Former West Ham United and England centre forward Dean Ashton is looking forward to FA Cup third round weekend and cannot wait to play his part in Mark Noble’s Testimonial!
We have come into the New Year on a seven-game unbeaten run and on the back of two really good wins. Considering we have had injuries in that spell, it shows how far we have come and how much better the squad can cope this year.
It did get frustrating drawing a few games but back-to-back wins over Southampton and Liverpool have been great to see, as was seeing the players who perhaps had not been first choice like Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll come in and play so well.
I’m sure Slaven Bilic was quite surprised to get all of those special away wins at the start of the season, but now he’ll be really encouraged by the fact his squad has coped so well without the likes of Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Diafra Sakho.
It certainly seems that the squad is set up to continue their form over the course of the whole season. We are now just past the halfway stage and I think it is not unjust to think we can finish in the European places.
I think Champions League still is a big ask, just because other clubs can and will go out and spend in January, but certainly a top five or six finish is within our grasp; and if we do a bit better, what a special achievement that would be.
Before we go back to the Premier League next week, however, we’ve got a big FA Cup tie at the Boleyn on Saturday against Wolves.
As has been the case in recent seasons, the magic really seems to have come back to this competition and West Ham are one of those clubs which is big enough to take advantage of others fielding slightly weakened sides and go on and win it.
It’s a special weekend for everyone involved and of course I have got great FA Cup memories. Growing up, I always loved watching it and wanting to be part of it and to go on and win it.
Obviously to get so close to winning it with West Ham in 2006 was great in one sense, but heart-breaking in another.
This weekend, a home draw is what you want, and with it being against a lower-division side there is a good chance to win it.
There are players who will want to play in this game, like Payet and Carl Jenkinson, and get minutes on the pitch and that’s exactly what you want.
Another player who could start is Andy Carroll, who has scored and played well in recent matches. Going through injury problems myself, I felt sorry for Andy when people were writing him off and saying he was injury-prone and seemed to never come back.
When he got fit, he had to be patient and wait for his chance, which was difficult, but now he is in the side and match-fit, I don’t think there is anybody better at heading the ball in world football.
Talking of getting match-fit, Mark Noble made my day last week when he invited me to play in his Testimonial in April. I’m definitely going to have to do some training, though!
I am so excited about it, honestly, to be involved in such an event in the last season at Upton Park. I am sure it will be sold out and will be a fitting event for Mark Noble, who is such a great servant to the Club and is such an under-rated player. He is so much better than people think and he should have played for England by now.
His consistency level has been brilliant and now he has taken on the captaincy. You want a West Ham captain to embody everything about the Club, and he does that. You only have to see the video clips of him crying after the Spurs game when he first got into the team to see what West Ham means to him – he thoroughly deserves his Testimonial and I cannot wait to be part of it.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Ham United.