Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Bad Breaks And Good Vibes

Valon Behrami is out for at least six months after exploratory knee surgery confirmed the West Ham United midfielder has ruptured a cruciate ligament and will not return before September. Behrami's worst fears were realised after he underwent an arthroscopy in Italy today to discover the full extent of the damage to his right knee, injured in the 1-0 win over Manchester City. He is due back in London next week, where he will begin his rehabilitation with the club's medical staff as soon as possible.

The news will come as a blow to Gianfranco Zola after initial optimism had suggested the player could play again before the end of the season. The Hammers - chasing seventh place and a spot in next season’s Europa League - still do not know the full extent of Jack Collison’s knee injury sustained in last Wednesday’s Pyrrhic 1-0 victory at Wigan. Teenage starlet Savio could now be thrust into the first team even though the management had hoped to blood the 19-year-old gradually following his move from Brescia. Midfielder Keiron Dyer is also reported to be nearing full fitness after a setback in his recovery from a double leg fracture.

Meanwhile, young Hammers striker Zavon Hines has signed a new contract with the club, keeping him at Upton Park until 2010. The 20-year-old has had a season to remember, despite being frustrated by injury, having made his first-team bow and also earned an international call. Hines began the 2008/09 campaign on a high after scoring six times in a tremendous pre-season and then struck on his debut for the club in the League Cup tie with Macclesfield Town in late August.

Hines has witnessed contemporaries James Tomkins, Jack Collison and Freddie Sears all make great strides and, although a knee problem has frustrated his progress, he admitted his new deal had given him extra confidence for the future. "I am really happy to sign the contract," he said. "I didn't know if I was going to get one but it is good to know the club has a bit of faith in you. I just want to show the manager what I can do and repay all the support he has given me. I have got to prove to him that I am worth this contract. He has seen a little bit of what I can do in training but I have just got to try and do my best. Next season has to be the one for me to push on."

With the first-team squad are back in training after their first free weekend since early December, fellow youngster James Tomkins has been speaking about the prevailing positive mood in the camp and how the manner of the wins against United's nearest rivals has left everyone on a high. "We played two games in the space of a few days and to pick up another three points was brilliant, particularly against a team like Wigan who are doing well themselves. We come out with the win and I think we deserved it. It was a very physical game but we've come out with another result and that is very important for our position in the league. We coped very well and picked up another three points," Tomkins said.

The central defender has been a big success since coming into the Hammers' starting XI in place of the injured James Collins and is enjoying the experience of playing alongside international defenders Matthew Upson, Lucas Neill and Herita Ilunga. "Against Wigan I think the back-four were brilliant and we defended really well all over the park. Obviously we were down to ten men early on so we had our work cut out. Until they had a man sent-off we were outnumbered and we had to defend well and we did as a unit. Everybody put their effort in and the subs came on and did brilliantly for us - Specs [Jonathan Spector] winning headers and Savio too. There is good competition for places and that's obviously good because everybody is playing well, working as a team and there is a good team spirit."

Elsewhere, striker David Di Michele has reiterated he is happy at the club and is keen to remain at Upton Park beyond the end of the season. Di Michele is currently on loan at The Hammers from Torino, with the Hammers having an option to make the move permanent should they want to. However, the Italian’s future past the end of the current campaign remains unclear, with a return to Serie A and former club Palermo – from whom he joined Torino – having been mooted. "Now I'm at West Ham and it is right not to speak of the market," Di Michele told Melito Online. "I am doing well and it is certainly the will for me to stay here at the end of the season. Never say never, we will see in the future, but I'm good here."

Talking of possible player movement, United have again been linked with a move for Arsenal and Tottenham target Stephen Appiah. The Ghanaian has already had a trial at Upton Park, however Zola is reportedly keen to give the player nicknamed 'the tornado' another opportunity to prove his fitness. Arsenal were said to be close to signing the player in the Summer only to pull out of a move, while Harry Redknapp also looked at Appiah during the January transfer window but decided after a trial to not pursue the midfielder.

According to sources close to Appiah, West Ham could be the player's last chance to sign for a Premier League club. Of his proposed to Spurs, he said: "I was supposed to be there for a week but it got extended for various reasons. Then I had another offer from the Russians Champions, Rubin Kazan and started talking to them but that did not materialise. I can definitely say that it wasn't about my wage demands and both clubs will confirm that. I wasn't demanding what has been stated in some quarters of the media. My fitness levels were good given that I have been injured and out of the game for over 18 months. However those deals with Tottenham and Rubin didn't materialise and I have to move on."

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