Issa Diop has two particularly positive memories to draw upon as he and West Ham United prepare for Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup fourth-round trip to AFC Wimbledon.
First, the defender is returning to the same venue, Kingsmeadow, where he scored his maiden goal in Claret and Blue in a Carabao Cup win over the Dons in August last year.
And second, the tie reminds him of his first experience of facing lower-league opposition in a knockout competition, when he helped Toulouse overcome minnows L’Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien in the Coupe de France.
Reflecting on two landmark moments in his flourishing career, Diop says both will provide him with inspiration when he steps out to face the EFL League One side again this weekend.
The FA Cup is a big and good competition and it’s always good to win a cup for us, for the supporters and for the club
“I have good memories of this stadium because it was my first goal for West Ham that I scored there, so I hope I can do the same again and we can win,” he smiled.
“When I was with Toulouse, we played against L’Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien, which is a small team from the French fourth division, the Championnat de France Amateur, and it was a good memory because we won. Hopefully we can do the same on Saturday.”
For Diop and West Ham to repeat their Carabao Cup win over Wimbledon, they will need to deal with the aerial and set piece bombardment they can expect from Wally Downes’ side. The 21-year-old says Manuel Pellegrini’s side will be ready.
“Wimbledon play with a different style to Bournemouth,” he observed. “They will play more directly, with the long ball and with physical strikers, but it is football and all the teams are different and you need to adapt.
“We worked this week to prepare for the team we are playing against. Every team has a different style, so we have adapted our work accordingly.”
Diop never went further than the Round of 32 in the Coupe de France, but he was part of the France squad which won the UEFA European U19 Championship in 2016 and the No21 is understandably eager to lift another trophy sooner rather than later.
“The FA Cup is a big and good competition and it’s always good to win a cup for us, for the supporters and for the club,” he observed. “If we go far, we can go to the Europa League, so it’s very important. Every player wants to win competitions and go to the highest level possible.
“We lost the last game against Bournemouth so I’m not happy with this, but I hope we can win on Saturday against Wimbledon in the FA Cup.
“We are in a very intense period, but in France the winter break was only for one week, so it hasn’t changed too much for me. It’s good to play a lot of games, but I’m young and I like to play!
“I feel good, so I am happy and ready to go again on Saturday!”