Upson heading home

Matthew Upson returns home to Suffolk on Saturday feeling decidedly upbeat about West Ham United's chances ahead of the new Barclays Premier League season.

The Hammers will be in pre-season friendly action at Ipswich Town this weekend, just 25 miles from the England defender's birthplace in the north of the county.

With a host of friends and family members set to cheer him on, the 31-year-old expects Avram Grant's side to put on an impressive show against the Tractor Boys.


Having enjoyed an extended summer break following his exertions at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Upson returned to action in Wednesday's 2-0 friendly victory at League One outfit MK Dons, looking his assured self alongside Wales international Danny Gabbidon.

On Saturday, Upson is expecting a slightly tougher test against Roy Keane's Ipswich, who will compete in the Championship in 2010/11.

"I'll have a couple of people texting me for tickets!" he told WHUTV. "It's a good fixture for us. They're a good team with a good manager and I think they'll be up for it.

"I think these games are designed to get various things out of them. The obvious object is to win the games, but you're looking at everything - fitness, tactics and all other aspects of the game. It was a good exercise for us and a good game.

"For me, it was my first 45 minutes since I've been back. It's very good to have competition for places - it's an essential for every good squad and good team and keeps everyone on their toes.

"It was good at the training camp out in Germany. We worked hard but when it was relaxed it was relaxed and we had some down time, which was important. It was hot and, for me, it looks like it's been a pretty successful summer so far."

Upson believes manager Grant will begin to finalise his plans for the new season at Portman Road before giving his first-choice XI a chance to impress when Spanish giants RC Deportivo La Coruna visit the Boleyn Ground on Saturday 7 August.

With the likes of Thomas Hitzlsperger, Pablo Barrera and Frederic Piquionne - both of whom could make their first-team debuts at Ipswich - added to an already talented squad, the captain believes the future is bright.

"You will see signs at Ipswich but definitely that last fixture of the pre-season calendar before the big kick-off, you generally see close to what the starting XI is going to be and the shape we're going to play. It's interesting times.

"It's been a good camp. There have been some good additions and I think this is the strongest squad I've seen at the club in a good couple of seasons. The manager has bought some good players and hopefully we'll improve on last season."