Big boys return for vital games

AMID ALL the excitement of David Sullivan and David Gold s first home game in charge, there was something equally important happening on the pitch at Upton Park on Saturday, writes DAVE EVANS. We had seen a cameo at Portsmouth last Tuesday, but with 58 mi

AMID ALL the excitement of David Sullivan and David Gold's first home game in charge, there was something equally important happening on the pitch at Upton Park on Saturday, writes DAVE EVANS.

We had seen a cameo at Portsmouth last Tuesday, but with 58 minutes gone, Carlton Cole came on as a substitute to a rapturous reception from the crowd.

Then 12 minutes later it was Scott Parker's turn to enter the fray and with that, perhaps the two most important members of the West Ham squad were back.

They have both been sorely missed. Since Cole was injured against Burnley in November, West Ham have won just one game out of 10 and scored a measly six goals.


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Parker's new-found attacking flair has also been missed, but perhaps the return of Cole was the most important.

"It's coming on really well," he said. "I'm trying to get my explosivity back, my match sharpness. It's always a long, hard road back, but I'm getting there."

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There were those who were hoping that Cole and Parker would have started against Blackburn, but the striker is happy to bide his time.

"I wasn't ever going to start," he confirmed. "We're managing my comeback really well and if I do too much I could go back to square one.

"I felt kind of tired after the match," added the England striker. "But I've got to work hard to get back where I was before."

Where he was before was a position as one of the top strikers in the Premier League.

His penalty against Burn-ley was his seventh goal of the campaign, and it seemed only injury prevented him from reaching his target of double figures by Christmas.

But with Benni McCarthy to play alongside now, he must be keen to return to the starting line-up for Saturday's return clash with the Clarets.

"We'll see how it goes for the next game," he said. "Hopefully I can be more involved and play more of a starring role in the fight.

"I've got unfinished business with Burnley because I got injured playing aga-inst them last time.

"Hopefully I can stay away from injury and try and notch another goal against them."

After watching some of the negative aspects of West Ham's midfield play in the last few games, it was a breath of fresh air to see Parker returning to the fold.

Indeed, he almost set up the winner, when he got to the by-line and delivered a perfect centre to absolutely nobody in the box.

"It was a bit annoying," said Parker. "I got to the by-line and I'm sure the forwards are very disappointed they didn't get on the end of it.

"It was okay out there," he confirmed. "I wasn't quite right to start and I've been out for a little bit now so I was pleased to be involved and try to help the team.

"It was a shame we couldn't get the three points, but we have to take the positives. It was another clean sheet and we got a draw so it's pleasing."

Parker is certainly looking towards the positives and he admits that the confusion over the takeover had certainly affected the team.

"The negativity surrounding the club the last few months has never helped," he said.

"As a player you are always the last to know, but you read what you read and it isn't good.

"You do try to ignore it, but it's like anything in life. It's there in black and white.

"You read everything and obviously it does put a little bit of doubt in your head.

"Thankfully, it's all been dealt with now and we have two owners who are not only massive fans, but they want to take the club forward and that's pleasing."

One positive to come out of the takeover already is that the likes of Cole and Parker will remain at the club, despite the huge financial problems West Ham face.

Without one or even both of them it would have been a desperate fight to avoid the drop, as results have proved in their absence.

Now, with them back and new blood in the squad, West Ham will be looking to kick-start their season once more.

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