Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Switzerland- Day Four

There is something almost Riefenstahlian about the official site's daily descriptions of the squad's pre-season fitness regime; the luxuriating in the mundane minutiae of each training drill and the fetishistic depictions of lythe young bodies in the throws of physical exertion. So it is we learn that it was a mixture of work and play for West Ham United's players as the squad continued their pre-season training camp in Switzerland. Having arrived back at the team hotel late on Monday evening following the 2-1 Uhren Cup defeat by BSC Young Boys in Grenchen, manager Sam Allardyce afforded his players and staff a rare lie-in on Tuesday. The players were still up for breakfast at 8am and heading to their respective training areas a little more than an hour later.

Meanwhile, we are told, Allardyce and his backroom staff headed for a nearby lake for a welcome early-morning swim. The majority of the squad remained at the hotel to take part in a recovery session in the swimming pool, loosening up any muscles that may have tightened following the previous night's game. A small number of players cycled the two miles to the main training complex, where they were put through a series of technical drills by assistant manager Neil McDonald and first-team coach Wally Downes.

After a 'hearty' lunch, the squad and management boarded the team coach for a short drive to a nearby ten-pin bowling alley for a team-bonding exercise. There, goalkeepers Robert Green, Ruud Boffin and Marek Stech were the stars, with all three stoppers recording scores of over 200 - the Belgian taking the plaudits with a high of 215. Following dinner, the players got together for a team presentation before heading for bed ahead of a day of double-training and Wednesday evening's Uhren Cup meeting with Swiss Super League champions FC Basel.

Reflecting on the last few days, Sam Allardyce declared himself a contented man. The West Ham United manager has been happy with the way his players have given their all during the club's pre-season training camp in Switzerland, including their committed performance in Monday's 2-1 friendly defeat by BSC Young Boys - his first match in charge. However, Allardyce has told West Ham TV that there is still plenty of work to be done in all areas before the Hammers take to the pitch against Cardiff City on 7 August, both in terms of supplementing the playing squad and improving the form and fitness of the players already at the club.

"I think in terms of a pre-season training camp it's been an outstanding venue from many different aspects," said Allardyce, speaking from the team's hotel in the central Swiss canton of Bern. "We're in a beautiful place, have a fantastic hotel who are attending to our needs and I think we're virtually the only people in the hotel at this time of year and that's a big help. Down in the valley here, there is a 50-metre pool which has been very good for the morning starts. One or two of the lads are a bit miserable when they're getting up at 6.30 in the morning, but after the pool sessions they've been invigorated for their football training. Later in the evenings we've been moving on with the strength and conditioning and sport science lads, so it's been a good exercise up to now. There are a lot of young players who have travelled with us who want to make their mark and I think it's very important to get to know them as soon as possible and the senior players a little bit better not just as footballers but as people. Hopefully we can pull all that together and by the time this pre-season has finished, I'll have a better overall view of the squad."

Allardyce got his first view of that squad in a competitive environment on Monday, when a young side were narrowly beaten by Swiss Super League side and UEFA Europa League qualifiers Young Boys. The players gave their all during the Uhren Cup tie in Grenchen, despite having got up for a swimming session at 7am and a full training session in the mid-morning. The boss singled out England Under-18 international Robert Hall and England Under-21 defender Jordan Spence for particular praise, with the former rattling the upright with a rasping 25-yard shot late on. "First and foremost, just for everybody concerned, we've been training every day since we've been here from 6.30am. We even trained on the day we played. It's not the normal preparation for a game but we felt the lads needed to go into the game slightly fatigued and we weren't going to play all of the players for the whole game - particularly the senior players who were given 45 minutes each. It was effectively a training session rather than us going for the result. It was a competitive match against a very good side who had beaten Hertha Berlin 4-2 prior to playing ourselves, so the whole exercise was good from my learning curve point of view."

Cristian Montano also featured prominantly against Young Boys and is aiming to catch the eye of his manager after signing a new professional contract with West Ham United. The talented forward endured a difficult 2010/11 season after signing his first professional deal a year ago, suffering a succession of niggling injury as he looked to build on the Doris Bell Award he won at the end of the previous campaign. Now he is fully fit and raring to go, the Colombia-born 19-year-old is hoping to earn a regular place in the first-team squad for 2011/12 by impressing Allardyce during pre-season. "I'm very proud of this contract and I'm happy with myself as well," he told West Ham TV. "I have got my second contract which is the most important thing. Hopefully I can keep going from here and make the next step, which is to make my first-team debut and hopefully become established. I want to prove myself."

Montano is also eager to impress the same supporters he wowed by scoring two goals during Academy Director Tony Carr's Testimonial match in May 2010. The teenager travelled to Austria with the first-team squad for their pre-season tour in July last year, only for injuries to ravage his first campaign as a professional. "As a second-year scholar, I managed to do really well and win the Doris Bell Award, which I was really happy with and which, at the time, was a bit unexpected," he added. "As a first-year pro I just wanted to carry on from where I'd left off, which I did, but when we got back from the tour the injuries started kicking-off and it was a bit stop-start for me. Obviously I managed to get fit again and here I am. I've got my next professional contract and I want to carry on from there."

With Demba Ba, Victor Obinna and Robbie Keane having departed the Bolyen Ground this summer, Montano is preparing to impress Allardyce between now and the opening npower Championship fixture against Cardiff City on 7 August. "It's not impossible," he said. "I'm going to keep working hard and hopefully show the new manager that I can play and do well. We're all in the same boat - a new manager and new staff - so we've all got to prove ourselves again, which is not an easy thing to do because we've all got to start from scratch. I've come back in good shape and hopefully I can get a bit stronger, too."

Also keen to impress is Frank Nouble, who is hoping his goal against Young Boys is the first of many this season. The 19-year-old striker bagged the first strike of Sam Allardyce's reign with a well-taken header in West Ham United's 2-1 Uhren Cup defeat in Switzerland on Monday. Having caught the eye no only with his goal, but also with his pace and power, Nouble is hoping he can convince the new manager that he does not need to delve into the transfer market to sign a new centre forward. The youngster told West Ham TV he is 'eager' to force his way into the first-team picture and boost the club's 2011/12 Championship promotion challenge.

"It was a good game to play in," he said. "I think everyone tried their best. Most people played a half each and obviously it's pre-season so everyone wants to get around and get fit and impress the new gaffer and his staff. I enjoyed it. I knew I was only playing one half, so I got in my mind that I had to give everything. They are at a better stage than us because they've been out training for a few more weeks, but I'm hoping that I showed a little bit of what I can do, even when I'm not fully fit. When I'm fitter, hopefully I'll be able to do that for longer periods of the game. My goal came from a short corner. Luis Boa Morte crossed it in and I knew I had the run on my defender, so I went in and it was a good goal. I think if you're not hungry then you're not going to succeed in life and I'm definitely hungry this season to stamp a mark and stake a claim for playing."

Nouble admitted he had found things difficult at times last season and has come back to the club reinvigorated and rejuvenated ahead of the new campaign. "The first year I came here it was good and I got a few opportunities. Last season I went away on loan quite a lot, which was good for my experience, but going away for one month at a time wasn't really too great. This year hopefully I can come back and give everything. I'm 19, going on 20, now and I'm ready to make the next step. Some players have gone but you've just got to deal with it. Even if another player comes in, it's just an opportunity for me to showcase what I can do whenever I get the chance. There are still some strikers here so I've got to keep battling it out and show the manager that he doesn't need to put his hand in his pocket."

Meanwhile, Allardyce is keen to bring his former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Joey O’Brien to Upton Park – if he can prove his fitness. The 25-year-old played 45 minutes in Monday’s opening pre-season friendly against Young Boys and Allardyce is convinced that he can be a useful player in their Championship campaign. "He is an outstanding player," the West Ham boss told the Recorder from Switzerland this week. "For someone to play 28 times in the Premier League at the age of 19 shows that he has a lot of talent and if he is fit then he could be a very good player for us."

Fitness is the key for O’Brien, who has three international caps for the Republic of Ireland. His recent career has been plagued by injury and he ended last season on loan at League One outfit Sheffield Wednesday. Allardyce is well aware of the risks. "He has to prove his fitness," he said. "He has had a very frustrating time with injuries over the last two and a half years because he was misdiagnosed and then didn’t receive the right treatment. But it was good to see him come through 45 minutes on Monday without any reaction and now we will just have to see how it goes with him. We have him until the end of pre-season before we have to make a decision."

Allardyce has spoken to the England internationals in the squad and he revealed that at least one of them could be persuaded to stay for the new season. Scott Parker, Robert Green and Carlton Cole are all on the tour of Switzerland, but are interesting a host of Premier League clubs. "We sat down and chatted and they said they were happy to do their pre-season training with us and see what happened," said the manager. "Obviously we are a business as well as a football club and if the right sort of bid comes in for a player then we would have to look at it and we would certainly keep the player aware of what is going on, but I am hopeful that they won’t all be leaving."

Allardyce also confirmed that the club are talking to another of his Bolton old boys in Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen. "We are certainly interested in bringing him to West Ham," said the boss. "But negotiations on this one are at a very early stage." The Mail disagree and report discussions on a one-year deal are in the advanced stages, with a medical planned for the player on Thursday. The Iceland international, who spent the second half of last season on loan with Fulham, is a free agent after his one-year deal with Stoke expired. The former Bolton, Chelsea and Barcelona player struggled to make any impact at the Britannia Stadium and failed to find the net during 10 appearances with the Cottagers. Gudjohnsen came close to joining the East London club in January last year, but instead elected to spend a spell on loan with Tottenham from Monaco.

The same paper also claims West Ham have opened talks with Blackpool striker DJ Campbell. Campbell’s contract has a clause allowing him to leave for £1.25m. The striker was reported to have agreed to join QPR, but West Ham and two unnamed Premier League clubs are also said to be in the race to land the 29-year-old, who scored 13 Premier League goals for relegated Blackpool last season. Campbell, who joined the Seasiders from Leicester City last summer, has no secret of his preference to remain in the Premier League.

Allardyce is clearly looking for options after Stoke City agreed terms with West Ham United for striker Carlton Cole. The England forward, 27, is currently in Switzerland with West Ham but is reportedly due to hold talks with Stoke City manager Tony Pulis upon his return. Stoke chairman Peter Coates told Sky Sports: "We have agreed terms with West Ham, that's done. Now it's a case of can we agree terms with Carlton?" Cole joined West Ham from London rivals Chelsea in July 2006 and scored 42 goals in 165 appearances. But he managed just five league goals last season and according to media reports is now set to leave Upton Park. The fee has been reported to be an initial £4 million with a possible £2 million in add-ons.

Coates said Stoke had tried to sign Cole on previous occasions but was optimistic that this time the forward would make his way to the Midlands club, who lost in last season's FA Cup final to Manchester City. "We come from two different places. He has got an injury problem (Cole has had knee trouble) - he has always had that - and that is a risk you take so we have to factor that in," he said. "But he is a good player and Tony has always liked him. Manager's like different players but Tony has always liked him. I think we've tried to sign him around three times over the past few years without succeeding so maybe we will get somewhere this year. Now we've done a deal with the club it really needs his input with the player because he likes to talk to them and make sure they are on board, and he is on board and everything is ok from his point of view. But we see that work in progress and hope that something can be done."

According to today's Mirror, Cole's proposed move to Stoke is already in serious doubt after the striker's wage demands reportedly stunned his suitors. The paper claims Stoke were given permission to speak to Cole after offering £6million for the England international and the 27-year-old was expected to fly to Austria to join the Stoke squad. City’s director of football John Rudge even remained behind to accompany him. The Potters do pay big wages but Cole wants mega-bucks to uproot from his native London and instead joined the Hammers on their pre-season trip to Switzerland. Cole’s stance could now let Premier League new boys QPR back into the race to sign him.

The Mirror also claims Scott Parker is under consideration for a dramatic return to Chelsea, it emerged last night. The Blues are in sudden need of a midfielder after discovering Michael Essien could miss six months following surgery on a knee injury suffered in training last week. Hammers joint-owner David Sullivan last night refused to confirm whether the club had already been approached by Chelsea over the transfer of Upton Park talisman Parker. He is already known to Villas-Boas from his time at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho in 2004-2005.

Chelsea’s young coach was impressed by Parker’s conduct during his spell in west London, despite being frustrated by a lack of regular first-team football. The midfielder also stood out during the ritual, under Mourinho, which saw players deliver pre-match team talks. Parker went on to prove his leadership qualities last season when delivering a similar oration to inspire his West Ham team-mates from 3-0 down at West Brom to grab a point. Signing Parker would also help boost the club’s English contingent. Chelsea currently have only six domestic players in their squad and one of those, striker Daniel Sturridge, is expected to either be sold or go out on loan in search of regular action.

Finally, the Minister for Sport has 'advised' Tottenham Hotspur to ditch plans to challenge the decision to award preferred bidder status to West Ham. Despite having admitted corporate subterfuge in their attempts to undermine both the OPLC voting committee and members of West Ham United's staff, Tottenham have maintained that they will seek legal recourse - despite having lost the vote to win tenancy of the £500million stadium by 14-0.

However that could be set to change after the Conservative Minister Hugh Robertson warned the north London club that their plans to press on with legal action could destroy the capital's bid to host the 2017 World Athletics Championships. Speaking to the media yesterday, Robertson insisted that Tottenham should think very carefully before proceeding. "I would hope Tottenham would see the greater good to London; maybe it's a fond hope," he said. "The initial economic planning tells us it will be a £100million boost from hosting a World Athletics Championship. I hope anyone involved in sport would see the greater good, whatever their feelings about the stadium process. I find it frustrating that having been through the process we are now being dragged through the High Court, having won the first round we have the appeal to come. If we win that we will bid [to host the Championships], but I will not let the country bid if we have not got a locked-down secure venue, given the backdrop of previous bids."

Tottenham recently announced that they were seeking public funding after revealing plans to build a new stadium within their current borough of Haringey. Mr Robertson's warning could be seen as the first indication that should they refuse to play ball and back down over the Olympic Stadium issue, any such funding could be extremely unlikely to follow.

*West Ham play their final match on the tour tomorrow (Wednesday) against Basel with a 7.30pm kick-off.

*While this Saturday a Hammers XI will travel for a friendly at Bishop’s Stortford.

1 comment:

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