for an undisclosed fee.

"I've always believed in my own ability, though, and I knew that one day I could play in the Premiership. When I first arrived at West Ham United, I hoped that I'd be a first-team regular but I also realised that I'd have to perform from the word go.

"Although I didn't think that we'd struggle as a team, I did know that we'd have to play very well. Our confidence just grew and grew following a good pre-season, though, and we've just carried on from the summer.

"At the start, we were only thinking about surviving in the Premiership but we ended up doing that quite comfortably with a few games still left to go. We've kept working hard, have got ourselves on this FA Cup run and have managed to qualify for Europe, too.

"It's been fantastic, I've enjoyed every minute of my time here and it really is a case of so far, so good."

And Gabbs has nothing but praise for another man who has had an incredible turnaround in personal fortunes during the past 12 months, too.

"Alan Pardew has been fantastic," says the 22-times capped Welsh international defender. "Everyone gets on well with the boss and he really makes you want to play for him. The lads really believe what he tells us and we all go out there wanting to put that into practice. The manager has faith in this team and, right from a very early stage of the season, he was telling us that we could win something this year.

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"Off the field, he's very meticulous and he doesn't leave anything to chance. There's never any doubt left in our minds because we know everything there is to know about every team before we go out on the pitch."

Certainly, Gabbidon can expect to receive an in-depth analysis on the Liverpool strike-force ahead of kick-off. But already the six-footer has done some homework of his own.

"Although I've never actually played against him before, I know that if I'm selected I'll be in for a tough game against Peter Crouch," he says, as he prepares to look skywards towards the six-foot seven-inch, Liverpool and England striker.

"After all, he's taller than anyone else that I've ever seen before, so I'll be hoping to find another couple of inches before Saturday! Peter will win his fair share of headers but he's also good on the deck, too.

"Although he took time to settle when he first arrived at Anfield, he's scoring goals now and has ended up having a good season. It'll be tough but, hopefully, I can make it equally tough for him, too."

And as he spends Friday evening pottering around his hotel room, relaxing, watching television and stocking up on the fluids needed to get him through 90 energy-sapping minutes against the reigning European champions, Gabbs can also take time-out to reflect on a job well done at Upton Park this term.

"The entire season is testament to all the hard work that the staff and players have put in and, although it'll be tough, we've got to try and build on it next year, too," he warns.

"From a personal viewpoint, there was pressure on me to prove that I could play at this level, so it was a great achievement to win the Hammer of the Year award in my first season at West Ham United.

"It's rounded off a great 12 months for me. A year ago, James Collins and myself were fighting off relegation with Cardiff and could never have believed that we'd end up where we are now. It's like a dream come true."