Spector hopes for American dream

THINK OF the West Ham players who will be rubbing shoulders with the greatest in the game at the World Cup Finals in South Africa next summer and the likes of Matty Upson, Carlton Cole and Robert Green spring to mind, writes DAVE EVANS. But one Hammer is

THINK OF the West Ham players who will be rubbing shoulders with the greatest in the game at the World Cup Finals in South Africa next summer and the likes of Matty Upson, Carlton Cole and Robert Green spring to mind, writes DAVE EVANS.

But one Hammer is far more of a regular in his national side than those players, and will be certainly looking to impress come the summer and that is full back Jonathan Spector.

The defender, who is still just 23-years-old, has been an integral part of his country's qualification for the World Cup as the United States pipped Guillermo Franco's Mexico to top place in the group.

Both Spector and Franco hope to be in South Africa, but for the American, it will be a poignant moment just to get there.

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"It will be a huge honour to represent my country on the world stage," said Spector, who came to the Hammers in the summer of 2006 when Alan Pardew splashed out �5million to bring him in from Manchester United.

"I missed the last World Cup in Germany through injury and then I missed the Olympics last year in Beijing with another injury, so I've had a little bit of misfortune when it comes to international football."

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Spector has certainly had some misfortune in his time at West Ham too. He has always professed to prefer playing in the centre of defence, but his versatility has seen him turn out at left back, centre midfield and his current position of right back in the Hammers ranks.

However, he seems to be something of a jack of all trades and master of none at West Ham and that has certainly affected his ability to hold on to a regular place in the starting line-up.

But having deposed Julien Faubert from the team, he is hoping to secure his place on a more permanent basis.

"It would certainly help my chances with the US team," he confirmed. "I think it is frustrating for any player who is not in the team, not just me, but you just have to keep your chin up, work hard and wait for your opportunity."

Spector has certainly had to do that. In his three and a half years at Upton Park he has made 42 starts and 30 substitute appearances, though he could surely never had more to do in a match than he did in the second half against Sunderland.

So what went wrong for West Ham after the break at the Stadium of Light?

"It is difficult to say," confessed the defender.

"Obviously they came out in the second half and put us under a lot of pressure and we found it difficult to get out.

"If we had just been able to connect one or two passes, I think we would have been in on goal. We did it a couple of times and created one or two opportunities, but nothing we were able to finish and put the game to bed."

Spector certainly had a tough time of things with Andy Reid and Kieron Richardson to contend with as Sunderland stormed forward looking for an equaliser.

"They certainly have some talented players, but I felt that we defended well for the most part, but at the same time, when you are under so much pressure, it is hard to keep them out," he added.

With Spector and Faubert vying for the right back berth and Everton arriving at Upton Park this Sunday, thoughts of Lucas Neill, the previous holder of the position at West Ham, spring to mind.

After his initial success with the Hammers, the Aussie international replaced Nigel Reo-Coker as club captain, but seemed to struggle with his form and fitness, before finally leaving last summer.

But are the Hammers missing his influence on the team? On the statistical side they are probably not. In the first 10 games of this Premier League campaign they have let in 17 goals, last time round it was 16, so little difference there.

And certainly when you think of the wingers that terrorised Neill down his flank in the last couple of seasons, there is little difference there either.

But it is on the organisational and inspirational fields where West Ham may well miss their former captain.

Matty Upson has replaced him, but is not the same sort of bullish character as the Aussie, and perhaps it was Neill's refusal to allow himself or his team to be bullied that is the thing lacking from West Ham's make-up this season.

For Spector, he is dreaming of South Africa, but there is something more immediate to think about.

"There was a lot of disappointment and frustration among the players, especially after how well the first half had gone for us," said Spector. "But I think we are all kind of happy that we have a game on Wednesday so that we can put right the wrongs from this game.

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