Ridgewell relishes Hammers return

Hammers fans were expecting to see Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Co turn out to support Tony Carr at his recent Testimonial but more than a few were surprised to see established Premier League defender Liam Ridgewell.

The versatile Birmingham City defender has just enjoyed a great season with the Blues, having excelled ever since a switch three years ago from local rivals Aston Villa. Aged 25, he is one of the Barclays Premier League's most reliable performers.

Ridgewell is not a Midlands man, though. He is a Londoner who forged his football career in Tony Carr's Academy and owes much of his success to his early days at Little Heath.

He ultimately left the Hammers to join the Villa set-up back in 2001, but has never forgotten his original claret and blue roots. As a result, he did not hesitate when asked to play for the Academy All-Stars against a West Ham United side.

"Tony sent a letter to my club to ask if I could play. Fortunately they said 'yes' and then I spoke to him on the phone. I jumped at the chance and am glad I did.

"It was fantastic to be a part of this," he added. "I spent a few years in the Academy and it was brilliant to come back and pay my respects to Tony.

"I was part of a good set-up here and I was buzzing to take part. I have seen the old faces, a lot of people I haven't seen for years. It was really special. I have come down here for matches against West Ham of course before but you are in a different frame of mind. It is good to come down and enjoy being part of everything."

Ridgewell was also pleased to play for the Hammers faithful, who never got to watch him progress to the first team at the Boleyn. "I left at a young age so they never saw me in a West Ham shirt but I had many good times here and it was good to get a positive reception.

"It was nice to wear the claret and blue again - even if it was just for 45 minutes. I wore it a long time ago but will always remember where I came from."