Grant heads home on high

Avram Grant will reflect today on a thoroughly successful away campaign during pre-season in which the club recorded five wins and one draw out of six matches.

The Hammers head home to the Boleyn Ground on Saturday for the first time this summer having achieved much in terms of fitness and form, although the manager knows the SBOBET Cup against RC Deportivo La Coruna will be a stern test. As such, Southend's competitive approach to Tuesday night's 1-1 draw will stand Grant's men in good stead against the Spanish giants.

"It was a good game for us because a few of the players needed more minutes because they didn't play as much as we wanted in the last games," the manager said. "A few of the young players and the new players - Freddie Piquionne and Pablo Barrera - started for the first time, which was good for us.

"The first half was good and we passed the ball very well. We created a lot of chances. They were a little bit tired in the second half and we didn't play like the first half."


He also had plenty of praise for the travelling fans, who admittedly had a shorter journey than in recent trips to Ipswich and Milton Keynes or even Germany. " The atmosphere was good for us and it was a good training game. Our fans are very good. The supporters have been coming since the first game and of course we like that."

The Hammers took the lead through Alessandro Diamanti's second-half effort before a late equaliser from Anthony Grant. The Italian's long-range goal was not a surprise to his manager. "It was a special strike. Ale knows how to score goals and we created some good chances. We had four or five big chances and we scored one."

Anthony Edgar and Junior Stanislas were among those who had opportunities to make it a sixth straight win, while Barrera - who assisted on the Diamanti goal - also went close. The manager was pleased with how they integrated into a relatively inexperienced side.

"I was impressed. They are good, we saw that in training but we need them to play with the team more and more. I think every game they will be better. Every game will help them and the team."

The manager will hope to see Tal Ben Haim in training today and will assess whether he could make his debut against Deportivo. "He will start to train on Wednesday and we will see how he is. I don't know yet because he hasn't trained yet with the team."

Grant rested several players at Southend including Matthew Upson, but the West Ham United captain has returned to full training after his precautionary substitution at Ipswich Town at the weekend. The likes of Robert Green, Scott Parker, Kieron Dyer, Mark Noble, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Carlton Cole will also come back into contention for the glamour tie.

It could also be that there are one or two other signings on show, if not for Deportivo then for the big Barclays Premier League kick-off on Saturday week. "I hope there will be more signings before Aston Villa because we want players that make us stronger and that can help us.

"We need more competition in some areas. We will sign more players but only players that are better than what we have. If they are not we will not sign them."

The manager again did not get drawn on what he calls "summer stories" about potential new recruits but suggested that all of his transfer business was being done with long-term growth in mind. "We have targets for the next seasons, not only this season. We want to progress with good football and a good position in the league.

"We will do it step by step. First we don't want to fight against relegation like last year and then we will look forward."

Alessandro Diamanti