French polish!

IT HAS taken him 58 appearances in claret and blue, but Julien Faubert finally broke his goalscoring duck against Hull City on Saturday, writes DAVE EVANS. With the clock winding down, the Hammers full back collected a pass from Radoslav Kovac and drove f

IT HAS taken him 58 appearances in claret and blue, but Julien Faubert finally broke his goalscoring duck against Hull City on Saturday, writes DAVE EVANS.

With the clock winding down, the Hammers full back collected a pass from Radoslav Kovac and drove forward, before unleashing a right-footed shot from just inside the area which flew past Boaz Myhill and into the far corner.

"I tried with my left foot before and then I tried with my right and scored," he said. "It's my first goal for a very long time so I am very happy."

It wasn't supposed to take that long. When the Frenchman arrived in a �6.1million deal from Bordeaux in the summer of 2007, it was as a speedy winger who had played Champions Lea-gue football and was known for his telling crosses and his knack for goals.

The previous summer he had made his debut for the French national team, scoring the winner against Bosnia and wearing the Les Bleus number 10 shirt made famous by Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane.

But almost from the moment he arrived at West Ham things went wrong for the Frenchman.

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"I had a bad moment when I came to West Ham with my Achilles rupture and it was hard to come back," admitted the converted full back, who was advised not to make the move to Upton Park by French coach Ray-mond Domenech .

"When I did come back I was not fit and I had some problems, but I have worked hard over the summer and I am careful about my weight. I just want to keep going and playing regularly."

This is the attitude that has transformed Faubert into a Premier League player at long last. Much of it comes from the nightmare time he suffered on loan at Spanish giants Real Madrid at the beginning of the year.

It was a surprise to everyone when Real took him on loan with a view to a permanent move, but he was castigated by the fans and Spanish press. He seemed to be asleep when the cameras spotted him on the Real bench; he missed training because he forgot what day it was and in the end he made just two appearances before being sent back to east London.

It is something that has changed the 26-year-olds perception of the game: "When I went to Spain it was a nice experience, but nobody gave me a chance," he confessed. "Coming back to West Ham is not a step down, it's just that I want to play football because when I was in Madrid I forgot I was a football player."

Many West Ham supporters didn't realise he was a footballer either. But this season he has gone from strength to strength, appearing in all but three of the Hammers' Premier League matches this season and making the problem right back position his own.

He also won the hearts of many fans when he returned to Upton Park just 48 hours after the death of his mother, to play in the home clash with Blackburn Rovers.

Faubert himself feels that he is on top of his game at the moment: "Men-tally and physically I think I am at my best," he explained.

"I am a bit older now and I can feel the game better. It is better with the fans too, I have great support from them when I lost my Mum.

"When you are competitive and fit you have the crowd behind you and I'm very happy about that.

"I play for them because they pay for the tickets to see this."

Fitness and confidence seems to be the key to Faubert's imporovement, something that manager Gianfranco Zola was quick to point out.

"Obviously his confidence was the thing that was letting him down, but this year he is much more mature and focused and that is massive for us," said the manager, who wanted to praise everything about the French international.

"It wasn't just the goal, but the pass for Carlton Cole for the second goal was massive too," said Zola. "Julien has been playing very well for us and I'm pleased for him because he had some difficult times. Now he is proving himself in a different position and that is a good thing for him and for the club."

The pass that released Cole for West Ham's second goal against Hull City was indicative of the progress the Frenchman has made this season, his comments about the pass are an example of his new thinking about the game.

"It works automatically between me and Carlton Cole," he said. "I saw his run and tried to give it to him. I was a little bit lucky because it was close to the defender, but very happy because he scored. For me, it's the same feeling when I score."

The old Faubert would not have tried that pass, nor delivered the cross from which Cole headed home against Birmingham City in the previous game.

It has taken an awful long time, but slowly and surely Faubert is returning to something like the form that won him that one and only international cap.

Now he is looking to add to it after three-and-a-half years in the wilderness.

"I am 26 and when you're my age you think about the national team," he said. "I play in the Premier League and I look forward to getting into the French team - I wait for the World Cup."

Many more performances like Saturday's and he won't be waiting much longer.

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