MATTY Etherington says he played some of the best football of his career while he was at West Ham United.

The Colchester United head coach faces his former club’s under-21 side tonight, in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy knockout stages (kick-off 7.30pm).

Etherington played nearly 200 times for the Hammers over a five-and-a-half year period between 2003 and 2009, having joined them from London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

The former winger helped West Ham win promotion to the Premier League with victory in the 2005 play-off final and also played for them in the 2006 FA Cup Final, which they lost on penalties to Liverpool.

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Etherington said: “They’re just a brilliant football club.

“I had nearly six years of my playing career there and I loved every minute of it.

“I had some brilliant times; two play-off finals, winning one of them, an FA Cup Final, experiences in Europe etc; I look back on my time there really fondly.

“There are some brilliant people working there who have worked there for years and years, behind the scenes.

“It’s just a proper football club with real core values to it and there are good people there.


“I definitely played the best football of my career at West Ham and also at Stoke, where I had five and a half good years.

“I still get to as many games there now as I can but since I came into the role here in June, you get less and less time.

“But I try to get over to the stadium as much as I can, to watch the first team.”

Etherington spent time at former club West Ham at the end of last season, observing their academy coaching.

The U’s boss knows how tough a test it will be tonight for his side, who face a young Hammers team who are 14 games unbeaten in all competitions.

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Etherington said: “I went into West Ham at the back end of last season, just to see how they do it with their 21s and 18s – their 18s won the Youth Cup last season and they’re under-19s now and the foremost of the group will be playing on Tuesday night.

“I’ve seen them up close and personal and I know how highly they’re thought of, those young players at the football club.

“They’re unbeaten in 12 or 13 at the moment and we know that we’re up against a really talented young team.


“They’re a good side; I’ve watched a lot of them and you’ll probably see some of those younger players playing in the first team in the Premier League in a few years’ time.

“But we’re at home and we’ll be looking to impose our game on them.

“We’re under no illusions what we’re up against but we’ll be looking to get the mixture right, like we did against Peterborough, in terms of youth and a little bit more experience and go and win the game.”