Manager on Monday

Avram Grant will hope to see his squad's hard work come to fruition next weekend when his West Ham United travel to Aston Villa to kick off the new Barclays Premier League season.

The manager has enjoyed a successful summer, seeing his team go unbeaten in seven matches culminating in Saturday's SBOBET Cup triumph against RC Deportivo La Coruna on penalties after a goalless draw. The clean sheet was the fifth in that run, with only two goals conceded during pre-season while Rob Green also the hero in the shoot-out by saving the decisive Deportivo kick.

Grant gave some hints to his likely formation for Villa Park with a flexible 4-3-3 that featured a midfield trio of Mark Noble, Scott Parker and Thomas Hitzlsperger while main striker Carlton Cole got his reward for a run of four goals in six appearances with a call-up by England for Wednesday's friendly against Hungary.

The new No9 will therefore be absent until Thursday and is not the only one. Hitzlsperger, Pablo Barrera, Herita Ilunga, Tal Ben Haim, Fabio Daprela, Jonathan Spector and Marek Stech will also be away on international duty. Valon Behrami has been called up by Switzerland but has only just come back with a 45-minute reserve run-out alongside Ben Haim on Saturday.

Kieron Dyer's return is being managed and he has not played since Ipswich a week ago last Saturday while Benni McCarthy (hamstring) and Freddie Sears (thigh) could be back in training later this week. However, Ilunga and Danny Gabbidon - both starters against Deportivo in a back four also featuring skipper Matt Upson and James Tomkins- look in positive health after last season's woes.

Grant said: "This was my first trophy as West Ham manager and of course I hope to win more. It was a good game but we must remember it was a friendly and the last game of preparation for the season. We have achieved the target we set for this game and we saw good things and some things we could improve. We defend well and as a team but the attacking side can be better.

"We needed to play more quickly. The first half we weren't very quick but it was not a typical English opponent. They passed the ball a lot but not in our area. We couldn't press them. In the first half we played well, but the second half we played better.

"We are improving all the time. The players are in better condition. It is OK for this period for the team but the most important thing is we need to improve for the first game."

Grant was pleased with the contribution of his new recruits including substitutes Barrera and Frederic Piquionne, and even suggested it could be another busy week for the Board on the transfer front. "I don't know if there will be new signings before the first game but there is time in the transfer window. We will try to bring players that will make our squad stronger.

"We have signed good players and we want to change the mentality of the team. We want to do different things. We want to bring more players in, we want the squad to be stronger. "

Winston Reid had a watching brief against Deportivo after the centre-back trained for the first time before the match. Grant is looking forward to seeing him in action over the next five days before deciding whether to throw him in against Villa. "He has big potential for the Premier League, he has physical quality and technical quality. He is very young so he can only get better.

"The manager was also pleased to see Green once again look imperious - he has not been beaten in two and a half matches since his playing return while it seems Stech may be in pole position to be his understudy. "Robert got a great reception," Grant added. "He is a very good goalkeeper and is doing his job. I can tell you he is a very good professional. "

Ahead of the goalkeeper, Grant was pleased to see his ideas starting to take hold in the squad. He is determined to play attacking football where players can express themselves freely - as long as it is with organisation.

"This will be the main style for us - to pass the ball," Grant said. "In football today, though, you can't play just one way. The players need to be able to play in different situations."

That will be put into practice this week at Chadwell Heath - even with the limited numbers - before the squad heads up to the Midlands next weekend. Grant is certain his players will be up for the fight. "We will be ready next weekend. We have some tough matches at the start but we cannot do anything about that. We need to think game by game and see what happens."