Testing time in training

West Ham United's returning FIFA World Cup quartet may not be involved on Friday night against Panathinaikos but they have certainly been catching up fast with the rest of the squad.

Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, Matthew Upson and Valon Behrami have been a constant presence in training all week, as well as taking part in the various swimming, cycling, volleyball, boxing and water polo activities staged to complement the pitch work.

However, they are all likely to sit on the sidelines in Kitzbuhel against the Greek champions, while it remains to be seen if Scott Parker and Freddie Piquionne will be involved in the match.

Hammer of the Year winner Parker has been back in training for ten days, while striker Piquionne also linked up with the squad for the first time in Germany last Friday following his move from Olympique Lyonnais.

Manager Avram Grant will have to consider whether to play them or whether to wait for next week's two friendlies at MK Dons and Ipswich Town on Wednesday and Saturday week respectively.

Valon Behrami

Valon Behrami has been doing some extra conditioning work

The squad were out early on Thursday morning, taking part in drills that tested defending against attacking in both halves of the pitch. Each side was overseen by either Paul Groves or Kevin Keen, while manager Grant spoke individually to players throughout. Much of the emphasis was on positioning and quick breaks from penalty area clearances.

After that, there was a lively match-style session that saw the squad split into three 'teams'. The two goalkeepers remained the same, and a small round-robin tournament of matches was played. It was fast and furious, and the action included some sharp-shooting from Junior Stanislas and Freddie Sears.

The highlight of the morning, though, was a crashing right-footed volley from Thomas Hitzlsperger that drew a spontaneous round of applause from the few fans gathered around.

Meanwhile, Pablo Barrera will not travel out to the club's Bavarian base with the Mexico winger having been back in his homeland earlier this week to finalise his move to Europe. The main beneficiaries of all of this will be the youngsters Grant brought away including first-timers Matt Fry, Anthony Edgar, Cristian Montano. The trio all figured against VfL Borussia Monchengladbach and Peterborough United in the first two friendlies and may get another chance to shine.


Check out WHUTV now for an exclusive interview with left-sided centre-back Fry. He was particularly praiseworthy of club captain Upson, who plays in his position and has taken time to help him along. Fry said: "It is good to be out here and involved. I have to take the opportunity.

"Having Matty Upson so close to me at West Ham and being able to watch him every day has been a big help to my career. He is a left-sided centre-half, the attributes are all there and for me to keep a close eye on him as helped me a lot."

Matthew Upson

Matthew Upson has been invaluable for the younger players