Captain ready for the battle

WEST HAM skipper Matthew Upson does not believe that playing for a struggling Premier League side will adversely affect his World Cup chances, WRITES DAVE EVANS. The 30-year-old had a match of mixed fortunes for England against Brazil in Qatar on Saturday

WEST HAM skipper Matthew Upson does not believe that playing for a struggling Premier League side will adversely affect his World Cup chances, WRITES DAVE EVANS.

The 30-year-old had a match of mixed fortunes for England against Brazil in Qatar on Saturday evening, and the knives were out in many of the papers the next day for the former Birmingham City man.

But on reflection, after a shaky start, where he was twice bailed out by central defensive partner Joleon Lescott, Upson grew into his role against a powerful Brazilian side and was one of the few to come out of the game with any credit at all.

Last season, Upson hinted that his hunger for trophies could see him leave Upton Park, and though he hastily clarified that statement to say he believed he could win silverware with West Ham, it would seem that his desire is still there.


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"If something is put in front of me and I have to make a decision about my future, then I will," said Upson after Saturday's 1-0 defeat.

"At the moment, it is not something I am thinking about. I am a West Ham player and unless something happens, I am fully concentrating on them."

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If the rumours are to be believed, the chances are West Ham will be tested with a bid for one of their prize assets in the new year, and that a deal will be put in front of the centre half.

The vultures were hovering around during the summer, with both Liverpool, Spurs and Fiorentina declaring an interest, and the likelihood is that at least two of them will be back in January.

It has been a tough season so far for the Hammers, and even Upson has not been immune from the drop in confidence that can come in a losing team.

But the defender, who chalked up his 17th cap in Doha, believes that his own form is holding up.

"Losing at West Ham is not affecting my performance," he insisted. "You take pride in that no matter where the team is.

"It is not easy and it probably is better to be somewhere where you are winning matches, but West Ham is where I am at. I have a job to do for them."

The Hammers have conceded 20 goals in 12 Premier League games so far this season.

It is not a disastrous figure. Wolves (22), Bolton (24) Hull City (25), Blackburn (25) and Burnley (25) have all conceded more.

But there is a distinct feeling that the West Ham defence is not as solid as it was last term. Mistakes are being punished and though that has not necessarily fallen at Upson's door, he knows that part of his job as captain is to sort out the problem.

"I don't think I have made that many mistakes individually this season, but we have conceded a lot of goals," reflected Upson.

"That is a problem and something we need to get better at.

"I won't let that affect my international aspirations, I am at West Ham, that is my club."

There is no real reason why Upson can't earn himself a starting place for England in South Africa next summer.

A fit John Terry is an automatic choice to start the first game, but nobody else is exactly covering themselves in glory.

Rio Ferdinand has struggled all season with poor form and injuries; Joleon Lescott has had problems in adjusting to his move from Everton to Manchester City, while the likes of Gary Cahill, Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate seem to be afterthoughts in case others get injured.

Upson will not be hampered in his international ambitions by playing for West Ham, the question is, will his chances be given a boost by moving to a bigger club in January?

At least Upson was given the chance to show what he could do in Doha.

Goalkeeper Robert Green, who England coach Fabio Capello had watched in imperious form against Aston Villa, was left twiddling his gloves on the bench as Ben Foster - Manchester United's third choice keeper - was inexplicably given the full 90 minutes against the Brazilians.

Capello has hinted that David James is his first choice keeper, but with the veteran former Hammer unable to train for much of the week and injury-prone, it would be a gamble to take him to a major championships.

Surely playing someone who gets most of his matches in the Premier League reserve league is an even bigger gamble.

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