Alan Curbishley heads to Toronto with morale high in his squad after another strong showing against Columbus Crew on Sunday night.
The manager was delighted with the way his team coped against their Major League Soccer hosts in front of just under 10,000 fans at the Crew Stadium. Although the home side were missing some key personnel, they showed the benefits of being in the middle of the US season and also took full advantage of the difficult conditions with a high-energy approach. It was just what the manager hoped his team would have to face.
"It was a really good work-out," said Curbishley. "It was just right. Everyone got something out of it. Columbus played a few young players themselves but they made the pitch ever so big and they were very fit. We had a bit of chasing to do but we had to work hard in difficult conditions in terms of the heat and humidity. I am delighted to come through it with no injuries and I am looking forward to Toronto."
The Canadian city is hosting the MLS's showpiece game this Thursday when David Beckham and company take the field for the league's All-Stars. While Beckham may start to get the limelight as the week wears on, West Ham United fans can rightly be excited about the form of Craig Bellamy. He was the model professional, with a tireless performance for every one of the 87 minutes he was on the pitch.
Curbishley, who should also have the attacking options of Matthew Etherington and Luis Boa Morte on Thursday, is thrilled to have Bellamy back. "I think it just shows what we have missed last year. He can turn a bad ball into a good one and you know his work-rate brings other people into the game. Julien [Faubert] is also getting fitter. [Scott] Parker is going to be fitter than he was last year so I am hoping they are going to be like three new signings. They didn't play enough football last year and things are going OK."
Turning his thoughts back home, Curbishley is pleased that Kieron Dyer will join in fully with pre-season training for the first time on Monday and should be working hard with George McCartney and Matthew Upson who missed the tour for largely precautionary reasons. Caution is the watchword, and as such it will be an easier day for those travelling on Monday. "We are going to rest up. We have a big game in Toronto in front of 25,000 fans and everyone is looking forward to it. North America is just waking up to soccer and we want to be part of it."