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“A whole generation of fans haven’t seen their team play at Wembley. That could all change now.”

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Another column, and another disappointing midweek game for West Ham and it now looks like we are headed for the play-offs.

I have to say that Tuesday night did not decide that the Hammers would not earn automatic promotion.

For me, that was decided with the poor run of home form in recent weeks and the course of the season has meant that we are now third, five points behind Southampton with two games left to play.

Of course, it is not impossible, but even the most die-hard of West Ham fans must admit that is seems highly unlikely that the Saints will not get more than one point from their last two games.

However, there is no reason to be downbeat.

I have said all season long that it would be fantastic for the Hammers to go up via the play-offs and I stand by that.

There is always a good buzz around the semi-finals and the final and I am sure that many of us fondly remember that Preston game in Cardiff when Bobby Zamora scored the crucial goal to take us back to the Premier League.

The one negative about getting automatic promotion from the Championship is that there isn’t really a day when the fans can celebrate.

However, the play-offs provide that opportunity and there is a whole generation of West Ham fans that haven’t seen their team play at Wembley. That could all change come May 19.

Of course there are four games between now and then, but what better way would there be for the club and the players to pay back the fans than winning at Wembley to get back to the top flight.

Now we will find out whether this West Ham team has the bottle to perform under pressure. It is time for the players to stand up and be counted and there is nowhere to hide.

For me, I would prefer to play Cardiff City in the semi-finals for two reasons.

I have seen them a couple of times recently and I don’t think that they are flying at the moment.

Added to that is the Hammers’ recent success there where they turned up and professionally won 2-0, so that will still be fresh in their minds.

However, on the opening day of the season Cardiff came to Upton Park and manage to sneak a 1-0 win so they have shown that on their day they can be a match for anyone.

It will be a blessing for the Hammers to play the first leg away from home and if they can secure a big victory, then it would take the pressure off playing at Upton Park in the second semi-final.

Then, all being well, with the final at Wembley, it would feel like another away day, which can only help.

The one thing that the Hammers will need between now and the end of the season is momentum, though and that starts by winning their last two league games, starting with a trip to Leicester City on Monday.

I know from experience that the Foxes like to make the most of their last home game of the season, but the one thing that could work in West Ham’s favour is that Leicester are playing for nothing now that they cannot reach the play-offs.

The Hammers on the other hand must win to build confidence, and I think that they should just about manage to get back to winning ways.

Tony Cottee was talking to Nathaniel John

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