Martin states case for defence

When it comes to considering the merits of West Ham United's defence this season, there are few better placed to judge than Alvin Martin.

The club legend and former captain has been more than impressed by the Hammers rearguard this season and is tipping Matthew Upson for an international recall later this month. The 28-year-old was imperious again last weekend against Manchester City, helping the club to a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup third round - and has yet to miss a minute of Premier League action as well.

With nearly 600 appearances behind him in the claret and blue, Martin was also an England international who played at the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico. As new England boss Fabio Capello starts his reign in charge of the national team, Martin is convinced Upson has what it takes to catch the Italian coach's eye.

"I think Matt has showed already this season his ability to carry out the basic duties of a defender - that is to head the ball to safety and make sure you clear well," he said of the former Birmingham City centre-back, who had the captain's armband for the second half of Saturday's game following Lucas Neill's injury. "He's really been on form.

"Now what he has to do is push on further and show what else he has in his game. The way he can be part of the attack - in getting the ball out from the back to the midfielders and play his part in helping goal chances come about."

The 17-times capped Martin said the competition at the back for England was fierce, but said that should only act as a challenge for the likes of Upson and even young partner Anton Ferdinand - who is himself looking to push on from the England Under-21s - to meet.

"We have Rio Ferdinand and John Terry in there at the back, two formidable players, so it won't be easy. But Jamie Carragher has sort of hung up his boots internationally for now, so perhaps that is another space to fill.

"Hopefully the new manager is going to give everyone a chance and if there is a match where one of these aren't playing, then that is the opportunity for someone else to shine and give Capello a selection problem for the next game. That is where Matty can look to stake his claim and I am sure he is capable of doing that."

Martin said the other important factor for success at the back is establishing a good partnership in the centre of the defence - as was shown by his own formidable pairing with Tony Gale during the 80s. "Matt and Anton have struck up a good partnership this season, which has been interrupted when Anton was out injured but there is something there that can be good for us this year.

"But we also have Danny Gabbidon and James Collins who have also shown either together or with Anton and Matt, that they too can strike up a good partnership as well, so that is a really good thing for West Ham that we have this and have the players to do it."

Upson of course scored his first goal for the club against Manchester United last month, while Ferdinand had laid the groundwork for the winning header with the equaliser after coming off the bench. "That is another part in which defenders can prove their worth, said Martin.

"I used to like getting forward for the set-plays and corners. Anton is one for doing that and Matt is also a strong lad who can help out in that situation too. I think there is a time for one of the lads to stay back but if they can get their head on a corner kick and make that leap, then it means the opposition have someone else to worry about other than the strikers.

"The other thing is leadership, Lucas is the captain but players such as Matt can help lead the way as well, especially with the younger players. I was taught well by the likes of Billy Bonds and even before I was made captain, I was always a talker and one that tried to help the others. While still at a young age himself, Matt can use his experience that he has got in this way as well."