A familiar face returned to West Ham United's Chadwell Heath training ground this week in the shape of forward Rob Hall.
The England Under-19 international forward, who is currently on loan at npower Championship club Birmingham City, has undergone keyhole surgery to rectify a hernia injury.
Hall has been in fine form for the Blues, where he in the same squad as fellow loanee Ravel Morrison and former Hammers Hayden Mullins and Jonathan Spector, chalking up seven assists in just 13 appearances.
Rob, we haven't seen you at Chadwell Heath for a few weeks, so can you fill us in with what you have been up to?
RH - "I've been at Birmingham on loan and it's been a good spell. I've learnt a lot, played a lot of games and got a lot of minutes under my belt. I've played a lot more than I expected, so I was disappointed to pick up a hernia injury that needed to be sorted out. Hopefully I can get back on the pitch as soon as possible. I've spoken to the medical team and it should be sorted as soon as possible and I hope to be fit in a few weeks. I'm a bit sore and aching but I'm told that's normal and I'm already doing a lot of exercise and that helps reduce the pain."
You have made 13 Championship appearances for Birmingham, so have you felt comfortable playing regularly at that level?
RH - "Definitely. If anything, you can only learn more when you play at the highest possible level. I'm at the age when I don't think I can lose. I'm 19, so I'm not going to lose my pace or shape of my game - rather, I'm going to add to my game. I think I can handle it in the Championship, so if I play football there or in the Premier League in the future, I feel I can play more at that level. It is my dream to play for West Ham and to start my next game for the club, but that's not my first aim. I want to focus on getting back from this injury and see where I am after that."
How have you found playing regularly at first-team level physically?
RH - "Playing games has been great and my form was good. It died off a bit in the last three matches, when I was a bit inconsistent. I was just a bit quiet, rather than bad. It's been good to learn how to react to different times of the season. I was there for the Christmas period and it was possibly the hardest part of the season, so to learn how your body is during that period is what I have gone out on loan for as well. All three of my loan spells - at Oxford United, MK Dons and Birmingham - have been beneficial. I've enjoyed learning from senior professionals - Michael Duberry at Oxford, Alan Smith at MK Dons and people like Paul Robinson, Stephen Carr and Hayden at Birmingham."
You have chalked up seven assists in your 13 appearances. That is some going! Are you taking all the free-kicks and corners?
RH - "Being more experienced this season, having played a lot of reserve-team football at West Ham last year, I have been confident and taken more of the set pieces. I like setting things up by putting the ball into dangerous areas and going for goal, so I have got a few assists at Birmingham. I think I've done well there, in the main. There was only one game when I got a negative response and that was the same for pretty much the whole team on the day, anyway. Hopefully, the Birmingham fans and other people who watched me have a good impression of me."
Did joining a Birmingham squad that contained so many ex-Hammers - Hayden Mullins, Jonathan Spector, Papa Bouba Diop and fellow loanee Ravel Morrison - make it easier to settle in at St Andrew's?
RH - "It definitely made it easier on my first day, yes. I also know Nathan Redmond and Jack Butland as well [from England age-group duty] and they are both really good friends of mine away from football anyway. It was good to know them and to get to know everyone better. Seeing Hayden and Specs and Papa and Rav meant I immediately had more to talk about and have a laugh with. After the first couple of days, we had two games on the Saturday and Tuesday so we were together all the time so meeting all the boys was nice. I bonded with the new lads I met there just as well as the ones I already knew. They are now all good friends."
How do you see the remainder of the season going for Birmingham?
RH - "I can only see the club moving upwards. I know we have been under-achieving as a squad with the players we have got there, but I can't see them going down. If you look at the Championship, everyone is beating everyone and from about tenth place downwards, anyone could go down! It's about those last three or four games and how many points you can pick up then as long as you stay in and around it. At one stage we were six points outside the Play-Offs, then we lost two on the spin and went back down the table. The Championship is very tough, as the lads at West Ham saw last year. The games come thick and fast and you just have to get a run going."