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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 18:51 GMT 19:51 UK
Hislop glee at 'best ever' summer
By Julian Shea

Shaka Hislop
Hilsop has ended up being a regular starter this season
West Ham's Shaka Hislop says reaching the FA Cup final against Liverpool and playing for his country at the World Cup is almost too much to believe.

The 37-year-old Trinidad and Tobago keeper rejoined West Ham last summer as number two to Roy Carroll, but is first choice after Carroll injured his back.

"I'm in this game for big occasions like May and June," he told BBC Sport.

"I've got the most exciting summer of my career with a club I love - I'm pinching myself to check it's real."

Last summer Hislop looked to be short of options when his contract expired at Portsmouth and he did not have a new club lined up.

But Jimmy Walker's serious injury in West Ham's play-off final win over Preston made goalkeeping reinforcements a priority for manager Alan Pardew as he rebuilt the team for the Premiership.

Carroll joined on a free move from Manchester United in June, with Pardew signing up Hislop a month later.

And Carroll's back problems gave Hislop an unexpected run in the first team which will climax at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, when West Ham take on Liverpool in the FA Cup final.

"I'm 37, I've been in this game professionally for 14 years and I've seen a lot of things," he said.

The final is without doubt the biggest game of our season, for many the biggest game of their lives

"But all of a sudden a lot has happened all at once, so I'll enjoy it.

"I've been happy with my career and what I've achieved, so I wasn't worried about it not coming, but I'm delighted with results."

Hislop made over 130 appearances in his first spell at Upton Park, between 1998 and 2002, and he says that when he was offered a second chance at the club, there was no chance of him regarding it as an easy payday.

"I was here to push Roy and get the best out of him, and if I did that and served the club well, I would have done my job," he said.

"I took that job seriously, kept myself prepared and in good shape.

"Unfortunately Roy had quite a serious back injury and it gave me a run in the team. When the call came, I was in good shape and good form."

Considering they only won promotion a year ago, and needed the play-offs to do it, West Ham have performed way beyond expectation this season, with a top 10 finish, European qualification and a place in the FA Cup final.

Shaka Hislop and Dwight Yorke
Hislop and fellow veteran Dwight Yorke will play at the World Cup

And although he admits the season has been a fantastic surprise so far, Hislop says the real work is still to be done.

"We've taken a lot of people by surprise this season," he said.

"We approached the season with the sole intention of enjoying it, and felt that if we did that, with the players we have, we'd do well.

"Strangely, the fact some of the players are so young has worked in our favour.

"The final is without doubt the biggest game of our season, for many the biggest game of their lives.

"We owe it ourselves and the fans to approach the final with that same no fear, nothing to lose attitude - the final is by no means just our day in Cardiff."


SEE ALSO
Molby expects Liverpool victory
09 May 06 |  FA Cup
Lawro's FA Cup final prediction
10 May 06 |  FA Cup
FA Cup final quiz
10 May 06 |  Football
FA Cup flashback
10 May 06 |  FA Cup
Guide to Millennium Stadium
10 May 06 |  FA Cup
Middlesbrough 0-1 West Ham
23 Apr 06 |  FA Cup
Keeper Carroll out for six weeks
03 Mar 06 |  West Ham Utd
Keeper Hislop signs for West Ham
29 Jul 05 |  West Ham Utd


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