Upson ready to dig deep

Matthew Upson has issued a rallying cry to his West Ham United team-mates ahead of the busy Christmas period.

The England defender has been in consistent form this season, capping an impressive series of displays for club and country with his first international goal in the 2-1 win in Germany in November.

However, Upson's positive outlook on life was tested when James Milner's freak strike deflected off Lucas Neill to hand Aston Villa a hugely fortunate 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory at the Boleyn Ground last Saturday. Defeat was harsh on a team who produced an encouraging all-round performance for manager Gianfranco Zola.

With the busy festive period fast upon us, though, the 29-year-old believes the Hammers can return to winning ways soon. Well known for his meticulous preparation for every fixture, Upson has told his colleagues it is time to do their talking on the pitch and start climbing up the table.

"I can't really explain how disappointing it is but we need to show a bit of resilience and character. It's at times like this and tests like this that really show you who you are as a team and as a group of people. So, it's up to us dig deep and the manager to rally and get the approach right. There's no reason why we can't get some good results.

"We played with a lot of energy against Aston Villa. Perhaps we didn't pass the ball quite as well as we would have liked and I thought we could have created more in the first half. But in the second half we came out and looked the more likely team to win the game. So, to go down to a really fluke goal like that was very disappointing."

Having drawn at Liverpool and Chelsea and also taken on Tottenham Hotspur and Villa in December, West Ham now embark on a run of fixtures against sides in the mid to lower reaches of the Premier League standings. United go to Portsmouth on Boxing Day before taking on Stoke City at the Boleyn Ground on 28 December and travelling to Newcastle United on 10 January next year. However, Upson is adamant that the Hammers cannot afford to take any of their opponents lightly.

"Personally, I don't pay any attention to that [the league table]. I prepare for every game the same way. I just think it's all about how you approach any team on any day. You can beat anyone if you're mentally focused and in good physical condition."

One subject that does bring a broad smile to Upson's face is that of spending his first Christmas with new-born son Elijah. With Zola bringing in his players to train on Christmas Day evening, rather than the traditional morning session, Upson and his team-mates will be able to remain with their families for the majority of the day. Meanwhile, the fixture computer has given the Premier League a day off on New Year's Day. Both are decisions welcomed by the player.

"There is one less game this year which will be a bit of a lighter load because normally it is a bit ridiculous. It's up to us to prepare and get ready. It will be nice to be able to wake up on Christmas morning and spend some time at home with the family. I've recently become a father so I'm going to do the full Christmas morning thing and enjoy it."