Hopes for defensive duo

Mervyn Day has revealed Matthew Upson and Anton Ferdinand could be fit for the season finale against Aston Villa next Sunday.

Both central defenders have missed the last three games, meaning captain Lucas Neill and young James Tomkins have filled in at centre-back. Assistant manager Day said: "Ferdinand was running on the pitch before the [Manchester United] game so we're hopeful that he might have a chance of being fit. Matty did some running on Friday so we're hopeful but we've been hopeful of a few of them for three or four weeks."

The weekend loss to Manchester United saw Luis Boa Morte and Dean Ashton go off with knocks while both Julien Faubert and Freddie Ljungberg were missing from the starting lineup having featured the previous week. Day said such setbacks underlined the progress made this campaign. "Given the players we've used, asked to play out of position and do jobs they're not used to doing, that the club has done very well to be in the top ten most of the season.

"If you turn it round to this time last year, with one game to go, and you said to West Ham fans you'll be tenth next year, no problems with relegation and have a solid season looking forward to the year after, most of them would have accepted that." Day is well aware though that there is still work to be done as a home win may well be necessary against Villa to ensure that finish in the top half of the table.

"For personal pride, it doesn't matter if it's Spurs or Newcastle, we want to finish in the top ten. That's been the goal ever since the start of the season. We wanted to be in the top half of the table. And if we achieve that given the amount of injuries we've had I think we'll have done reasonably well. Obviously we want to get all our players back and have a real go next year, but this year I think the players must take enormous credit for putting their all in and really grafting for us."