Matthew Upson is in line to return for West Ham United at Bolton Wanderers on Saturday having missed the last month with a calf injury.
The 28-year-old England defender, who has played 28 of the 33 league games this season, could come back in alongside Anton Ferdinand at the Reebok Stadium, although youngsters Jonathan Spector, 22, and James Tomkins, 19, have filled in admirably in his absence. Having worn it previously, Upson may even get the captain's armband if Lucas Neill fails to overcome the injury he suffered late in the 1-0 loss against Portsmouth earlier this week.
"Matty Upson should be back," said Alan Curbishley at his pre-match press conference. "He has trained all week. We just felt Tuesday was a little bit too early. He is back this weekend. We will see how Mark Noble is today [Thursday] and the same for Lucas Neill. He turned his ankle over near the end on Tuesday." The manager added that players like Upson, along with Robert Green, Scott Parker and Dean Ashton, had many incentives for the rest of the campaign - not least England.
He said: "Everybody has got a lot to play for. We have got a big English contingent in the side. A lot of them would like us to do a bit better because it enhances their situation. I am sure everyone with the national side is aware what we have got at our club and every game is really looked at and reported on."
With Neill and Noble both doubtful, that could raise the prospects for the likes of Tomkins and 19-year-old midfielder Jack Collison, the usual reserve-team captain who was rested on Wednesday. One player who did feature in the 2-1 defeat of Derby County's second string was Julien Faubert with the winger's fitness being assessed after his own calf troubles. It may be that he is kept back for pre-season, but if all goes well then he could potentially return before the end of the campaign. Young goalkeeper Marek Stech, 18, is also training again after his ankle injury.