Ruud awakening

Ruud Boffin was all smiles after enjoying an impressive - if a little unexpected - debut for West Ham United.

The Belgian was handed his first appearance between the sticks in Saturday's 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw at Blackburn Rovers after Robert Green and Marek Stech were ruled out through injury.

Green underwent minor surgery last week, while Stech suffered a hamstring injury in training. With regular No3 Peter Kurucz recovering from a long-term knee injury, Boffin was given a maiden start at Ewood Park.

The 23-year-old coped admirably in doubly-testing conditions, dealing with both Blackburn's aerial bombardment and sub-zero temperatures with seemingly relative ease.

Indeed, Boffin was extremely unfortunate not to keep a clean sheet, making a miraculous point-blank save from Ryan Nelsen before the New Zealand defender converted the rebound with his knee.

"It was nice, but it's always difficult to play on your debut. I found out on Friday that I was playing when I realised that Rob was not travelling. From that moment, I was ready to play.

"It is a big step for me because it is one of the biggest leagues in the world. When I was asked I'd have been stupid if I'd said I didn't want to play!"

Boffin, who was backed-up by 16-year-old Academy stopper Jake Larkins, may be new to the English game but he is not a complete rookie.

The Sint-Truiden-born goalkeeper made more than 60 league appearances for MVV Maastricht before appearing in five Dutch Eredivisie - First Division - matches for VVV Venlo.

"I was used to it a little bit because I played a few games in the First Division in Holland, but that game is totally different. Here it is another country with a different type of football which is much quicker. It was a challenge.

"The boys came up to me and told me to do my own thing and if I had to do anything, to do it well."

Having enjoyed a taste of the Barclays Premier League, Boffin is now hoping to make a challenge to Stech to be Green's regular understudy.

"I hope to become the No2 goalkeeper now, of course."