Rita raring to go

Herita Ilunga is raring to go ahead of the new Barclays Premier League season.

West Ham United's buccaneering left-back endured a stop-start 2009/10 campaign, with jaw and leg injuries restricting him to just 17 appearances.

The frustrating season was in stark contrast to the DR Congo defender's first season with the Hammers, which saw him play 39 times and only miss the Carling Cup defeat by Watford due to being rested.

The African has rediscovered his best form in recent weeks, however, producing a typically effective performance in the SBOBET Cup penalty shoot-out victory over RC Deportivo La Coruna.

Having come through the pre-season strongly, Ilunga has travelled to Cairo to represent his country in an international friendly against Egypt on Wednesday before returning to Chadwell Heath ahead of Saturday's trip to Aston Villa.

"The preparation was very good," said the 28-year-old, who is known as 'Rita' by his team-mates. "You saw in the game that we played very well. We controlled the game. It was not my job to take a penalty, though!

"I am very happy to come back into the squad. I feel that, this year, everybody wants to win and wants to work together. I think these things are very important.

"Last season was life. Sometimes it is like that. Football is sometimes difficult but you have to remain positive. Last season was very bad for me, but I just kept looking forward and for me it was in the past. Now I am looking forward to helping West Ham and doing well.

"We play against Egypt this week but then I will come back straight away and be working towards Saturday's game at Aston Villa."

Ilunga's return will be welcomed by new Hammers manager Avram Grant, while the No23 believes the club has also spent wisely on a host of impressive new recruits during the summer transfer window.

Close friend Frederic Piquionne, who the full-back played alongside for three seasons at French club AS Saint-Etienne, is just one of five new signings Ilunga believes will provide a boost to West Ham's chances of enjoying a productive 2010/11 season.

"We have a lot of good players coming in this summer, including Pablo Barrera, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Freddie Piquionne - who will all help the team. I know Freddie very well, but all of them will be good for the team. I think they will be a real bonus for us."