Hitz right at home

Thomas Hitzlsperger will look to help West Ham United to a fourth victory of the summer on Wednesday night with the squad on a high after their German experience.

The man from Munich was right at home during the club's eight-day stay at a Bavarian base in Grassau last week. The aim was to build fitness and togetherness in the camp, and that was achieved with fine wins at the beginning and end against VfL Borussia Monchengladbach and Panathinaikos, the latter owing much to Hitzlsperger's solitary strike on Friday night.

Hitz, as he is fast becoming known to his new team-mates, said the experience had been wholly positive - especially for him settling into a new squad. "It has been so easy," he said. "It is a good group of players and they make it so easy for new players to come in.

"That is what I have felt from day one. I have enjoyed training and being with the lads. Hopefully it will continue that way and when the season starts we will be successful."


Next up for the Hammers is the trip to MK Dons on Wednesday night. With the team having won their first three games of the summer, Hitzlsperger has the winning mentality.

However, that does not extend to everything as he was unable to help his side claim the Hammers sports quiz during a break from training last week. Unsurprisingly for a man with 51 caps for his country who is due to face Denmark next month, his top-level knowledge was coveted.

"I came close to winning," he said. "It was a good experience. I hadn't done it before. It is an English tradition that kind of quiz. It was quite good.

"I was in a good group, there was only one group that was better. The team welcomed me and they wanted me for the international experience. They knew everything about English football but I knew about badges and grounds from abroad. I was a good addition to the team, I think."

The strong showing of Hitzlsperger's side owed much to the brainpower of Kieron Dyer, with the midfielder showing a sharp sporting mind. His range of knowledge is such that he is intending to stage a Challenge Kieron quiz in each edition of the matchday programme next season.

"I was surprised. He knew a lot," said Hitzlsperger of his team-mate's prowess in the Kevin Keen-penned competition. "It was a good hour and a half and I enjoyed it."

While the players took part in such relaxing pursuits in the evening, there was plenty of activity during the day. While football training naturally dominated, there was also volleyball, cycling, swimming, table tennis and water polo to be enjoyed - and endured at times - throughout.

"It is good to mix it up. It is not all about two sessions of football a day. The staff try to change certain things and it is good to do things differently. You don't want to spend all the time on the pitch."

All in all, Hitzlsperger reflected on a very positive camp. "The conditions, the training pitches and the weather has been perfect. We had everything we need."

He also believed that the Hammers may have won a few more admirers in south Germany. "There is a big football passion. Bayern Munich - where I played for eleven years as a kid - is the biggest club but hopefully now there are some more West Ham fans in the area.

That is the good thing about pre-season tours. [Local] people may not be too aware of the club but, when we spend a week, they are aware and hopefully they will support us, buy shirts and maybe come over to London to watch a few games.

"They know the Premier League, it is by far the best league in the world. West Ham United, when you say the name it clicks, they know what it is."