Players Return

Glenn Roeder is delighted that Tomas Repka is back from suspension for the game with Blackburn - not to mention Paolo Di Canio and Fredi Kanoute returning from injury.

On top of that, he is pleased that Les Ferdinand, who was ineligible on Sunday, and Nigel Winterburn, who was rested for the weekend cup tie, are also available to him.

On the return of Tomas Repka after a four match ban, Glenn says:

"Tomas has been out for four games suspended; he has served his punishment and accepted a club fine because of the manner in which he got sent off against Fulham.

"We don't want to revisit it too much or look back but he knows my feelings about that day - the referee had no other decision to make but to show him the red card.

"But he has accepted his punishment like a man both in terms of the ban and the fine, he is ready to go again, and he knows he has to control himself with referees.

"He has been training well through the suspension and we had a practice game last week that he played at Premiership tempo.

"He was excellent in the game as you would expect him to be - but he was because his attitude was right.

"He is looking forward to the game and to playing the next 14 games, staying out of trouble, and just letting his football do the talking.

"Last season people were saying what a good defender he was because that was how he was performing week in, week out.

"We kept a lot of clean sheets and we have got to get back to that for the rest of the season."

Glenn believes his pedigree will come to the fore in the run-in to the end of the season, and adds:

"I have said it recently, but it is fact, whether people like it or not, that Tomas Repka went from Sparta Prague to Fiorentina where he made 104 starts in Serie A, not counting Champions' League football - but I don't see too many English defenders that have gone there and played three seasons.

"He didn't play 10 times and they sent him back, but he played every week - and that suggests he was a very successful defender in Italy.

"There are a group of English defenders, and we know who they are because they are internationals, that would, without doubt, equally hold their own season after season in Serie A, which has the reputation of having the best defenders in the world - the most difficult defences to score against.

"Tomas did very well in Italy and he did very well in his first season with us - and we need Tomas to get back to that level of performance.

"He has now served his punishment, as I said, he has taken it in an upright fashion, and he has admitted that he was wrong.

"He has apologised for getting involved with Dermot Gallagher, who had no other option but to send him off, but there comes a time where enough's enough.

"He is desperate to play, he is not shirking any responsibility, he wants to come back into the team, and he wants to show the supporters that the Tomas Repka that they saw last year is still there - which it is.

"Tomas is on his game again and leaving any decisions to be made to the referee - that is where he has to get back to.

"He tells me that he is looking forward to the game, and looking forward to the challenge of the next 14 games; we need Tomas performing consistently well like he did last year."

As for the return from seeing a specialist of Fredi Kanoute, Glenn says:

"I watched him train the last two days and he has proved to me that he is 100% free of any pain and, even more than proving it to me, he has proved it to himself.

"He has tried to rush back a couple of times when it wasn't right and had to withdraw from training immediately after.

"That is no reflection on the player or our first class medical staff, but it was a case of the injury running its course, because it was a very nasty injury on his groin.

"I don't think anyone realised at the time what a nasty tear it was - and with his efforts to get back sooner rather than later he had minor setbacks."

Both Glenn and the player himself say his lengthy layoff has been a physical - not psychological, as some have suggested - problem.

Says Fredi:

"I am not happy that people think I don't want to play for West Ham, because the only reason I've missed matches is because I've not been fit.

"People should not have doubts about my mentality because I do want to play - and help the club.

"I love it at West Ham, we have to fight to get out of the situation, and I want us to do well."

And Glenn adds:

"He is looking good and sharp in training and is using his left foot, the leg he damaged, without even thinking about it, and he did some things in training that looked like the old Fredi Kanoute - an excellent striker.

"He is such a handful when he is motivated and I certainly would not have liked to have played against him.

"It is such a boost to have him back for Blackburn, but of course he has been out a long time and he is going to be short of match practice.

"As and when, he will get that match fitness back over the next few weeks."

Paolo Di Canio returns for Blackburn as well, and Glenn adds:

"Paolo has come back in pristine condition, played the 90 minutes against Colchester last Thursday - the day after he stepped off the aeroplane - and you wouldn't have thought he had been away.

"He trained with the first team on Friday and looked good, he had the weekend working on getting more up to speed with his physical fitness, and trained with us on Monday and Tuesday.

"He has convinced me he is ready to come straight back into the frame."

Glenn explains that neither Fredi nor Paolo could have figured against Manchester United, and says:

"We have waited that long for Fredi and Paolo we couldn't rush them for Sunday, and, to be fair to Paolo, he is running ahead of schedule.

"We were told it could be up to 12 weeks, so for him to be back now means he is two or three weeks ahead of schedule - that is how hard he works on his rehab.

"To have Di Canio and Kanoute, Ferdinand and Defoe, fully fit for the game is just the sort of boost that we all needed.

"It is excellent news and has given the whole squad a lift to see Fredi and Paolo out training again - and Les, who was unavailable for Sunday, has given the whole club a boost as well.

"Without doubt we missed his physical presence on Sunday, though Jermain worked very hard against Ferdinand and O'Shea - and he kept going under very difficult circumstances.

"Although it was a hugely disappointing display against Charlton in terms of our defending, Les himself had a very decent performance - and is looking forward to his home debut now."