Benni's big night

Benni McCarthy would love history to repeat itself when West Ham United travel to Sunderland in Carling Cup action on Tuesday night.

The forward scored a dramatic extra-time winner for Blackburn Rovers in an FA Cup fifth-round tie against the north-east club back in February 2009. The goal came two minutes before the end of the additional 30 minutes and was part of a fantastic run of form that saw the South Africa striker score eight goals in ten appearances.

McCarthy has not hit such heights since that winner, but has been working extremely hard in recent weeks to get back to his best. He is fighting fit once again and is certainly looking lean and mean on the Chadwell Heath training pitches. He was on the bench for Saturday's 1-1 draw at Stoke City and is desperate to play.


"I feel extremely sharp and good. Now I am just waiting for my turn. If a chance comes my way, then I would like to grab it. Football is so competitive and everyone wants a place in the team.

"We have got some great players and two or three players fighting for the same position. It is good to give the manager a headache and make it hard to select the team.

"I am just training 100 per cent every day. I have got myself to a good level. It is where I wanted to be and now it is up to me to maintain that and to give something extra. If I get my chance, then hopefully I will take it."

The Carling Cup is naturally a competition that gives players a chance to stake their first-team claims - indeed McCarthy impressed with a late cameo in the previous round against Oxford. He is hoping to get a longer run-out this time around.

"It is always great when you have Carling Cup games, especially if you have not featured in the league a lot. You might start or a get a long run-out from the bench and it is great."

Certainly the chance to match his cup heroics against Sunderland would be something to savour. "It would be nice to repeat that. If you play teams and you have got some good memories of them, it can only be a positive thing.

"I think it was just before we went to penalties when I scored, so hopefully we can match that result tomorrow. We have the players to be able to get through, but we have to take our opportunities."

McCarthy knows all about cup triumphs as a UEFA Champions League winner with FC Porto. Vastly experienced for club and country, he is well placed to judge the spirit in the camp and is upbeat about what he has seen.

"Things are really going great," he said. "Obviously especially after the good result against Stoke, the atmosphere in the group and in training has changed a little bit.

"Everybody is now a little bit more positive than we were when we were playing good football but not getting the result. Hopefully from here we can kick on and start turning our season around.

"The atmosphere is good. Nobody has dropped their heads because we have been playing great football. We have been up against strong teams like Man United, Chelsea and Villa.

"We have shown everyone that we can compete but the results have not been going our way. People tend to worry a bit but we are positive and confident. Hopefully if we can keep that spirit and the same enthusiasm, we can kick on from there."

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