Spector takes centre stage

There may not be a surprise in store when the Hammer of the Year is crowned next month but another hard-working midfielder will also deserve plenty of plaudits come the end of the campaign.

Jonathan Spector has been a loyal servant since joining back in June 2006 - and is the club's longest serving first-teamer after Mark Noble and Danny Gabbidon. Until this campaign he was most known as a versatile defender but he has become central to the cause as a central midfielder.

Long respected by the Hammers faithful for his hard-working and honest play, Spector has added attacking verve and fearless forward running to his game. So much so that he was there in the box almost heading past Petr Cech to open the scoring in Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Chelsea and also the one who slipped a sublime pass through for Robbie Keane to nearly level matters when just a goal down.

It may be that his opportunity has come with an injury to Footballer of the Year Scott Parker, the overwhelming favourite for the club prize as well, but Spector is just happy to be involved. He is determined to keep the team in the top-flight. "I think every player wants to play. They are massive games [coming up] and it is a big stage for us.

"There is certainly the added pressure of that Premier League status which we definitely want to hang on to."

Spector was there back in 2006/07 with the last 'Great Escape', coming on as an early substitute for George McCartney at Old Trafford on the final day and performing heroically against his old club Manchester United. He is certainly ready, if asked, to channel that never-say-die attitude once again.

"It is a very different team from the one we had that stayed up [four years ago]. It is a strong team that we have right now, probably stronger than we had back then. But it hasn't happened for us this season but now we have to come together as a group and get some points."

Spector is never one to shirk a challenge or be overawed by his opponent - anyone who saw him play in wins for the United States against Egypt and Spain on route to the FIFA Confederations Cup final back in 2009 will testify to that.

Now 25 and an experienced Premier League performer, he would love to have a major impact in a game again this season, as he did with two superb goals against Manchester United in this season's 4-0 Carling Cup romp.

Modest off the pitch but unerringly confident on it, Spector would settle for anyone stepping up to the plate in the final four games - just as long as the club survive. "There could be quite a few players who could have an important role and have a massive impact on these games that we have left.

"There have been times when we have played really good football and a lot of people have been looking at us and saying 'they are too good to go down'. They were saying that about Newcastle a couple of seasons ago and we don't want to repeat what they did.

"I am not sure there is a secret. It is about hard work and determination and the guts to want the ball, to want to play and to stick to your gameplan even if it is not going well for you. "