Manager on Monday

Alan Curbishley has claimed Lee Bowyer's goals this season were a deserved reward for the midfielder's efforts at West Ham United.

Bowyer scored twice and made another for Matthew Etherington in the 5-0 win at Derby County on Saturday, which also included strikes from Jonathan Spector and Nolberto Solano. The 30-year-old has four goals from ten Premier League outings this season and, despite needing an operation on Tuesday to correct a hernia problem, has been showing the qualities that Curbishley first spotted when he came through at Charlton Athletic.

"I remember when I had him as young player at Charlton, when he broke into the first team," said the West Ham United manager. "It was what he was about, good in the box and a strong finisher, being able to run into good positions and having a crack at goal, most times with the ball ending in the back of the net.

"He of course went on to Leeds and Newcastle United and got better and better, but since he has been at West Ham, it has perhaps not quite clicked for him in that way he wanted - until now that is. Injuries have made a mark, but he was still getting into decent positions but not getting the goals.

"For me, it was a case of him probably trying too hard. It wasn't happening for him last season. I remember us playing up at Liverpool, Lee hitting the post and having some good chances, and thinking he just needs a bit of a lift-off.

"In pre-season this year, we had a match at Norwich when Lee got in three or four times, but just couldn't get the goal. I sat down with him during the summer and said 'just settle down, get in there like you know you can and when you get an opportunity try and grab it if you can'. That's what he has done.

"He has worked hard, dug in and now it's paying for off him and for us. The goals have come and he has scored a few vital ones for us this season. He got two good goals against Derby, the second was super, and I can't wait to see that again."

Curbishley expects Bowyer to be back in action within three weeks. "We have been waiting for the international break to come along so he can have this done," he said. "He had a hernia about seven years ago and that's the lifespan of something like that, it has slowly come back. Lee is suspended for the Tottenham game, so he has three weeks to recover and we expect him to be fit after that."

Looking to the Spurs visit on 25 November, Curbishley is hoping for a few more bodies back to help strengthen the squad. That said, he stressed nothing should be taken away from players who have been going out there and getting the results - not least makeshift midfielder Spector, the experienced Solano who has "helped steady the ship" and lone striker Carlton Cole who "has got a chance and taken it".

"Hopefully, we will get Mark Noble and Hayden Mullins back in that time, because we have players in there at the moment who are not midfielders but, that is what we have had to do, just get on with it. I thought Jon Spector could do a job there, he was with me for a year at Charlton, so I knew he would have a go, and as I have said I think it's disrespectful to the players who are out there, to keep talking about the injuries, because they are going out there and picking up the results.

Curbishley said he and his staff were doing everything they could to protect the players and ease the situation. He said: "We trained on Friday, but I just couldn't afford a collision or anything, so we cut short the five-a-side we were having before we got on the bus to come to Derby. It is normally ten minutes each way, but when it got to seven and a half, myself and Snods [first-team coach Glyn Snodin] who was the referee, finished it. One team was getting a right tonking anyway so perhaps it was just as well!"

There was also a bit of drama ahead of the Derby match, as Curbishley explained. "Matty Etherington tweaked his knee in the warm-up so we had Kyel Reid, who was in the stands, ready to get kitted up and we were on the verge of deciding to change the team sheet. But Matty went back out there with strapping on his knee and said it felt better, so it was all OK and of course, as you know, he scored a good goal.

"When everyone is fit, I can't play them all, let's stress that and I just think it is showing that we have a really good squad. When the players are all available, I will have some selection problems, that's for sure. It was a great result for us at Derby and a good way to go into the two-week international break. I think we have been threatening this scoreline for a while. We got a 3-0 up at Reading and could have had a lot more.

"For us to be in the top half of the table, in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup, is for me, terrific and a great credit should be given to all the players. I have a squad that can compete on all levels. The aim is to have a good solid season and see where that takes us."