Saturday, 22 September 2007

Onward Christian Soldier

In the recent roll-call of Newcastle bad boys, Craig Bellamy and Lee Bowyer would figure quite highly. They return to St James' Park tomorrow as major figures in West Ham's bid to land a third successive away win in the Premier League. Alan Curbishley backed his judgment in splashing £7.5million on controversial Welshman Bellamy, but he had no worries about finding Bowyer already at the club, having nurtured him since he was a 12-year-old at Charlton. "Craig reminds me of Paolo Di Canio," said Curbishley. "When Paolo came to Charlton from West Ham, the thing that riled him more than any other was being unprofessional and people not training properly. That's like Bellamy — he trains like a trouper and expects everyone else to follow. And now he's at West Ham, he sees himself as the main man, the big fish if you like, and that may help him. He's a better player than I thought and the only problem is trying to stop him getting involved in dropping deep. When you think of Craig, you see him streaking away from the back four."

Bowyer figures highly in the Curbishley managerial story, as the Hammers boss explained: "His transfer to Leeds probably helped build Charlton's East Stand. He was the most expensive teenager in the domestic game when we sold him to Leeds, but when I came here he was trying too hard after leaving Newcastle. I told him to try and relax a bit more, though I can't stop him working as hard as he has always done. He's been such a prolific scorer when we were at Charlton and then when he was at Leeds. He just needed that goal to take the weight off his shoulders. He got it against Wigan and then scored a beauty last week against Middlesbrough."

Elsewhere, Curbishley has been reassured that his own position will not be affected by the recent boardroom reshuffle at the club. Eggert Magnusson stepped aside as executive chairman this week as the club's billionaire owner, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, pledged to take more of an active role in the running of the club. Despite building a close bond with Magnusson since taking over at Upton park in December last year, Curbishley insists he is unconcerned by the latest movements. "I have been assured that nothing much has changed. It was a bit like a blind date when I started working with Eggert, but we worked hard, and we have a good relationship. He will still be in the directors' box for our matches. I went out to dinner on Thursday with Eggert, he is at Upton Park every day, and we talk every day." Magnusson is likely to be asked to concentrate on longer-term projects, such as the club's proposed move to a new 60,000-seater stadium near West Ham tube station.

Finally, a fond farewell to Christian Dailly. Uber-permed Football Genius joined Championship side Southampton on a one-month loan yesterday, with view to a permanent deal. He is set to make his debut against Barnsley at St Mary's today. George Burley moved for the experienced centre-half after being left short in defence following injuries to Claus Lundekvam and Darren Powell. "I am delighted to bring Christian to the club for an initial month, and we will take it from there," Burley told "He will give us just the sort of experience and composure we need at the back right now. Christian is a leader, a good character and enthusiastic. He's played a lot for Scotland and has been at West Ham for many years. He's still fit and still hungry to play so bringing him in will give us a big boost."

Dailly, 33, has barely featured in the United first team since Alan Curbishley took the managerial reigns from Alan Pardew a year ago. He has slipped further down the pecking order at Upton Park since due to the arrivals of Matthew Upson, Lucas Neill and Calum Davenport. Dailly is currently the club's longest serving player, having been a Hammer since moving to Upton Park in a £1.75m switch from Blackburn (as a replacement for Leeds-bound Rio Ferdinand) in January 2001.

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