Pedal power proving popular

The West Ham United players are not just being worked hard on the training pitch on their pre-season tour of Austria as they have opted to get to and from their twice daily training sessions by bike.

The players set off ten minutes before each session starts for the 1km ride to the pitches in Bad Radkersburg. The only slight problem is that there are not quite enough bikes to go around the whole group, so, as a result, every day there are a few players who are confined to taking the coach to training. Inevitably, this has provided the chance for some jovial moments for both players and staff.

"It's a good laugh and a few people have nicked other people's bikes," midfielder Josh Payne said. "I think even the manager's has gone missing so it's a great chance for a bit of banter.

"I lock my bike up all of the time as you never know who is about! I'm protecting it from the other players rather than any thieves!"

The more experienced heads that came to the same hotel for a pre-season tour two years ago have made the most of their knowledge of bike etiquette by ensuring that they secured their transport for the trip early on. Central defender James Collins was one of those who used his previous visit to Austria to his advantage.

"We came two years ago when we did the same again. I'm experienced so I knew to get a bike early on! Apart from that it's been quite quiet on that [joking] front but I'm sure there'll be a few head shavings going on," Collins said.

Even Gianfranco Zola has fallen victim to some light-hearted bike borrowing, and it appears the guilty party may have escaped - for now at least. Luckily, Antonio Pintus was on hand to lend the manager his bike to get home from training on, which meant the fitness coach had to hitch a lift with Robert Green.

"I think it's good for banter as there are more bodies than bikes," first-team coach Steve Clarke explained. "It means that if you forget to padlock your bike and take the key with you you're liable to lose it..

"Mine has stayed intact but nobody is immune as somebody nicked the manager's on Tuesday. He's on the case and he's not very happy, but he's got his key back and it appears the culprit may have escaped," he joked.

Aside from the obvious comical benefit for those out in Austria, Clarke believes that the spirit which evolves on such a tour can prove to be an invaluable asset once the season gets under way.

"I think we worked hard last year to get the team together. Obviously some players that made an important contribution last season have left over a period of time with some new ones coming in.

"Now it's about continuing what we had last season and then incorporating the new players into the group and re-building the group so that when we reach the season we are ready. We know we are going to have good times and bad times and the strength of the group is important, especially in the bad times."