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It's time to give peace a chance.

Byline: By Andy Rose Wales on Sunday

There's only one way Danny Gabbidon can be certain of enjoying a bit of peace and quiet at West Ham this season.

That's by helping Wales qualify for the European Championships.

Gabbidon was a happy Hammer last year after being crowned as the club's player-of-the-year in a debut Premiership season which also took him to the FA Cup final and Uefa Cup qualification.

But despite the success and personal accolades which came his way, Gabbidon admits he also took a verbal hammering in the dressing room at the hands of his motor-mouth teammates.

Now he believes the only way he can silence the likes of Bobby Zamora, Anton Ferdinand and Marlon Harewood is to achieve success on the international stage with Wales.

'I think the only way I could shut them up is by Wales qualifying for Euro 2008,' said Gabbidon.

'It would be an unbelievable achievement and even that lot would be left speechless.

'There is always plenty of stick flying about the dressing room but me and Ginge [James Collins] give as good as we get.

'There are few who like their stitch ups like Bobby, Anton and Marlon. They're the loud ones, the pranksters who are always up to something.

'But I've learnt that you can't be quiet, you have to give a bit back or they will walk all over you.

'Keeping them quiet is one of my aims for the season.'

On the face of it Gabbidon and his Wales colleagues will have their work cut out in a group alongside the likes of Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland.

But having achieved all his aims and more last season it is tempting to believe that Gabbidon might just have the Midas touch in his boots.

Not that the laid-back centre-half is taking anything for granted.

'I had thought to myself about what I wanted to achieve last season which was mainly being consistent, staying in the team and hopefully helping to keep us in the Premiership,' said Gabbidon who moved to London last summer from Cardiff City in a joint pounds 3m deal with fellow international James Collins.

'We did all those things, got to the FA Cup final and then into Europe which was never in my thoughts.

'But every season you have to prove yourself and you can't just rest on your laurels. I want to keep improving and I know that I have to prove myself all over again.

'Winning the player of the year in my first season wasn't something I was expecting. It was a bonus which gave me added confidence but I'm not taking anything for granted.'

Now a virtual veteran in the Wales squad at 27 and with the same number of caps, Gabbidon is still feeling his way back to fitness after a summer hernia operation.

But he believes he will be ready for action by the time Wales face the Czech Republic in Teplice next Saturday.

In 2002, Gabbidon made his international debut against the same opposition but life has changed beyond all recognition since then for the Cwmbran-born defender.

Back then he was a player of potential plying his trade in League One with Cardiff.

Now he looks every inch a Premiership star.

The man who once claimed he was too shy to captain Cardiff has even captained his country since then.

And while he still prefers to keep a low profile he admits that he has now learnt how to dominate in defence.

'The fact that I am now playing in the Premiership helps,' he said.

'The football is of a higher standard and it has helped me to come out of my shell, talk more and generally be more aware of things.

'It's automatic when you play against better teams week in, week out.'

He will need to be at his best against the Czechs especially with 6ft8ins dangerman Jan Koller leading the line.

Wales could not have asked for a tougher start on the road to Euro 2008 qualification against a team ranked 10th in the world despite their poor World Cup showing in Germany.

Two years ago a dire 1-1 draw in Azerbaijan set the tone for another disappointing campaign trail.

'We didn't start well last time and you saw what happened,' said Gabbidon.

'It's a tough group and no one will give us much of a chance but we have to use that as a positive and try to prove people wrong. I think things are developing fairly well in the squad.

'If we can start well and get some decent results in the first two or three games and get some confidence behind us then you never know what could happen. Everyone talks about the youngsters we have and we have definitely got some good ones coming through. But if we can keep clear of injuries then the starting 11 isn't a bad team either.

'Even without Pavel Nedved (retired) they still have some wonderful players but if we can keep it tight for as long as possible with the likes of Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs in our side we always have a chance to score goals.'

The more you listen to Gabbidon the more you believe he might just be right.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 27, 2006
Words:886
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