Bellamy pushing hard for return

Alan Curbishley will leave it as late as possible to decide whether to hand Craig Bellamy his first-team return on Saturday afternoon at Wigan Athletic.

The manager has lined up a practice game behind closed doors on Monday and could instead bring the Wales captain back for that fixture, which has also been earmarked for Bobby Zamora's return from a knee injury for the first time since 28 August. Bellamy has been out since the end of October with an abdominal problem although he did get a full run-out in a reserve-team game at Portsmouth ten days ago.

Acknowledging that Bellamy is eager to get back and would travel with the squad to the JJB Stadium, Curbishley said: "He trained fully again this week and he trained hard yesterday. But, as I have been saying consistently, he has had one game in ten weeks so it is very difficult for the boys getting fit in the first team. It does take a lot out of them.

"I have had to do that in recent weeks with [Luis] Boa Morte, [Matthew] Etherington, [Lee] Bowyer and Nobby Solano to be fair. I have got to be a little bit careful. I don't want to put them under too much pressure but obviously we want him back." The manager will also exercise caution over Julien Faubert, who missed out on the midweek 1-0 victory against Liverpool having come on as substitute twice against Manchester City following his debut cameo versus Fulham.

"Julien Faubert is back in training," he said. "He trained fully yesterday so we will see how he goes. He has come a long way [after an achilles injury] - then he took this slight calf strain so I have got to make sure now that he doesn't have any more mishaps. We will see, I might leave him another week. We have arranged a reserve game for Monday to get one or two people a game."

Curbishley confirmed that James Collins had suffered cruciate damage to his right knee and is going to be out for "at least six months", joining fellow long-term absentees Calum Davenport (knee) and Nigel Quashie (foot). While Kieron Dyer (double leg break) himself reported positive progress on WHUTV this week, the manager also revealed there are hopes Scott Parker (knee) could be back in four weeks.

The manager had a final word for Luis Boa Morte, himself not long back from injury, who received some criticism on Wednesday night from a small section of the crowd. "I was very disappointed with that and the rest of the players were," he said. "You don't like to hear that and let's hope it is a one-off. I would ask the fans to get behind the players because they can all surely see that everybody is committed at the moment here at the club. They are giving everything."

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