Strike Partners

WITH Teddy Sheringham returning to fitness and Sergei Rebrov finding his form Alan Pardew now has one of those pleasant managerial dilemmas - who does he start as his first choice strike partnership?

Marlon Harewood is the Club's leading scorer with ten goals this season, and his pace and presence are valuable assets in the physically demanding Coca-Cola Championship. Bobby Zamora has made more substitute appearances than any other player this season and with a potent mixture of power and skill remains a handful for any defence.

Although not keen to reveal his selection choice for the Preston game, Pards admitted that he was delighted to have more options up front.

"We're going into a very busy time of the season," he said, "and it's good to have a strong squad available.

"Overall we haven't scored enough goals during the first half of the season, so to have four front-line strikers available now will give us some more options going forward.

"Of course, we've also just signed Gavin Williams, who will go into the squad this weekend. Gavin will offer competition to Matty Etherington and Luke Chadwick and give us another creative outlet."

At half-time during the Leeds game, Pards made a significant switch replacing Sergei Rebrov for Teddy Sheringham. However, the Hammers boss explained that the decision will not have a bearing on who he chooses to run the forward line on Saturday.

"I don't want to reveal too much about my selection plans for this weekend," said Pards, "but we do have options to consider this week. Teddy came off the bench against Leeds and did well. He gives us an extra dimension with his presence and also ability to open teams up. Teddy also links play very well and with his experience is a very important player for us.

"My decision to bring Sergei off against Leeds was not a reflection on his personal performance. I actually think Sergei has done well for us over the last couple of games and with his finishing ability I'm hoping that he'll get a few more goals for us over Christmas.

"But for Sergei to be effective we have to be in control of the possession and passing the ball well. We weren't doing that in the first-half against Leeds and that's why I decided to change our system, pairing Teddy and Marlon together to make us a bit more direct.

"We have very good forward players at the Club. I can't give everyone a game every week, but the players appreciate that they all have different attributes to bring to the team and we'll try to harness those as best we can."

Pards was quick to dismiss rumours linking 25-year-old Marlon Harewood with a move away from Upton Park.

"We've had no contact with anyone regarding Marlon," he said. "He's done a terrific job for us so far this season, he's settled at the Club and enjoys playing for West Ham United."