After almost two weeks of off-the-field issues that seemed to dominate the headlines it’s now back to football matters for West Ham United.
This recent break from first-team football, enforced through elimination from the FA Cup by Wigan Athletic at the end of January, has given David Moyes and the coaching / medical staff some valuable time with the players that they might otherwise not have had.
David will naturally say that he would have preferred to still be involved in the tournament; as would the majority of Hammers fans. But privately, he’ll have been delighted with the opportunity to do some serious work over the last ten days or so.
The manager declined the opportunity to take the squad for a short break somewhere to do some ‘warm-weather training’; preferring just to get down to business in East London instead.
Making a trip to somewhere where the weather is a bit kinder can be tempting; but in northern Europe football is played in the cold, wind and rain.
And for what it’s worth, aren’t we always hearing from coaches that simulating match conditions in training is one of the key principles of football management!
Not that the situation will have affected the injured players much. Their routine is always much the same, although in recent times they’ve simply swapped the rehab facilities in the capital for those of the training camps - wherever those might be.
The whole squad, injured players and all, went to the pre-season in Austria, and this time last year Slaven Bilić took the whole squad away for some warm-weather training in Dubai.
David obviously has a different approach and prefers to stay at home; at least on this occasion.
That doesn’t mean he won’t take advantage of similar opportunities in the future; but at the moment he’s totally focussed on the one thing: making sure that the Hammers are a Premier League club in a few months’ time.
It looks as though he’ll have to work around the long-term injuries though; certainly for the next few weeks if not longer.
Although the reports coming from the medical team are favourable concerning the players who are currently unavailable with longer-term injuries, the bottom line is that David will still be without Andy Carroll, Pedro Obiang and Edimilson Fernandes for the time being.
There have been hints that Manuel Lanzini might be on the way back soon following his hamstring injury. If that’s still the case, then his return to the squad will be welcome news for David; particularly since the others are reported to be some time away.
So after a lot of publicity about the number of injuries sustained at West Ham this season, things are now beginning to settle. Of the thirteen or so players injured a month ago, it’s only really those with longer-term injuries that remain.
Andy Carroll had surgery on an ankle injury in January, and is currently working his way through the appropriate rehabilitation process. Like Michail Antonio, Andy’s had his ups and downs this season. I know he’s not everyone’s favourite but it’s never easy when it’s seemingly one injury after another, and nobody sets out to get injured on purpose.
Pedro Obiang is also working his way back to fitness post-operatively after having undergone surgery to repair the medial collateral ligament (MCL) of his knee, and Edimilson Fernandes is now in the latter stages of rehabilitation following an ankle operation as well.
All three players will be glad to get back to full training once they recover; and they’ll be delighted to link up with José Fonte and Marco Arnautović on the training pitch this time as opposed to in the rehab suite.
If Manuel Lanzini does return to the squad this weekend that will be a bonus. He might even be involved at Liverpool; based on David Moyes record so far of springing surprises with his team selection.
What won’t be a surprise, though, is that the Anfield crowd are certain to give David a hearty welcome on his return to the city. As a former Everton and Manchester United manager, that's the one thing this weekend that is virtually guaranteed!