International week always brings its own unique problems and it can be an incredibly frustrating period for any club manager who has players away with the national side.
People who would normally train don’t (James Collins), players whom you would expect to return from internationals unscathed pick up injuries (Manuel Lanzini), and players who haven’t played for ages are recalled by their national team (Edimilson Fernandes)!
Before everyone jumps in and says James Collins was injured against Dagenham & Redbridge and not in an international fixture, there are reasons for this including him in this group.
I mention James amongst the international injuries simply because if he had still been playing with the Welsh national team then he’d probably have been in China with Gareth Bale et al. and running the risk of getting injured anyway!
Instead, James’ retirement from international football meant that he was available to bolster up an unfamiliar-looking West Ham team in the fund-raiser for the Daggers last Wednesday night.
As we know, hamstring injuries are difficult to rehabilitate as James Collins will testify. But for any footballers who has missed game time through injury in the recent past, playing in these kind of matches can be beneficial in terms of fine-tuning actual match fitness.
Although the Dagenham match wouldn’t have been as competitive as a game against one of the other Premiership teams, the opportunity for James to knock up another sixty minutes or so would have been more appealing at the time than missing the game in favour of even more gym work or a training session at Rush Green.
It’s so easy to be wise after the event and say that James should never have played at Dagenham. But if we could all predict when injuries are going to happen then keeping everybody fit would be easy! And as they say, it’s always alright until it goes wrong.
Everyone seems to be forgetting that only ten days before, James had played in that infamous Burnley game at the London Stadium. Following on from that, he had just returned from what was, by all accounts, an intense training camp in Miami.
Hindsight, though, is a wonderful thing; but the fact that James had returned to the team well in advance of the Dagenham friendly would indicate that there were no immediate concerns over his fitness.
David Moyes will have had his reasons for including James Collins in the side that faced Dagenham; but the most likely reason would have been in order to keep up the momentum following James’ return to the team.
The management probably felt that it made sense to give him some more game time; bearing in mind that the weekend after would be free from football as well.
It’s been a frustrating time for David Moyes. Learning of the injury to Manuel Lanzini hasn’t got the second part of the international break from league action off to the best possible starts either.
The natural reaction to hearing that the little Argentinian won’t play against Spain at Atlético Madrid’s new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium is that he must be a potential doubt for this weekend’s crucial Premiership fixture against Southampton at the London Stadium.
Another worry of course is Edimilson Fernandes. Called up by Switzerland for two friendlies against Greece and Panama despite not having played for West Ham yet following ankle surgery is an obvious cause for concern.
If he comes through without any problems then fine; all well and good. But I’m sure that Gary Lewin and the rehab / fitness team would much rather have managed Edimilson’s return in-house as opposed to making his comeback in situations over which they have no control.
A week ago, the Dagenham & Redbridge game would have been ideal for this and nobody would have argued!
Having resigned himself to accepting that Winston Reid, Sam Byram and Pedro Obiang are all unlikely to feature again in first team action this season, having everybody fit for this coming weekend was always going to be top priority for David Moyes.
The fact that there are now clear doubts over several players’ potential fitness for the weekend won’t have gone down well with the management; and even less with the West Ham support who see the Southampton game as a given opportunity to keep the Hammers above the relegation zone.
For the next 48 hours at least, it will be a case of waiting to see whether the players in question will be in contention for the Southampton fixture.
Either way, though, the wisdom of the football authorities sanctioning this round of friendly matches at a time when club sides are firmly focussed on the domestic situation will always be a source of tension outwith the international set-ups.
As the World Cup approaches, most supporters will happily put thoughts of Russia aside until the league business is over; and in the Hammers situation that means until Premier League safety is guaranteed.