Christian's Comeback

CHRISTIAN Dailly made his long-awaited comeback to competitive football in the Reserves 5-2 win over Watford at Upton Park on Tuesday night.

The Scottish international defender came through an hour of football and his delight was obvious as he emerged from the dressing room to report a successful outing, his first in a Hammers shirt since the opening home game of the season against Reading back in August.

But Christian confessed that his participation had been a bit of a gamble.

"It was a bit of a risk to play," he admitted, "because I'd only done two days of ball work leading up to the game. But it was my decision, I've been feeling really good over the last few weeks and it was important for me to play.

"This was the last Reserve game of the season, so time was running out for me to get a competitive game in before the end of the season. It's going to be important that we have everyone as fit as possible going into what could be a very big month for us, and that's why I wanted to get this game under my belt.

"I haven't really thought about when I could push for a first-team place again, for me it was just all about getting through the game against Watford and I'm pleased it worked out without any problems."

This season must go down as the most frustrating in Christian's career. The normally durable defender has a fantastic apperance record for the Hammers - he was ever present in the 2001/02 campaign and missed just four games last season.

He admits that it's been a testing time, but a personal tragedy earlier in the season has helped the 31-year-old keep things in perspective.

"Since the knee operation I've done a huge amount of physical training," he said. "I've come in every day just working and trying to get fit.

"But it seemed like every time I picked up a ball I also picked up another strain. Having recovered from the knee operation I pulled a thigh muscle playing in a bounce game against Spurs and then I pulled a calf after that.

"There's nothing you can do, when you've been injured for a long time your muscles tighten up and you get these little strains. You just need a bit of luck and unfortunately I haven't been getting that.

"But it is all about perspective and for me things were brought home by my dad's death from cancer just after I suffered the knee injury.

"The Watford game was my first match since losing my dad, so that was another emotional barrier I had to get over."

Despite his absence from the first-team, Christian remains one of the team's key presences in the dressing room. Like every member of the squad, he admits his disappointment at the defeat to Sunderland last Friday but also revealed how quickly it dissolved on Saturday afternoon.

"I think the squad was dented after the Sunderland game," he confessed. "It was a huge atmosphere and we were desperate to win that game.

"But it was just an incredible turnaround. We were all on the phone to each other Saturday afternoon saying how we were back in it and that it was back in our hands.

"We can't rely on the results of other teams and that's why we have to go to Watford and look to take all three points. We can get to the Play-offs ourselves now and that's going to give the team huge confidence going into Sunday's game."

As for his own participation as the season draws to a close, Christian is taking nothing for granted.

"I honestly haven't set myself any first-team targets," he insists. "Really that's down to the manager. I just wanted to get back and get through the game against Watford.

"Now that I've done that we'll just see how things progress. The two young lads, Elliott and Anton, have done terrific of late and deserve all the praise they are getting.

"I think it's important to have some of the senior players coming back, but those two guys have really taken their chances and showed what good players they are.

"The squad is looking healthy again now and the belief is definitely there going into a big game on Sunday."