Captain's Blog - Up for the cup

Lucas Neill is relishing the opportunity to help the side avenge the opening-day defeat by Manchester City. He also looks back to the fantastic win against Manchester United with special mentions for goalscoring defenders Anton Ferdinand and Matthew Upson, along with Mark Noble.


I would like to start this week's column by wishing everyone a very Happy New Year. Beating Man United at home was a fantastic way to end 2007. Like I said last week there was no reason why we couldn't beat them. It took a spirited performance by the team and a great atmosphere generated by the Upton Park faithful to turn a 1-0 defeat into a 2-1 victory but we once again showed we can beat anyone on our day.

We have been threatening with set-pieces for a while now and in particular Matthew Upson so it was great to see Matty get his first goal for the club and top off a great first half of the season for him personally. Also credit must go to super-sub Anton for coming on and scoring the equaliser against his brother and giving him a boost of confidence after two unsettled months coming back from injury.

I also thought Nobes put in a performance of note, he is one of the most exciting English talents in the league at the moment and crucial to the long-term future of this club. The victory over the champions capped off a great Christmas period, taking seven points from nine, and it set us up nicely for the trip to the Emirates.

The game plan against Arsenal went out of the window after 70 seconds and although we created three good opportunities to get ourselves back in the game, the second goal was the nail in our coffin even though it was 20 minutes into the game. That is not to say we threw in the towel, but considering the amount of games we had played, there was just not enough diesel left in the tank to come back from being 2-0 down against an in-form team like Arsenal at the Emirates.

The intense Christmas schedule needs to be looked at, in my opinion, as both teams were looking tired and although the intention to give it our all was there, the fans paying to watch us play could not be blamed for feeling they were not getting good value for money - although they were in good voice as normal!

Special mentions must go to James Tomkins and Jack Collison. It must have been very daunting to hear they were going to make their first appearances on the bench against a team like Arsenal at a ground like the Emirates but they took it all in their stride. Jack, in particular, came on to make his debut in a tough setting and hopefully we will see more of them both in 2008.

Everybody loves the FA Cup and I am no different. We have a very tough game this weekend and I welcome the staff, fans and players of Man City, once again to Upton Park for this third-round tie. Until Wednesday, Man City had struggled to win away from home and the last time they had won on the road before that game was strangely enough the first game of the season against us. I didn't play in that game but will still be relishing the fact I can help my team mates exact some revenge for that disappointing season opener.

Wouldn't it be great if we could emulate the achievements of two years ago in this competition when the club was two minutes away from winning the FA Cup? But we need to take one game at a time and the only objective this weekend is to make sure our name is in that hat for the next round of the draw.

Thanks in advance for your support and here's to a successful second half of the season.

Lucas Neill signature

Lucas Neill