Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Selective Retrospective

England manager Steve McClaren has given his strongest hint yet that Dean Ashton will be named in the next England squad. England face both Estonia and Russia in forthcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers and could already be without the likes of Michael Owen and Emile Heskey. Although the squad is not officially announced until Friday, McClaren, speaking last night, gave strong indication that Ashton, as expected, will lead the line for his country in the two fixtures. "He has forced his way in," said McClaren. "It was very disappointing about the injury at the start of last season with England. I have been watching him from pre-season onwards and he certainly comes into consideration. Ashton has scored three goals thus far for the Hammers this season." Well placed sources are suggesting that the news will be confirmed in the printed press tomorrow.

Also on the international front Wales have included
Craig Bellamy in their squad for the upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against Cyprus and San Marino, despite the striker missing West Ham’s last three games due to injury. Bellamy has been suffering from a groin strain but if he shakes off the problem will captain John Toshack’s side as they look to finish their Group D campaign strongly despite, barring a miracle, having missed out on qualification. Bellamy had been in training for West Ham’s game with Arsenal at the weekend before pulling out, and Alan Curbishley is hopeful the injury is not serious. "He's trained Thursday and Friday perfectly, then felt sore again, so we've had to pull him out again," said Curbishley. "So we have some thinking to do about the injury. We don't think it is particularly serious but we have to get to the bottom of it." The Mail are reporting that Bellamy will seek a second medical opinion in a bid to sort the problem out.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger insists Mark Noble should have been sent off on Saturday for his challenge on Alex Hleb. Wenger claims Belarus star Hleb was "incredibly lucky" not to have his leg broken by the tackle in Saturday's 1-0 win at West Ham. Now Wenger wants Noble banned for the foul, despite being shown only a yellow card by referee Alan Wiley. Wenger said: "I have watched the challenge again and it was a straight red card for Noble without a doubt. There can be no excuse for a challenge like that. We have to keep that under control so it does not harm a player's career. I don't blame the referee. He saw it was a foul but did not realise how bad it was. You can only see that by watching it again on TV. But after a challenge like that there is a case to charge the player after the game. The rules do not allow that to happen but maybe there needs to be a change. If the referee admits he did not see how bad it was there should be a retrospective charge." Obviously, Wenger did not call for retrospective action in reversing erroneous offside decisions.

Talking of which, Freddie Ljungberg has become the latest player to voice his disappointment over Saturday's defeat. "It was an emotional game for me personally," admitted the Sweden midfielder. "First half we didn't play particularly well. We gave them too much respect and let them take the initiative in the game. Second half we came out more positively, we showed some confidence and I think we were the better side. If we can play like we did in the second half throughout our games we'll come out as winners."

Finally, it was confirmed late yesterday that West Ham's fourth round Carling Cup tie at Coventry City is to be broadcast live on Sky. The tie - which has been rescheduled for a 7.45pm kick-off on Tuesday, 30th October - will be West Ham United's first visit to the Coventry's new home, the Ricoh Arena. The club's well deserved reputation for struggling against lower league opposition has made them a firm favourite with the television cameras in recent years. Set to face his old club is Coventry's Elliott Ward, who joined the Sky Blues in the summer of 2006 a year after playing a major part in United's return to the Premiership. Also in the Coventry squad will be midfielder Michael Hughes, a popular figure during his three years at the Boleyn Ground back in the mid-90s. City manager Iain Dowie - a third former Hammer - said of the draw: "West Ham were my team as a kid when I used to stand on the North Bank. I was very lucky to play for the team I supported as a boy and I have some great memories there. It is a great draw for us and we are looking forward to it."

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