Kevin Keen has praised "outstanding athlete" Bobby Zamora on WHUTV after his startling return to competitive action this week.
The reserve-team manager was delighted to be able to name Zamora in his lineup to face Birmingham City on Tuesday night and even more pleased to see him notch a second-half hat-trick. "He has been out a long while and it is good he is back," Keen told WHUTV about the striker's performance in his first competitive game since 28 August which will have no doubt impressed manager Alan Curbishley and assistant Mervyn Day.
Keen added: "Bobby is an outstanding athlete. In my opinion he is one of the best forwards in the Premier League when he is fit and I have told him that on many occasions. We have just got to be a bit careful as to when we bring him back. We haven't got a game this weekend and then we play Fulham away but he could be a real diamond to have in the run-in for Curbs and Mervyn. He can really turn games, he can score goals - I don't want to speak too highly of him because he is a big enough character anyway."
The former Hammers midfielder admitted his side had not shown any glimpses of the second half showing to come when they walked off level pegging at 1-1 on Tuesday. "We came in at half-time a little bit disappointed because we felt there was a little bit of composure, class and quality lacking in our play. We tweaked it a little bit and brought Junior [Stanislas] on and I thought he made a big difference. We played a little bit through midfield and obviously the three goals from Bobby made it all worthwhile."
Also, noteworthy was the display of Julien Faubert and Jack Collison, with the former making two of Zamora's goals and also one for the latter, who yet again showed maturity beyond his 19 years as reserve-team captain. Keen said: "If you look at Julien's performance, he made three of the four goals which is not bad going.
"It has been a good year for Jack, he's made his senior debut, he's got into the Wales Under-21 squad, he's managed to score a few goals and played a lot of games in the reserves. He is very hard-working, grafting midfield player who can nick a goal. I hope that between now and the end of the season we might get to see him a couple of times in the first team. We will have to wait and see."
Attacking midfielder Stanislas was only named on the bench after Luis Boa Morte withdrew late on as his wife was giving birth. Despite having trained fully earlier in the day, Keen felt Stanislas could provide the necessary spark behind Zamora. "I just felt at half-time we needed a little bit of quality on the ball. He gave us that - he played half and hour and then I tugged him off because he had trained in the morning. He did very well."
There was also encouragement for young defenders Jordan Spence and Bondz 'Gala, with Spence showing some attacking instincts at right-back and 'Gala imperious alongside James Tomkins in the centre. The final word of praise though were dedicated to Zamora with Keen urging all to check out his treble on WHUTV. "If you look at the four goals on the internet they are high quality goals, that in itself made it worthwhile."