Payet’s emotional return

An emotional Dimitri Payet paid a heartfelt thanks to the Claret and Blue army for a stirring ovation as he made his eagerly-awaited return in Saturday’s 2-0 Barclays Premier League win over Liverpool at the Boleyn Ground. 

The 28-year-old, who came a cropper against Everton back in November, replaced Enner Valencia after 65 minutes, completing his comeback from a significant ankle injury several weeks ahead of schedule. 

For Payet, it was the perfect start to 2016, what with three precious points in the bag and a deafening reception from the supporters, who have so quickly taken him to their hearts.      

“Honestly, I had shivers during the warm-up before I came on,” he told West Ham TV. “Then that ovation, I thank all the supporters who are behind me and believe in me. It's a powerful feeling and I had tears in my eyes. 

“It's true that the year's started well. I'm pleased that we've won and we had to do it against a team of Liverpool's calibre. For me to come back under these circumstances is a really good start to the year.”  

Even in his absence, the Dimitri Payet song has regularly rung around the Boleyn Ground, not to mention on the road, some added motivation, if any were needed, for the Reunion-born midfielder.   

He continued: “I've heard the song several times at the ground. It's their way of saying that they've not forgotten me and that truly encourages me to work hard to get back to my best level.”  

Following an initial prognosis of some three months on the sidelines, Payet and the Hammers’ medical team have worked wonders to get him back up to speed in just eight weeks. Though he advises caution, quite rightly, West Ham’s No27 is feeling good.          

He explained: “I didn't have to have an operation, so I saved a bit of time in my recuperation. Then I spent ten days back at home in Reunion, which really did me good and so when I returned, I felt good psychologically. 

“When I got back it was back to work with the physios, with whom I worked very hard. And I thank them because the reason that I'm able to play today it's also thanks to them who helped me get back on my feet.

“Of course we'll continue to be careful, we mustn't go too quickly, but we're happy that I'm back after only two months.”  

Payet has not been alone in battling injury over the winter months but has watched on with pride as the Hammers have battled so gamely to keep an impressive unbeaten run intact.  

Now, as the cavalry return, Payet is hopeful of a New Year charge, particularly after the convincing manner of Saturday’s victory, the Hammers’ second in just six days.     

“The team's been hampered by several players missing, but we've been able to come through that period. Admittedly, we weren't winning games, but we didn't lose them either, so we've stayed in a good position in the league and after two wins we see that we can close in on the top five. 

“From start to finish we were at it on Saturday. We had the match against Southampton where we had struggled to get going in the game. But here, we were at it straight away. 

“We managed to score quickly and we got some breathing space straight after half-time. So it was a match that went to plan and I congratulate the team.”