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Diop: West Ham must remain mentally strong for season run-in

09:07 05 April 2012

Birmingham City

Birmingham City's Chris Burke and West Ham United's Papa Bouba Diop during the npower Football League Championship match at St Andrews, Birmingham.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Hammers midfielder targets comeback over Easter

West Ham midfielder Papa Bouba Diop is plotting his return to first-team action in time to boost the Hammers’ automatic promotion hopes.

The Senegal international has been missing from Sam Allardyce’s side since suffering a hamstring injury back in January.

However, the 34-year-old made a successful return on Tuesday in the Development Squad’s 2-1 victory at QPR and was delighted to be back in the thick of the action.

“I am glad to come to work again,” said Diop. “I am happy to work and play with the team.

“I worked hard to keep the ball and win it back and now I want to help the club.”

Captain-for-the-day Henri Lansbury and Brian Montenegro scored the crucial goals for the Hammers on Tuesday, and Diop was delighted to get an hour of competitive football under his belt and insists that he is over his injury worries and ready to return to the first team, should Allardyce give him the call.

“I am okay,” he said. “I am running, chasing the ball, passing and moving.

“I played for one hour and I worked hard and I’m pleased with my fitness. If the manager wants me to play, I am ready.”

During Diop’s absence, the Hammers have failed to win in seven home games, and the Senegal midfielder admits he has been frustrated on the sidelines.

“It’s been hard for me because when I was injured I was in top form,” he said.

“That is why I have worked hard because I want to get back. I protected my hamstring and I think it’s okay. I will take it day by day and keep working. I am strong mentally and this is the most important thing.”

Diop’s experience and mental toughness will be needed for the final six games of the season, especially with influential midfielder Mark Noble currently out with a thigh injury.

“I told the players this is a very hard time for everybody so you cannot lose your head,” he said.

“You must be positive and stick together because if you play together and do everything we need, I think we can go to the Premier League.

“You cannot put pressure on yourself. If you tell yourself you can do something, you can do it if you believe. We can do it. We can go to the Premier League.”

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