Kovac eyes Sunderland start

Radoslav Kovac is hoping his strong showing at Stoke City will see him restored to West Ham United's starting lineup for Tuesday's trip to Sunderland.

The Czech midfielder joined the fray as a 52nd-minute substitute for the injured Valon Behrami, throwing himself into every challenge with typical gusto as the Hammers held on to secure a valuable 1-1 draw.

Having helped the club pick up their first Barclays Premier League point of the season in the Potteries, Kovac is now eyeing a place in Avram Grant's XI for the midweek Carling Cup third round tie at the Stadium of Light.

The 30-year-old former Spartak Moscow star is also eager to be involved in the mouth-watering London derbies with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday and Fulham on 2 October.

"It was good for us to get a point because it was a very hard game. We have lost our last three games, so to get a draw and not lose gives us a real boost. From now, our confidence can get better and better and better.

"I enjoy the physical battle against Stoke every time, putting in challenges and winning headers.

"We go to Sunderland on Tuesday and we need to get a result there to set us up well for Tottenham. We have two important home games coming up and I hope to be in the starting lineup for both of them."

Prior to Saturday's visit to the Britannia Stadium, Kovac had appeared in just one first-team match this season, starting the 3-1 opening-day defeat at Aston Villa.

Rather than let his omission get him down, the Prague-born midfielder has turned out twice for Alex Dyer's reserves, giving 100 per cent in the 1-0 victories at Leicester City and Everton and acting as an inspiration for the club's younger players.

The player himself believes the playing time ensured he was ready for action when called upon at Stoke.

"I didn't play in the last three games, but I felt very good physically when I came on. This is because I have played two full matches for the reserve team. It is very important that I played these games.

"The games I played at Leicester and Everton were important for me because they enabled me to keep my match-fitness. They were very good."