Lucas excited by the challenge ahead

Lucas Neill admits that the chance to play a key role in West Ham United's bright and exciting future was an opportunity he simply couldn't turn down.

The 28-year-old Australian national team captain completed his move from Blackburn Rovers on Monday afternoon and, in his first exclusive interview after putting pen to paper at Upton Park, reveals that the Club's pursuit of his services since the opening of the transfer window made a big impression.

"I get the feeling that I am going to fit in well at West Ham United and be an important member of the squad," he says. "At this stage of my career, playing regularly is very important to me and I don't feel that I will be a bit-part player here.

"West Ham made me feel wanted. Mr Magnusson expressed his desire to sign me, explained his plans for the future and said that he wanted me to be a big part of those plans, which made me feel 10 feet tall.

"After two minutes in his company, I realised how hard the Club had worked to sign me, and that made a very big impression. It is clear that he is building an empire here, and I am very excited about being here at the start of something potentially huge.

"I do think that some people are a bit clouded by the team's current position. Not so long ago, West Ham had been two minutes from winning the FA Cup after a fantastic season and, if I had joined then, people wouldn't have even raised an eyebrow.

"I just have a gut feeling and a sense of warmth about this move. It's an exciting time for everyone at West Ham United to look forward to. Short term, we are in a tough position but there is already a great squad here and, with the players who have signed during January, I'm sure we will lift ourselves out of it soon.

"Come the summer, I think people are going to be talking about West Ham United with a completely different terminology."

Lucas is also keen to clear up some of the more insulting speculation that has surrounded his move to Upton Park. After having to face accusations that his reasons for turning down a reported offer from Liverpool in favour of signing for West Ham were financially motivated, the former Millwall and Blackburn defender is quick to rubbish such claims.

"At no stage did the issue of money enter into the footballing decision I was making," he says. "Yes, I want to be secure, like everyone, but more importantly I want to know that I am going to be content, happy and playing football every week.

"Some of the figures that have been mentioned are just ridiculous, and the whole thing was blown way out of proportion. Anyone who thinks I joined West Ham simply for money is way off the mark.

"People have questioned why I signed for West Ham and not Liverpool, but I don't understand that. Yes, Liverpool is a great club with a fantastic history but, equally, West Ham have produced people like Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Trevor Brooking and Billy Bonds over the years. If West Ham was good enough for those guys, then it's good enough for me.

"If people want to insult my decision to play for West Ham, then they are insulting some of the greatest players the game has produced, including the three men who led England to the World Cup in 1966."

Finally, Lucas admits he can't wait to step out for the first time in a claret and blue shirt at Upton Park - a stadium that has always made a big impression on him as an opposing player in the past.

"Already, I feel like I've signed for a Club that is supported with the same kind of passion and drive that I like to show on the pitch," he says. "Whenever I've played here, the atmosphere has always been amazing and horrible for away teams to have to deal with.

"West Ham have always won when I've played at Upton Park, too, so hopefully that will continue now that I am here playing for the Club!"