Manager on Monday

West Ham United manager Alan Curbishley is hoping that the forthcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers will bring some much-needed respite to an overcrowded treatment room.

"I need this two-week break because I don't even know whether we've got 11 fit players at the moment," announced Curbs on 8 October after seeing the names of the luckless Dean Ashton and Henri Camara added to the injury list during Saturday's 0-1 defeat at Villa Park. "We're really stretched at the moment and are copping it right now. Long-termers like Julien Faubert and Kieron Dyer are out, while we've also got Anton Ferdinand, Scott Parker and Craig Bellamy absent, too.

"Dean Ashton has tweaked his medial ligament and I'd imagine that a comeback within a week or a fortnight is looking tight, while Henri Camara has hurt his hamstring, George McCartney took a knock and Luis Boa Morte picked up a dead leg. That's par for the course for us at the moment and we just can't get a settled side together.

"We're not going to use it as an excuse, but even before the Aston Villa game, we had £27million-worth of players out of action and that's a big hit. Not many teams could cope with that.

"It's been five, long weeks since Craig Bellamy was streaking away from Reading's defence but after having the same surgeon and the same operation as Michael Owen on Thursday, he did a little bit of running on Friday," revealed Curbs, who understandably has mixed feelings about Wales' upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers in Cyprus and San Marino. "It's a difficult situation because if Craig's fit, then he could get some match fitness back before he plays for us against Sunderland but, then again, what happens if he breaks down? I just want him back!"

And how Curbs could have done with his club record signing at Villa Park, where Craig Gardner's disputed, deflected, first-half, free-kick settled the outcome of match, in which West Ham were well worthy of a point.

"We gave it our best shot but we just missed that cutting edge today," observed the Hammers' boss. "Perhaps a Bellamy or one of the others might have taken those chances that fell our way in the second half.

"It was a tough game. Villa were a bit more aggressive than us, while we didn't start sure-footed enough and our centre-halves had a bit to do against their centre-forwards. They got ahead because of that but we were also disappointed with the free-kick that led to their goal because I didn't think it was a foul. After a bit of a tussle, Gabby Agbonlahor slipped and the referee was possibly a bit too hasty in awarding it but you either get those or you don't.

"Then the actual free-kick deflected off Danny Gabbidon but if Robert Green had got sight of it, I reckon he would've saved it. When you put someone on the line you take that risk and while, overall, we're in front by putting people there in those situations, it backfired on us at Villa Park.

"Freddie Ljungberg had a good goal ruled out against Arsenal last week, too, so perhaps a bit of luck will return to us against Sunderland," concluded Curbs, who saw enough second-half signals to suggest that he can enjoy a change in fortunes, when Roy Keane's Black Cats come to town on October 21. "We were certainly more aggressive after the break and although we just didn't have enough to get back into it, on another day, we certainly would've picked up a point.

"Despite all the injuries, we showed that we're digging in and now we've got to re-group and see who've we've got available on Sunday week.

"Perhaps this fortnight's break will help us, I just hope that all of my players come back from international duty okay."