O’Neil: Favourites tag won’t affect West Ham

15:00 03 May 2012

Gary O

Gary O'Neil of West Ham

Rob Newell/TGSPHOTO c/o 27 Plaiters Way, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3LR - Editorial Use ONLY - FA Premier League and Football League

Hammers midfielder ‘amazed’ at his involvement this season

West Ham midfielder Gary O’Neil admits that while they may be favourites to win the play-offs, it is a tag that won’t affect the Hammers squad.

The midfielder has played an extensive role in the final stretch of the season, becoming a regular starter in the West Ham engine room, and the 28-year-old is looking forward to tonight’s (Thursday) clash against Cardiff City.

“We are in very decent form, we have only lost one game at home this year to Reading, so we are looking forward to it,” he said. “The favourites’ tag doesn’t really mean anything to me.

“We deal with everything in the dressing room, we are a very tight unit and we try not to let outside influences affect us.

“You can guarantee that we will be giving all that we can and hopefully it is enough.”

Along with the Bluebirds, Blackpool and Birmingham City are also in the play-offs, but O’Neil sees all three teams as equal threats.

“There are four of us in the semi-final and league positions don’t really mean a lot,” he said. “I don’t see one as a bigger threat than the others, they have all had decent seasons to get where they are.”

Speaking of decent seasons, O’Neil has had an impressive spell of his own, coming back from his long injury lay-off to stake a claim for a first-team place.

And the former Middlesbrough man admits that he has been surprised by the amount of games that he has been able to play.

“I am amazed,” he added. “One, I didn’t think the ankle would let me play as many as I have and two, I didn’t think I’d be selected for as many as I have been.

“I’m really pleased on a personal level that I’ve made 10 starts this season.

“That’s probably about nine more than I expected, so that’s a real positive.”

The Hammers have won a club record 13 away league games this term, and O’Neil is confident that West Ham can continue that run tonight, before entertaining Cardiff at Upton Park on Bank Holiday Monday.

“Going away to Cardiff first could be an advantage if we treat it as a one-off game and try to win,” he said.

“Coming back here, we’d be confident.It’s an old cliché, but we need to take it one game at a time.

“We need to try to be solid and keep a clean sheet, score a few goals and then we can come back and finish the job.

“Cardiff have got into the play-offs by scraping in, so they’ll be buzzing that they’ve made it.

“It will be a tough tie.”

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