Downing - 'It will help us to end strongly'

Stewart Downing says warm-weather training in Dubai will give West Ham United a boost
Stewart Downing says West Ham United will return to action rested and recharged following their warm-weather training trip to Dubai.

The Hammers spent a long weekend in the United Arab Emirates, recovering from a packed fixture list that saw them play 15 matches since Boxing Day.

With ten Barclays Premier League games remaining, starting with a trip to Arsenal on Saturday afternoon, the England midfielder says a change in environment, temperature and surroundings was just what the squad needed.

“I think it’s good for us to get away at this time of year,” said the No11, who has scored eight goals and registered eight assists this term. “A lot of countries do have a winter break, so a couple of days rest means we can rest, recover and get ready for the next game.

“I think we needed a break. We had a lot of games with the FA Cup games and obviously the Barclays Premier League, so it’s nice to get a couple of days rest and recover for the next one.

After recovering from Wednesday’s hard-fought 1-0 home defeat by Chelsea, the Hammers returned to the training pitch at Dubai Sports City (DSC), where the coaching staff led a series of ball-based drills.

The modern facilities attract leading clubs from all over the world, and also serve as a base for the Spanish Soccer Schools run by former Real Madrid and Spain full-back Michel Salgado – who played under Sam Allardyce and assistant Neil McDonald at Blackburn Rovers.

There, they also received a visit from former West Ham striker Frederic Kanoute, who now lives and runs his own Kafo Academy for young footballers in Dubai.
I hope it will help us to end strongly and do better than we did last year and finish in the top ten if we can
Downing said the players enjoyed the use of the grass and artificial pitches at DSC, adding that he hopes the trip will serve as a catalyst for the Hammers to finish the season strongly after a challenging start to 2015.

“We did a bit of head tennis and a bit of passing – it was a light training session so it was decent,” he confirmed.

“I hope it will help us to end strongly and do better than we did last year and finish in the top ten if we can.

“The team bonding part of it is good for the lads and it’s nice for the new boys to get involved with the lads too.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s trip to north London, Downing says West Ham are determined to get one over the Gunners after being edged out 2-1 at the Boleyn Ground on 28 December.

That game saw Arsenal go two goals up before the Hammers launched a furious second-half comeback, but could not add to Cheikhou Kouyate’s 54th-minute header.

Arsene Wenger’s team are in good domestic form, having won their last four league matches, but may have one eye on next Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg tie in Monaco, where they have to overcome a 3-1 deficit.

“We owe them one, as I think we should have beaten them at home,” Downing confirmed. “It’ll be a tough game, but we can go there with confidence because on our day we’re a decent team.”