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'The Wardrobe' opens up after making debut in tough London derby

PUBLISHED: 12:00 06 October 2011

CRYSTAL PALACE v WEST HAM UTD  - nPOWER CHAMPIONSHIP - 1/10/2011 - PICTURE BY STEVE BACON

CRYSTAL PALACE v WEST HAM UTD - nPOWER CHAMPIONSHIP - 1/10/2011 - PICTURE BY STEVE BACON

STEVE BACON

Hammers midfielder thriving on the physical nature of the Championship

West Ham midfielder Papa Bouba Diop struggled to hide his smile after making his Hammers debut in their 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The Senegal international, nicknamed ‘The Wardrobe’ because of his large frame, put in a commanding display for 90 minutes on Saturday, and is targeting a regular starting place in Sam Allardyce’s side.

“I was happy to play and I enjoyed it,” he said.

“The team are happy to take a point and I am happy and here to work.

“I’m ready and when the coach says I can start, then I just try my best every time.”

Diop was thrown into the deep end with his first taste of Championship football, but the 33-year-old admitted that he relished the physical side of the league.

“The Premiership and the Championship are not the same,” he said.

“The Championship is good because it’s physical and quick, so this makes it more difficult than the Premiership.

“In the Premiership, it’s more technical and here you have to fight more.”

The midfielder also revealed that he was relieved after playing his first game in more than three months and coming through unscathed.

“Now I’ve played my first game in three months and my first game at this level I’m happy,” he said.

“I probably need one more game after this to be fully fit.

“I worked very hard in training because if you don’t play it’s hard.

“But when you get the call to play then you must be ready because you never know when you will be needed.”

West Ham boss Allardyce was equally pleased with his new recruit’s debut at Selhurst Park.

“With Papa, I was expecting that I would have to give him oxygen after 60 minutes in today’s heat,” he said.

“But you know, he was masterful in front of the back four breaking things up, starting us off on more and more attacks as the game went on, so I’m really pleased.”

However, for Diop, this season is all about earning promotion to the Premier League, and the midfielder thinks that the Hammers need to learn to cope with being one of the league title favourites.

“I think West Ham are not a Championship club,” he said.

“Now everyone wants to beat West Ham – everyone.

“You saw that against Ipswich and also here against Crystal Palace.

“Now we go and have a rest with family because we have two big games when we come back.

“If we want to go back to the Premier League then we have to do better.”

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