Neill the perennial loser eyes first cup

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The Independent Football

Lucas Neill is desperate to end a frustrating 12-year hunt for major honours by leading West Ham to glory in the Carling Cup.

The only piece of silverware currently on Neill's mantelpiece dates back to Millwall's promotion to the old First Division in 2001.

Otherwise, the rugged Australian defender has experienced a series of frustrating near misses during his time in English football.

Neill lost a play-off semi-final and Auto Windscreen Shield final while at Millwall and was then cup-tied when Blackburn won the Carling Cup in 2002. Over the next five years at Ewood Park he lost semi-finals to Arsenal in the FA Cup and Manchester United in the Carling Cup.

Fed up with being the nearly man, Neill is ready to do whatever it takes to secure victory in tomorrow night's Carling Cup quarter-final against Everton.

"We can see an opportunity to be in a cup final, in front of 80,00 people at Wembley. You play the game to get into a position to experience that kind of thing," said Neill.

"You want to have cup finals, to give yourself the chance to win medals. I have had three or four semi-finals in my career and lost them all. Everton will be very tough but a slight edge we might have is that we are at home and I know Tim Cahill very well. Maybe I'll try and poison him!"

West Ham will be without the cup-tied Nolberto Solano for tomorrow night's meeting but they head into the game on the back of an impressive run of form, with just one defeat in eight games. And the West Ham manager, Alan Curbishley, who will celebrate a year in charge of the club on Thursday, is in bullish mood following Sunday's 1-0 League win over Blackburn.

"We got a great start to the week at Blackburn," he said. "We feel the Carling Cup is a competition we should attack. A Premier League side will win the Carling Cup and we thought 'why not us?'

"Certainly here at West Ham we enjoy a good cup run and it keeps everything bubbling along. It will be an interesting night tomorrow. The crowd are up for it, we are up for it and Everton are going well. Something has got to give."

Curbishley holds Everton in the highest regard and his immediate aim at Upton Park is to emulate their recent achievements and establish West Ham as regular European contenders.

Only then, Curbishley believes, will West Ham be in a position to deliver the Champions League football demanded within five years by the club's new owners.

"Everton and Blackburn are two sides who have really demonstrated you can get in and around that top six with a lot of hard work and talented players. It shows it can be done," said Curbishley.

"In some respects, Everton and Blackburn have been the successes of the Premiership over the last four years. The top four is always difficult to break into. But that doesn't stop you trying. Everton have always been there and thereabouts.

"That is what we are able to do. We need to lay some foundations to build the club and that is what we are trying to do."

Freddie Ljungberg is set to replace Solano in the squad and, while Matthew Etherington is doubtful, Dean Ashton is pushing for a place in the starting line-up after scoring the winning goal at Blackburn.

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