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West Ham United’s league preparations affected by the international break

How much of an effect will the recent round of international matches have on the team?

Newcastle United v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

There was a great piece last week on the official club site by West Ham United’s Head of Sports Medicine Gary Lewin who gave an update on how the international week affects what happens at club level.

Gary was very specific in stressing that although we talk about the ‘‘international break’’, a break is certainly the last thing the medical teams get. This also applies to the players left behind.

Although the players who weren’t selected to play for their country managed an extra day or two off, those having treatment invariably worked just as long and hard as they would have done normally.

As Gary pointed out, having fewer players around meant that more time could be allocated to those who will have benefited most from the extra attention.

The reduced numbers gave the medical teams the opportunity to concentrate purely on treatment and rehabilitation without having to worry too much about having a game at the end of last week to plan for as well.

West Bromwich Albion v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

James Collins was one of those who benefitted from the concentrated care. James sustained an ankle injury a fortnight ago in the away draw with West Bromwich Albion and had to be replaced shortly after the interval.

The injury, reported to be an ankle ligament sprain, occurred towards the end of the first half and although James managed to shrug off the initial discomfort, it didn’t last.

A scan followed on the Monday after the match which confirmed the medical team's diagnosis and he was unable to take part in Wales’ unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign as a result.

As he’s only just reported to have started full training this week, James looks highly unlikely to be involved in the Burnley game although a late decision might well be made.

Ankle ligament sprains are common in football and few players manage to go through their whole career without picking any of these up.

As with any injury, the key to recovery lies in the immediate medical management which focusses on restricting the damage and avoiding any further exacerbation of the injury.

By coming off when he did, James has likely avoided turning what was reported to be a relatively minor to moderate injury into a longer-term problem.

If James doesn’t play at Burnley the additional few days of rehabilitation won’t do him any harm.

West Bromwich Albion v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

For most clubs the international break as we tend to refer to it can be viewed as either a distraction or a welcome respite from the league campaign.

West Ham United are no different in this respect. In the modern game, most clubs have a cosmopolitan playing staff which leads to regular absences at various times of the year.

And there’s always the old argument of club v country debate when you get players going away on international duty and coming back injured.

There’s another side to this, however, and some coaches feel that it’s not only the risk of injury that affects players when they go away on international duty.

There’s a school of thought in coaching circles that players can actually become out of tune with their club styles if they are away for a while and playing in a team with a different pattern.

Tactical changes and playing in formations that they’re not as well used to is thought to have an effect on performance to a certain degree when some players turn out for their national teams.

When they return to their clubs to pick up the league games again, these differences become obvious.

Perhaps this goes a long way towards explaining why clubs who have a lot of international players in their side frequently do badly on the first weekend of the league campaign after the break.

West Ham United v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Without having the exact statistics to hand, it will be interesting to see how most of the clubs fare over the next few days and whether there is indeed a pattern as various coaches suggest.

There’s no denying that the Burnley game is a big one for West Ham. Slaven Bilić will have been thinking about this match virtually since the final whistle blew after Swansea.

His team selection will have been influenced by the condition of the players who have been away on international duty; with some like Chicharito returning late and potentially not as fresh as he would like to be for the visit to Turf Moor.

Who actually makes the starting eleven might not turn out to be as clear cut as most people would imagine. As always, there will likely be some late decisions and perhaps a few additional fitness assessments in the hours leading up to the game!