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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 11, 2006

Ferdinand keeping his cool ahead of Cup final

Anton Ferdinand is adamant West Ham's young side will not freeze on the big occasion as they return to the Millennium Stadium for the third time in as many years this weekend.

The Hammers have performed admirably since coming back into the top flight via the play-offs last season.

Alan Pardew has used a delicate blend of youth and experience to mould his team into an effective unit, securing a ninth-place finish in the Barclays Premiership and reaching the club's first FA Cup final since 1980.

Ferdinand, 21, was one of the players who came of age during the Hammers' triumphant end to the 2004-05 campaign, which was capped with a 1-0 victory over Preston in Cardiff to help exorcise the ghost of 12 months before.

After coming through what was such an all-or-nothing game for the club, the Hammers will certainly not face as much pressure this time around for their trip to Wales, with a place in the UEFA Cup already guaranteed after fellow finalists Liverpool finished third in the Premiership.

England Under-21 centre-back Ferdinand, however, insists everyone of his team-mates will be playing the game, and not the occasion on Saturday.

Ferdinand declared: 'It is quality to be involved in the FA Cup final.

'We are professionals and the fact the world will be watching will not enter our minds.

'We are going there to play a game of football - we are not going there to make up the numbers, we are going there to win and come back with the FA Cup.'

The Hammers defender added: 'It helps we have been at the Millennium Stadium for the last two years.

'But I do not want to feel how I felt the first time we went there.

'We will keep the nerves intact by treating it as a normal game, and prepare the same way as I always do.

'We know all about Liverpool, but we have to concentrate on ourselves.'

Ferdinand had been utilised at right-back before moving to his more natural role in the centre, and has forged a good understanding with Wales international Danny Gabbidon, although James Collins is also pressing for a starting place this weekend.

The 21-year-old is desperate to be involved in whatever capacity.

Ferdinand said: 'I just want to train hard and show the manager I am the right man to play in whatever position I am picked for.

'If I have to play right-back, I will play right-back. I will play anywhere for the club and give 110%.'

The defender accepted: 'It has been a quick rise for me, but it has been exciting.

'These are exciting times for the club because we have a lot of young players here.

'But we are not getting carried away as a lot of people might have thought we would - we are keeping it going not just for a few games, but for the whole season.

'A lot of players have stood out in their first year in the Premiership and proved they can play at this level and it is a great way to cap off the season.

'We have done well because of our determination and our togetherness.'

Tickets for the match have been at a premium, with many West Ham season-ticket holders not being able to secure themselves a seat at the Millennium Stadium so high has been the demand for a limited allocation of just 23,500, well below the capacity of Upton Park.

Ferdinand knows how important the day out will be to the supporters.

He declared: 'The fans cannot wait to get to Cardiff.'

The 21-year-old quipped: 'My ticket requests have been coming in thick and fast - and they were all gone the day after the semi-final!'

The Hammers defender added: 'At times our fans have been our 12th man. Even at away games you can hear the West Ham fans above the home supporters.'

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