Stech all smiles

Marek Stech has long been tipped for great things at West Ham United.

Following an outstanding debut in Tuesday's 1-0 Carling Cup second-round victory over Oxford United, man of the match Stech is taking aim at making his second first-team start as soon as possible.

The Czech Republic Under-21 goalkeeper has been with the club since the age of 16, making regular appearances for the reserves in recent seasons. Now 20, Stech made a superb senior bow to help the Hammers through to the third round.

"It was brilliant. I was always looking forward to this moment. I've been waiting for four years. I've been working hard and I really enjoyed this game. Both sets of fans were brilliant and even the game was good for at this age.

"It was good experience for me and I'm grateful to the manager for giving me this opportunity to play.

"I found out on Monday. The manager said 'I'm going to give you the chance to play' and Greeny said 'Do well, get a clean sheet and get it done' so I was really pleased with that as well."


Stech's night was highlighted by a spectacular save from Asa Hall's long-range drive three minutes before half-time. Sure and solid with his handling and decision-making all night long, the youngster was delighted to make a flawless start to his first-team career.

"It was good. We were told that on their set-plays they hit the target from distance so I watched it and made the save. I thought we did well. We had a lot of chances and could have won five or six-nil, but the Oxford goalie made a lot of good saves and made it a good game.

"To be fair, I was nervous. It was my first game and I didn't want to mess anything up or do anything bad. I wanted to win and go through to the next round and once I was in the game, my nerves started to disappear and I felt better in the second half. When you've made a save and touched the ball, you feel better."

Having made his debut in front of more than 20,000 supporters at the Boleyn Ground, Stech will be keeping a close eye on Saturday's third-round draw. Whoever the Hammers draw, the Prague-born stopper is eager to keep his place.

"Obviously, if the manager would give me another opportunity, I'd be happy and try to take it and play my best. If he doesn't, then I'll have to wait and keep trying my best and hopefully I'll get another chance in the FA Cup."