Don: No Complaints From Me

Don Hutchison strenuously denies claims that he has criticised the club's training regime - or that he blames Glenn Roeder or anyone else for not making it into the squad for last week's Premiership clash against Southampton.

Weekend reports implied something of a rift between Don and the club over a training session he took part in the day after playing for the reserve team in a 1-1 draw with Coventry City on November 26, a game which represented Don's second full game since damaging his cruciate in February.

Don is keen to set the record straight, and he says: "Basically, what was in the papers was unbelievable to me. It looked as if I was having a go at the gaffer, so I had a chat with him this morning.

"He has been great to me over the last six or seven months while I have been injured. He let me take my wife away on a little holiday and things, so he has been excellent.

"But I said to him 'the last thing I will ever do is criticise you' - I have never really done that to any of my old managers, never mind someone who has paid a lot of money for me and who I am working for."

Don had hoped to be involved in some way against Southampton the week after that reserve game, even though Glenn Roeder admitted some days before the game that he would be 'taking a liberty' if he did ask him to be in the squad so soon after returning to the reserves following a serious injury.

But he explains: "I got asked the question 'when did you do it?' and the answer to that was the day after the reserve game when we had a tough session.

"And we did - but that is not blaming the gaffer or anyone else for putting the session on - and I was probably a little bit stiff, but I tried to carry on and get through it.

"That has been taken out of context, it looks as if I was having a go at the gaffer, but the fact is I was trying to gear myself up for the game on Monday, because Trevor Sinclair went down ill during the week, and I felt if I proved my fitness then I might even have started or at least got on the bench.

"I was frustrated and gutted that I didn't make that game - and I was disappointed for Glenn and the medical staff as well if they have come across badly from it."

The implication was also that Fredi Kanoute would otherwise have been able to play against Southampton when the fact is that was a late, late decision made by the player himself with Glenn's approval, and Don adds: "There is no chance I was mentioning Fredi's name in it, either."

He insists: "I definitely get on with the medical staff and I honestly believe, and I am not just saying it, that John Green is the best physio in the league.

"I know Arsenal's Gary Lewin gets a lot of praise, and quite rightly so because he is a good physio, but I believe John Green is right up there - and he is a smashing bloke as well.

"John McCarthy and Russell Holman have done a lot of work trying to get me back and they are great lads as well. I have spent nine months or so with them, so I obviously get on well with them.

"The gaffer wasn't too happy but I will have to convince him that I didn't say the things that came across quite badly, and like I say, I would never do that to a guy I am working with."

It is not the first time Don has been dogged by inaccuracy in the media. In the summer, while he was still recuperating, one Sunday newspaper implied he was looking to return to Sunderland in order to, it was claimed at the time, 'finish what he had started'.

But he stresses: "Why would I say that? It would be alienating myself from the West Ham fans and only a mug would say it because I have to perform for them.

"If I had said that, they would dislike me and have a go at me so I would never ever say it."

More to the point, Don really wants to finish what he has started at Upton Park since rejoining the Hammers for £5m in September 2001 - an upward curve that was cruelly interrupted by the injury.

"I was trying my best and felt I was playing really well, it's just that I didn't score as many goals as I did when I was with Sunderland and I think that can deflect from it a little bit," he explains.

"I am just looking forward to getting back and repaying some of that transfer fee for the gaffer, the directors, and the chairman."

He says unity in the camp is strong, and adds: "I honestly think the lads have never been behind a manager as much as they are behind Glenn. He puts in a lot of work on the training ground and he is a smashing fella as well.

"I think it would be the worst thing West Ham could do would be to get rid of him."

As for a comeback in the first team, he adds: "It depends on the reserve game on Tuesday at Derby. I have done some running today and hopefully I can do a little bit more tomorrow that will convince John Green that I am fit for Tuesday.

"But we will have to see how that goes, and, although I am not sure about Manchester United, it is one of the best stadiums in the country.

"But, more realistically for me, it would be Bolton I think - I am definitely aiming to be back before Christmas."

Don says getting a win at Old Trafford at the weekend will not be impossible and adds: "We got three points up there last year and we are playing some good football this year, but we are just not getting the wins.

"We played really well there last season. I was part of that team and I think Glenn was over the moon that we got the result - and we can do it again."

Don does feel that West Ham are a bit of a target at the moment, and concludes: "Everyone is having a little pop and I think that is why the article came out about myself. If we had been sixth or seventh I don't think the press would have picked on that one.

"But because we are bottom of the league and Glenn is under a little bit of pressure, they are trying to make out a player was having a go at him - which is completely untrue."