George looking forward to the challenge ahead

After receiving the all-clear to start training again following a long injury lay-off, George McCartney is relishing the chance to finally get his West Ham United career up and running.

Although the defender's first aim will be to step up his training and fitness in the next few weeks after recovering from a knee ligament injury sustained before his move from Sunderland in the summer, he can't wait to get some reserve games under his belt and then start to challenge for a first team place.

Speaking after coming through a full week of training this week, George says: "I'm pleased to be back out there working towards getting fit, doing some running and getting to the stage where I will be near to playing again. But it has also been great to be out there every day with the rest of the lads.

"As you can imagine, it's been very frustrating, because I moved clubs and, not only was I injured and couldn't play, I also wasn't able to get to know everybody properly because I was still receiving treatment in Sunderland.

"This is the first week or so I have spent with everybody and they have all been great - the gaffer, all the staff and the lads have really welcomed me here.

He adds: "I was also at Sunderland a long time and coming down to London to live is also different for me, so it was difficult at first being the new boy, but now I am really starting to settle."

The Hammers bunch are a lively lot and George admits he is already enjoying the positive spirit that revolves around the Chadwell Heath training ground every day.

Goalkeeper Jimmy Walker mentioned in his matchday programme column recently that George "hadn't done anything to warrant any banter yet, but watch this space…" and for the Northern Irish international, it is a case of easing himself into life at West Ham United.

"I think they have been quite good with me on the joke side of things," he says, "but I'm sure that will change! I knew Roy (Carroll) before I came here and it's good to know someone when you move to a new club and area.

"But I have been getting to know the boys, like Jimmy, he's definitely one of the lively fellas, and I will probably know for sure that I am truly here when a little trick or something is played!"

Uprooting himself from the north east to east London is also something that George is adjusting to, with the pace of life down south somewhat different to what he has been used to previously.

He says: "It's very hectic here, isn't it? I was used to a quiet place back in Sunderland so it's been a bit mad, finding my way around, the stadium, the training ground and then getting settled with somewhere to live.

"But it's all falling into place now and, as I said, I'm really looking forward to playing again and being part of the squad. I will continue to work hard in training and take it from there. I want to get my fitness levels up and then I know I can really think about playing matches."

The 25-year-old is keen to show the credentials that saw him make over 150 appearances for Sunderland and collect 19 caps so far on the international front.

George said he is also looking forward to grabbing his chance when it comes along, to show the West Ham fans what he can do.

"I know what I can do and so does the gaffer," he says. "The supporters know about me signing but they saw I was injured and that has been it so far. It was good to pass the second medical and get back into training and I can at least look at getting back to playing now", he said.

"There's competition for places here but moving to a new club was the first big challenge for me, and working for a place in the side is another which I am looking forward to taking on. I can't wait to get my West Ham career well and truly started."

by Laura Burkin