Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Beasts Of Burden

West Ham United return to full training this week after a few days' rest with the likes of Bobby Zamora, Julien Faubert and Nolberto Solano pushing hard for first-team recalls. Speaking on the official site, head physiotherapist George Cooper revealed he has been very pleased with Zamora and Faubert's progress following their match-winning contributions over 90 minutes for the reserves in the 4-1 defeat of Birmingham City last week. Cooper also had positive news on the efforts being made by Scott Parker and Kieron Dyer, which comes after similar optimistic news concerning defenders James Collins and Calum Davenport last week.

A persistent knee injury has kept Zamora out of action since the Carling Cup victory at Bristol Rovers in the first month of the campaign. Having undergone extensive rehabilitation work to cure the residual swelling, the 27- year old is now closing on a first-team return. "He is strong as an ox now," said Cooper. "His legs are really good and he is in good nick. Bobby is always in early, has been working very hard and been very patient. It looks to have paid off. His running fitness is as good as anybody's at the club, if not better." The ox will become the beast of burden for a misfiring forward line still minus the services of Craig Bellamy. The Welshman will be sidelined for some time yet as he is due to have an abdominal strengthening operation to complement the core work he has been doing in his struggle for fitness. "He [Bellamy] has been absolutely brilliant," stated Cooper. "Everything he has done has got him back to almost being ready and there is a feeling that if he carries on with slight symptoms they are likely to get worse rather than better. The symptoms have to go. The operation will complement the excellent work he has done before and that should be the last bit he needs before continuing his strengthening." Despite several sources suggesting Bellamy would not return before season's end, Sky Sports are now reporting his absence could be more like six weeks.

Julian Faubert returned to action with those three reserve team assists against Birmingham City. He has been handled carefully in the previous two weeks because of tightness in his calves, although Cooper stressed he was not injured. He, like Nolberto Solano, who has recovered from a hamstring problem, is reported to be back to full fitness and in contention for the games to come. Equally positively, the duo could soon be joined in the battle for midfield places by Scott Parker. The England international has "totally recovered from his posterior capsule rupture" with Cooper adding that "we are extremely pleased". The midfielder, who was hurt in an innocuous challenge against Manchester United on 29 December, a problem unrelated to any previous knee problem, has started his running programme and could be back in full training in a fortnight. Elsewhere, Kieron Dyer continues to make "excellent progress" from his double leg break and is also running, although it is too early to set a date on his return while Danny Gabbidon is being treated for a persistent groin problem.

Away from the injury news and Robert Green has been dealt a further snub by Fabio Capello. In an interview with Rai Radio Anch'io in Italy, the England manager bemoaned the number of foreign players in the Barclays Premier League that has meant "the pool is reduced" when it comes to squad selection. "Only 38 per cent of the players are English," he complained. "The pool is reduced. I have had to reinstate a 37-year-old goalkeeper but I have spotted one in the Under-21s [Joe Hart] who is very interesting." Meanwhile Anton Ferdinand says that he hopes to follow his brother's footsteps by forcing his way into Fabio Capello's England squad. The 22-year-old defender has been enjoying good form since returning to the West Ham United first team following a turbulent year which saw him castigated for flying to America in order to attend a friend's birthday party (under the pretence of being with a sick relative) then land a spell in court for a club fracas in which he was later acquitted. But with all his troubled hopefully behind him, the new mature Ferdinand says that his immediate aim is to emulate his brother by making one of Capello's forthcoming squads. "It is definitely in my mind," he told whufc.com. "I am too old to play for the Under-21s now so the next step is the senior squad. All I can do is turn in performances for West Ham and that is what I am going to continue to do. I am just going to concentrate on doing that. If I do get the call, then great. If I don't, then so be it."

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