West Ham fans love a hard worker, someone who gives everything to the cause at all times.

So it’s no real surprise that Michail Antonio has become one of the most loved players at West Ham since he arrived from Nottingham Forest 18 months ago.

For Antonio, the £7m transfer to east London marked the latest chapter in what has been one of English football’s less documented rags to riches stories.

While Jamie Vardy had his six year journey from non-league Stocksbridge Park Steels to lifting the Premier League title with Leicester City, Antonio had his own story to tell.

In 2008 Antonio was turning out for Tooting & Mitcham United. Since then he has climbed the Football League ladder with the likes of Reading, Cheltenham Town, Southampton, Colchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and, of course, Nottingham Forest.

It was his performances for Forest in the Championship that convinced Slaven Bilic that he was good enough to have his chance in the biggest league in the world.

And after having to wait patiently for a real chance to show the Premier League what he has to offer, Michail Antonio has not looked back since being given his first start for the club four months after signing.

Antonio made his West Ham debut off the bench against Man City last season…

If you fast forward to today, it has been an incredible 18 months or so for Antonio. He has scored 17 goals in 65 first team appearances for the Hammers and was rewarded for such consistency with a first ever call-up to the England squad in August 2016.

It is fair to say that the forward is enjoying the best form of his career to date, and as I sit down to discuss life at the club with him as part of Heineken’s HammerHeads competition at Rush Green, there are only two words Antonio has to describe what it’s like playing for West Ham United.

“I’m home,” he tells me, with a big grin on his face.

It’s an admission that every West Ham fan will be delighted to hear. Put simply, Antonio is one of the most effective players at the club right now.

But as I mentioned earlier, his journey from new arrival to first name on the team sheet has not been easy for the 26-year-old.

“It’s difficult being a player that, for the last five or six years of my career, if I was fit I would have been playing,” Antonio admits when I ask him about his first few months at the club.

Antonio scored 16 goals in 50 league appearances for Forest…

“At clubs like Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Colchester, I always played. So coming here and not playing was quite difficult because it was new to me.”

So, how does a player so used to playing every week adapt and remain focused on forcing his way in to the manager’s plans?

“I’m the kind of person who always believes in my ability, I believe in myself and I always told myself that if I ever get an opportunity, I’m going to take it.

“I always knew I was good enough to play in the Premier League, that’s what kept me going and what kept me motivated.”

That self-belief and motivation has been evident to those who have seen Antonio turn out for the Hammers week in, week out.

Having netted 17 goals for the club so far and currently topping the squad’s scoring charts with eight in all competitions this season, Antonio has become a vital source of goals for Bilic’s side.

But how does a player who has played in a number of different positions for West Ham still manage to find his way on the scoresheet.

“I just always want to get in the box,” he tells me.

“I’m the sort of player who always wants to be around the goal and more often than not, if you’re in the box, the ball might drop for you.

“It’s one of those things where I’m always going to be there, I’m always going to make sure I’m around.”

Antonio did the Macarena when scoring the winner v. Bournemouth this season…

His goalscoring antics have been amplified somewhat by his fun and quirky celebrations. We all know the story behind why he celebrates goals the way he does, but the burning question I have to wrap up the short chat we had at Rush Green was; do you have another celebration lined up and can he tell us what it is?

“Yeah, I have another one lined up but I’m not even giving you hint!”

It was the answer I was expecting, but you can’t knock a guy for trying.

Antonio hasn’t scored since the 4-1 Boxing Day win over Swansea City but, given the season he’s having, I don’t think it’ll be long before we see his next celebration in action.

Michail Antonio was speaking to James Jones as part of Heineken’s HammerHeads campaign. Click here to learn more and to see how you can get involved…