Pearce Returns

Ian Pearce makes his long-awaited return to competitive football on Tuesday night when he takes his place in the West Ham United reserve team to face a strong Arsenal side at Upton Park.

Should he come through unscathed, it is likely that Ian will go into the first team squad for the home game with Middlesbrough on February 23.

Meanwhile, young goalkeeper David Forde will make his Hammers' debut against the Gunners. David joined a fortnight ago from Barry Town for £75,000 at the recommendation of former player Kenny Brown, who is their manager.

Steve Bywater returns from a hand injury to make it onto the bench, and Titi Camara, who interested Sheffield United recently - they looked at taking him on loan - partners Svetoslav Todorov up front.

Toddy has not been picked for Bulgaria to play Croatia this week - they have a new coach who is relying more on home based players.

Indeed, there are fewer players away on international duty than would normally be expected with Vladimir Labant's Slovakia not playing this week, and the Czech Republic's Tomas Repka having retired from international football.

The roll call of players away comprises Glen Johnson - who was in the squad for the trip to Bolton at the weekend - on duty with England under-19s against Germany, Jermain Defoe playing for the under-21s against Slovakia, while Steve Lomas - a late call up by Sammy McIlroy because of West Ham not being involved in the FA Cup this weekend - and Grant McCann are involved against Cyprus for Northern Ireland. Joe Cole and David James, of course are on full England duty against Holland.

McCann's younger brother Ryan, incidentally, is in the Northern Ireland under-21 squad - and is on the books of Glasgow Rangers.

Included in the Arsenal side are Tony Adams, Francis Jeffers, and David Seaman.

Team: Forde, Charles, Soma, Pearce, Potts, Iriekpen, Byrne, Ferrante, Todorov, Camara, Courtois. Subs: Bywater, Riza, D.McMahon, Khan, Eastwood, Riddle.