Sears staking his claim

Freddie Sears is enjoying being back at West Ham United as he looks to get more minutes under his belt with Tuesday's reserve-team encounter against Arsenal.

The match at the Boleyn Ground should help his chances of impressing Gianfranco Zola before the weekend trip to Aston Villa, especially with the postponement of Sunday's match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Sears returned to the club from a six-month loan at Crystal Palace on New Year's Eve and got eleven minutes off the bench against Arsenal in the FA Cup third round a week ago.

He will hope to get an extended run-out at the Boleyn Ground this evening against the Gunners and is generally enjoying being around his fellow homegrown Hammers Junior Stanislas, Jack Collison and James Tomkins once more.

"The banter is great," he said. "It is good to be back with Junior, JC and Tonks. The atmosphere is good and also with the older players. Everyone is happy and it is a great place to be.

"There have been a few injuries so now is a good time for me to stake my claim. It is an opportunity for me that I have to take."

The 20-year-old did well at Championship side Crystal Palace but failed to register in 18 league appearances, albeit that he was played out wide in the majority. However, his record could have been different had the referee not disallowed a clear goal back in an early-season encounter at Bristol City on 15 August.

"The ball went over the line," recalled Sears. "It hit the net but the lino didn't give it. It was unbelievable. I still can't believe it now. That was early on in my time there and it would have been great to get off that mark. I have been playing mostly on the wide but I played a couple of times up front and that is where I prefer.

"The main thing though is to play and I want to improve and get in the starting team here at West Ham."

Sears has the No19 shirt after seeing the No33 he had last season handed to young left-back Fabio Daprela in the summer. There was no science though behind his choice of new number. "It's what Clarkey gave me," he said with a smile. "I am just happy to have any number. It is great to be back and I am raring to go."