Trio set to return for West Ham United

April 18, 2008

Skipper Lucas Neill and midfielders Freddie Ljungberg and Mark Noble are set to ease West Ham United's injury woes by returning for Saturday's home clash with relegated Derby County.

And centre back Anton Ferdinand, whom manager Alan Curbishley initially feared would join six other players already ruled out for the season after he was hobbling in only the fourth minute of last Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Bolton, could be back in action next week.

Australian right back Neill missed the Bolton match after playing through pain despite damaging an ankle in the closing minutes of a 1-0 home defeat by Portsmouth five days earlier when the Hammers had already used all three substitutes.

Ljungberg and Noble have missed the last two games with hamstring problems.

But all three are back in training and given Curbishley, who is under pressure from his Icelandic chairman, to cut the players' wage bill at the end of the season, has been given renewed hope of avoiding a fourth consecutive defeat.

Curbishley has already revealed that both he and the players will not receive bonus payments unless the east London side hang on to a top-10 Premier League place. Tottenham are now just three points behind them in 11th with four games to go.

So the latest news from the medical staff on Ferdinand, who has been suffering a back problem which also affects his hamstrings, is welcome.

The younger brother of Manchester United's England centre half Rio has seen his season wrecked by multiple injury problems but has now been advised he can overcome the latest one with the help of treatment in time to face Newcastle a week on Saturday.

Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dyer, Nigel Quashie, Danny Gabbidon, James Collins and Calum Davenport are facing up to the rest of the season on the sidelines with their injuries.

But Curbishley is hopeful that former Tottenham winger Matthew Etherington - out since early February with an abdominal strain - and £6.5 million French import Julian Faubert (foot) who had 45 minutes in the reserves last week after managing just two first-team starts this term, will still have parts to play in the current campaign.