Old pals act

James Collins was delighted to be back alongside old friend and fellow West Ham United defender in Wednesday's 1-1 pre-season draw with SVL Flavia Solva in Austria.

The 25-year-old has known Gabbidon since the pair's days at Cardiff City, joining West Ham together on the same day as his Wales international team-mate in 2005. The duo have also acted as best man at each other's weddings.

On Wednesday, the pair were reunited at the heart of the Hammers defence for the first time since January 2008, appearing as half-time substitutes in the first game of the club's pre-season tour.

Collins, who took over as captain at the break, was happy to see a familiar face lining up with him, especially considering the fact that Gabbidon has only recently returned to action after 18 months out injured.

"We had a little mention before the game as we realised it had been a while since we played together," said Collins. "After playing for so long together every week for almost four years at Cardiff is was kind of strange to have such a long break.

"We have got that certain thing where we seem to click and it's good fun playing with him. To have him back and playing strongly is great for himself and for West Ham, so it's a bonus for everyone."

Collins was also content with the team's performance against their Austrian Third Division opponents, pointing out that the players' fitness levels were much more important than results at this early stage.

"It was alright," he said. "We are still getting our fitness. It is hard in the heat but getting 45 minutes under your belt is always good.

"I don't think the result is the priority in any of these games. Certainly for myself and some of the others getting through the pre-season fit and strong is the priority to get ready for the first game of the season."

The Wales international echoed the sentiments of his colleagues by saying that although their schedule in Austria is tough, with temperatures topping 90 degrees, every player knows the hard work is vital with the start of the Barclays Premier League campaign under a month away.

"The schedule has been great. Normally you're running around for hours a day, but Mister [Gianfranco Zola], [Steve] Clarkey, Kevin Keen and Alex Dyer have done a great job as we've been playing football and got our running out of it that way. It's been fun and we're looking forward to the next game.

"The weather is alright as luckily I've just come back from holiday. It is hot. All of the boys are struggling a bit as we're training, but we've just got to deal with it. I'm sure we'll feel the benefit the other side of it."

UEFA Cup finalists Werder Bremen are the next obstacle in West Ham's way as the calibre of opposition steps up a gear in Bad Waltersdorf on Saturday evening.

"It will be a tougher game physically and technically, so we're all looking forward to it," added Collins. "The weather is meant to cool down so we can put a proper workout in."