Cole stoked up for final

Carlton Cole is eyeing his first Wembley start as West Ham United continue their preparations for the npower Championship Play-Off final.

The Hammers No9, who has appeared four times as a substitute at the Home of Football for England, has hit top form in recent weeks.

Cole was at his brilliant best in the 5-0 semi-final aggregate victory over Cardiff City, leading the line superbly and playing a role in Kevin Nolan's vital opening goal in Monday's second-leg success at the Boleyn Ground.

Having spoken before the semi-final about his desire to run out at Wembley in a claret and blue shirt, the 28-year-old now looks set to fulfil that dream, manager Sam Allardyce's team selection permitting.

"It is brilliant that we've won through to Wembley," Cole told West Ham TV. "We put in a great shift, a great performance and everybody is ecstatic.

"Obviously we would have liked to have got automatic promotion, but it didn't really work out that way. We found our home form a little bit too late but it has happened now and we just have to deal with what is put in front of us.

"Everyone's aim is the same. We know where we need to go and that is to the Premier League at the first time of asking, so we are going to give it our all."

West Ham's appearance in the Play-Off final will be the club's first trip to Wembley since the 1981 League Cup final. Having been with the club for six seasons himself, Cole knows how much the whole occasion means to everyone connected with the Hammers.

"It is going to be brilliant for West Ham. It is 31 years since the club has been there so it will be great to get there and hopefully get a win.

"Obviously this is only the second-best way of getting up. It will be a nice day out for the family and everybody connected to the club. As long as we make it a better day by winning, then there is nothing wrong with doing it this way."

Having started six of West Ham's previous seven matches, Cole will be hopeful of seeing his name on the teamsheet come Saturday 19 May. If he does start, the striker and his colleagues will be doing everything possible to finish the job of gaining promotion at the first attempt.

The No9 said the emotions he felt watching Reading and Southampton celebrate automatic promotion have made him all the more determined.

"Everybody needs to pull in the same direction. We were all very, very upset about not going up automatically, the drive is with everybody. The manager has told us what he expects from us and basically everyone has just got to do it.

"Every striker goes through dry patches, but right now I am playing good football and the main thing is to keep the team ticking over up front and keeping the defences really busy. If I can do that it is half my job done and if I can get a goal that is a bonus, but there are lots of players in this team who can get goals and everyone is complementing each other.

"To be honest that really hurt me watching Reading and Southampton go up. I knew that was supposed to be us, but it wasn't. I am not going to say what I was feeling at the time, but I was really jealous and I just wanted that to be us."

"It wasn't to be and that was really down to our home form. We weren't winning home games that we were supposed to be winning and we paid for it. We only lost out by three points in the end to even win the league, it was so tight at the top."

West Ham's players enjoyed a day off to recharge their batteries on Thursday, but the squad will be back at Chadwell Heath at the weekend to continue their preparations for the final.

Cole conceded that he would much rather get the big game over and done with, but pointed to the eight-day break and trip to Dubai before the 2-0 win at Cardiff City in March as proof that the squad can deal with long periods between fixtures.

"We have got 12 days to recoup and focus on the game. I think 12 days is a bit too long from my point of view. I really want to get it out of the way because we are in a rich vein of form and put in another professional performance.

"We had a break this season and we went away and came back and beat Cardiff 2-0 earlier in the season, so it is not too bad. As long as everyone is in the right frame of mind for the final, get their heads round it that we have to win, then it should be good."