"All of them have dug in, which is great testament to them and there is a little bit of a different spirit here than we had last year."
So said Alan Curbishley of his squad as the manager looked back to yet another West Ham United win on Saturday which consolidated the club firmly in the top half of the Premier League table. That "spirit" showed itself in the way the team fought back from a rare defensive mix-up to score two good goals through Dean Ashton and Anton Ferdinand and win 2-1 against Fulham.
The west London visitors struck first in the eighth minute, as a Simon Davies free-kick went all the way through beyond Robert Green, thanks in large part to Carlos Bocanegra distracting the West Ham United No1. Curbishley said: "We started off too deep. Bocanegra's got the other side of Anton Ferdinand, and once the ball has gone behind us, Greeny has got to wait for Bocanegra to do something. As it happened he's done nothing and that's the most dangerous thing.
"Ferdinand should have been marking, he should have been the other side of him. He has redeemed himself with the goal and his second-half performance," the manager added, aware that a half-time word with his promising young centre-back had achieved the desired impact. With a smile, the manager added: "As James Collins said to him: 'I'm just waiting, I'm just waiting'. That's nice, that's what we have got at the moment. We have got one or two people putting pressure on."
The appearance of France winger Julien Faubert for a brief cameo suggests he will also soon be pushing for a start - but Freddie Ljungberg may have something to say about that after an outstanding weekend display on the right. "The reason I brought Freddie into the club was for days like Saturday," said Curbishley. "Someone who could perhaps make a difference when you are playing at home."
With Craig Bellamy and Bobby Zamora back in training, there will soon be intense competition on Ashton and Carlton Cole in the forward positions as well. Curbishley added that he can also play Luis Boa Morte in attack and will have Henri Camara as well after the African Cup of Nations. As such, and with the success of the 4-5-1 system this season, it promises to be a quiet January.
"I have decided that unless something really critical happens, we won't be doing too much. The players that have been playing have been done fantastically well and the players that are coming back are desperate to get back."
With the expectation that captain Lucas Neill will be fit again after his hamstring trouble for Wednesday's cup replay at Manchester City, and Nolberto Solano not too far away, Curbishley is more than content. "Hopefully they will all get themselves fit and I won't have any sleepless nights at all regarding the injuries - but team selection may be a little bit difficult. That would be a nice thing."