Curbs ready for another tough test

Alan Curbishley is ready for another tough encounter against London rivals Fulham this afternoon.

The Hammers boss took his team to Craven Cottage only three weeks ago for his first away match in charge - an encounter that ended in a hard-fought 0-0 draw - and he is in no doubt that today's reverse fixture will provide a similar test.

"It is going to be a big test for us," says Curbs. "The job that Chris Coleman has done at Fulham is a very underrated one - you start to realise that when you are in the bottom three.

"Since he has been there as manager, they have been consistent performers in the Premiership, and we realise that it will be a very tough game this weekend."

With Anton Ferdinand ruled out after picking up a groin injury in the FA Cup third round win against Brighton last weekend, James Collins is set to make a timely return to the centre of defence and, with new signings Luis Boa Morte and Nigel Quashie also available for selection, Curbs admits that he now has some much-needed competition for places.

"If Nigel Quashie plays this week it will upset someone, I can't avoid that," he says. Luis coming in has also upset certain people. I am not saying I want to upset players - but I felt I needed to do something to keep everybody on their toes.

"I think I have done that. I have brought competition into the Club. Now I hope people respond to it and we get some of the performances we need. That is all I am after.

"I am not really interested in individual problems. I have got to get that team winning some games. That is all I am after because the club comes first.

"We have lots of youngsters here with great potential and I felt I needed to put some steadier heads between them, by bringing a couple of senior players in who won't be fazed by the situation.

"We have signed Luis Boa Morte hoping he will make some goals and score some goals because it is an area we need to improve on. With Nigel, we need some aggression in the middle of the park because there hasn't been much of that recently.

"I hope players like Nigel and Luis will bring that potential through and I would like to think the rest of the players will respond."