FORMER Saints cap­tain James Ward-Prowse had media and fans alike fawn­ing over his ear­ly West Ham per­for­mances. 

They hailed the set-piece spe­cial­ist, who has scored five goals and laid on 11 assists in 40 appear­ances for his new side.

He put West Ham ahead via open play against Brighton and Man City and crossed for a last-minute win­ner against Not­ting­ham For­est. 

Eng­lish fans knew all about his reli­a­bil­i­ty from set-pieces and David Moyes — with the threats in the Ham­mers box — has put it to bet­ter use. 

Daily Echo: James Ward-Prowse takes a free-kick for West Ham at Old TraffordJames Ward-Prowse takes a free-kick for West Ham at Old Traf­ford (Image: PA)

The Ham­mers are sev­enth in the Pre­mier League and in con­tention to secure UEFA com­pe­ti­tion for a fourth suc­ces­sive sea­son. 

Ward-Prowse depart­ed Saints last sum­mer after 20 years at the club to play Pre­mier League and Euro­pean foot­ball. 

The mid­field­er also knew per­form­ing each week in the top divi­sion was his only route back into Gareth South­gate’s Eng­land squad. 

“Eng­land is always in the back of my mind,” he said this month. “I’ve been in and out over the last few years.

“The only thing that’s going to get me in there is play­ing reg­u­lar­ly to a very high lev­el. I’ll keep work­ing hard and hope­ful­ly, that call will come.”

Daily Echo: Gareth Southgate announced his latest England squad on ThursdayGareth South­gate announced his lat­est Eng­land squad on Thurs­day (Image: PA)

Ward-Prowse was also one direct free-kick goal away from equalling the record of his icon and foot­ball leg­end David Beck­ham.  

How­ev­er, Ward-Prowse has not added to his 17 set-piece strikes from 10 attempts so far this sea­son. 

He has not been select­ed for South­gate’s Three Lions for the final squad ahead of the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in the sum­mer.

Moyes admit­ted: “I think he’ll always be thought about by South­gate but he’s got so many qual­i­ty play­ers to choose from.” 

And he might now face a fight to get back into West Ham’s start­ing XI after sit­ting out of their last two fol­low­ing a half-time hook­ing. 

Daily Echo: David Moyes has opted to bench Ward-Prowse in the last twoDavid Moyes has opt­ed to bench Ward-Prowse in the last two (Image: PA)

Ward-Prowse played every minute of an eight-match win­less run that also saw the Ham­mers knocked out of the FA Cup by Bris­tol City.

On March 7, Ward-Prowse strug­gled in West Ham’s 1–0 defeat to Freiburg in the Europa League round of 16 first leg.

Four days lat­er, he was hooked at half-time with the Ham­mers 2–0 down to Burn­ley — hav­ing been deployed on the left wing by Moyes. 

In the next two, in which West Ham smashed Freiburg 5–0 and drew 1–1 with Aston Vil­la, Ward-Prowse start­ed on the bench. 

Lucas Paque­ta, Edson Alvarez and Tomas Soucek pro­vide Moyes with a set­tled mid­field three with­out the for­mer Saint.

Ward-Prowse did have a win­ner against Vil­la cleared off the line by Mat­ty Cash in the dying embers of Sun­day’s draw. 

Daily Echo: West Ham had a winning goal ruled out after Ward-Prowse's shot was cleared off the lineWest Ham had a win­ning goal ruled out after Ward-Prowse’s shot was cleared off the line (Image: PA)

West Ham are set to face shock Bun­desli­ga lead­ers Bay­er Lev­erkusen — with Nathan Tel­la in their ranks — in the Europa League quar­ter-finals.

This is already Ward-Prowse’s first taste of knock­out Euro­pean foot­ball but he will not want to watch on from the side­lines. 

“As a play­er you want to play in the best com­pe­ti­tions,” Ward-Prowse said. 

“For me, it’s good to get to this stage but as a club we’re aim­ing high­er and hope­ful­ly we can keep going on this run.

“I’ve real­ly enjoyed the start of my career here. I think the momen­tum of the Europa Con­fer­ence League win helped and it’s been an hon­our.”