Birthday wishes for Alan Curbishley, training ground updates on the likes of Bobby Zamora and Craig Bellamy, and building for the future at the Boleyn Ground - Lucas Neill's exclusive whufc.com column has all this and more this week before the trip to Derby County.
I'd like to begin this week's column by sending the team's best wishes to the gaffer, who celebrated his 50th birthday yesterday, which came as shock to me as I thought he was younger! Hopefully we can deliver him a belated birthday present by taking all three points at Derby on Saturday.
On behalf of myself and the rest of the boys, I would like to thank the fans for their continued support and loyalty. It means a great deal to us to have such amazing fans behind us all the time, through thick and thin. We really appreciate your patience through some recent inconsistent performances, like last week which saw us involved with three very different results.
A last-minute certain loss turned into a draw at Portsmouth, a last-minute draw turned into a win at Coventry and a last-minute win turned into a draw against Bolton! It was a regrettable two points dropped against Bolton and we showed a little bit of naivety by not finishing the game off but, on the plus side, I thought we battled hard and kept them down to a couple of half chances. The bottom line is, at home, we should be expecting to finish teams off , so to drop the points in the manner we did was very hard to take.
This weekend sees the last game before the international break, away to Derby. It is crucial that we win this game to put us in touching distance of the league leaders which is where we aim to be. There seems to be a bit of a gap opening up between the top and bottom half of the table and we want to make sure we are in the top end. On paper it's a game we are favourites to win, but as we all know, football is not played on paper and it's going to be a difficult place to go but we are fully committed to coming away with three points.
This week in training we have seen a few more faces out of the treatment room and on to the training pitch which is great. James Collins is back, Bellars is stepping up his outdoor training, so too are Dean Ashton, Scott Parker and Freddie Ljungberg and it is especially nice to see Bobby's funny face back out there with his inevitable banter that goes everywhere with him! So I am confident by the time the Tottenham game comes around, which no doubt everyone is looking forward to, the manager will have a different kind of selection problem where he will be picking from close to a full-strength squad.
He will be able to play the formation he wants to play, with players in the correct position and with the first 11 he hasn't been able to play yet. Having said that, it is a great effort by the lads who have been playing for the past few games to try to adopt a system that we are not used to because of injuries - particularly in the midfield. To go out and play to the best of our abilities even though some are playing totally out of position says a lot for the spirit in the camp.
On a personal note, I've found myself in a difficult period on the pitch with what I feel have been inconsistent performances, although I am feeling better and better every week physically and mentally, after no break in the off-season. I am working hard to deliver the kinds of performances which West Ham fans expect and deserve from their captain.
Looking forward, we got the home draw we were hoping for in the Carling Cup and avoided the three main contenders. However, in Everton we have a very tough game and it's always funny that when you draw teams in the cup you always seem to play them in the league soon before or soon after, so it is going to be a very interesting week.
Once again, thank you so much to our loyal fans for your continued support, it means a lot to the boys and is never and should never be taken for granted by anybody wearing a West Ham United shirt.