West Ham United travel to Ipswich on Monday night hopeful that Dean Ashton will be back to take his place in the starting lineup.
Ashton has sat out the last two first-team friendlies after being laid low by illness but is expected to return, possibly alongside Craig Bellamy. He may take the place of Carlton Cole who took a knock on his ankle at Southampton on Friday but is also expected to play next weekend at home against Villarreal. Freddie Sears is making good progress from his bruised foot suffered in midweek so Alan Curbishley, who has another young striker in Zavon Hines in prolific form, could have a full complement of forwards by the weekend.
First up is the trip to Portman Road and the manager is looking forward to the contest. "We will take a lot of fans there," he said. "It should be a terrific atmosphere and I am hoping for a better performance [than the 2-2 draw with Southampton]. We are looking forward to the game." The manager has also admitted there could be one or two new faces before the start of the season. "I think you will see lots of clubs reacting to different issues. We will be no different to that," he added.
While George McCartney trained over the weekend, Matthew Etherington, Luis Boa Morte and Lee Bowyer may figure at Ipswich or Bishop's Stortford on Tuesday. Kieron Dyer will not play this week, despite initial hopes. The midfielder is still training and strengthening after his double leg break but is not yet ready for match action and there is no desire to rush him back. Having had his injury assessed at the end of last week by the club's new chief medical officer, Dyer will continue on a specialist rehabilitation programme over the next six weeks before a period of pre-season style training.
Meanwhile, Curbishley is more than content with the form shown by Valon Behrami, his summer signing from Lazio and knows he offers plenty of versatility. He said: "He has only done a week's training. We have thrown him in at the deep end ... He is a great athlete. We know he can play right-back and we know he can play wide right. He can also play in the centre of midfield so we are just assessing it at the moment. He is getting to know everybody."
Young forward Hines has been at the club for some time as an Academy product and Curbishley was delighted to see him progressing this summer. He said: "He has got that unpredictability. He is not afraid to turn on balls going into him which is a great asset and he is not afraid to try things ... He went off to Coventry and scored a vital goal for them in their survival bid last year. He has grown up a little bit. He has got a little bit of flair, a little bit about him that he is not afraid to try things."