Gabbidon back for West Ham run-in

WEST HAM defender Danny Gabbidon listened to the question; smiled ruefully and let out a nervous laugh, WRITES DAVE EVANS. How is the hamstring? was the enquiry, the only question that really matters when you are talking to the Welsh international. He n

WEST HAM defender Danny Gabbidon listened to the question; smiled ruefully and let out a nervous laugh, WRITES DAVE EVANS.

"How is the hamstring?" was the enquiry, the only question that really matters when you are talking to the Welsh international.

He nodded: "Yes, it is fine, touch wood. I was pleased to get through the game. It was a tough match, but if I can take one thing from the game, it is that I have come through it and I'm feeling okay."

The parallels between Gabbidon and midfielder Kieron Dyer are certainly apparent.

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Both were surprise call-ups to the Hammers starting line-up at Stamford Bridge and both were making their 10th appearance of another difficult campaign.

They have been plagued by injuries over the last couple of seasons, but while Dyer is castigated by many, including the new owner of the club, Gabbidon is treated very differently.

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The Welshman, Hammer of the Year the season they reached the FA Cup Final, has been plagued by injuries and false comebacks even more than Dyer. But the supporters seem to feel his frustration, they seem to have so much respect for a player who has been there and done it in claret and blue.

"It has been frustrating," said the 30-year-old, who was making just his 85th appearance for the Hammers in his four-and-a-half years at the club. "I got through pre-season and I was really looking forward to things, but it just hasn't happened.

"I've been looking at things and I think I've been available for half the games this season, which I suppose is an improvement on the previous season."

Gabbidon limped off during the 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Upton Park just before Christmas and it has taken nearly three months to return to action.

Returning to face Chelsea once again on Saturday was not something that Gabbidon would have hoped for, but after James Tomkins was rested after his poor display against Bolton and with Manuel Da Costa suspended, it was a battle he was happy to take on.

"It was tough," he admitted. "I've been out a couple of months, so coming up against such a good team, it was always going to be really tough.

"They are pretty good, so it was a real challenge for myself, but every game is tough now until the end of the season.

"It would have been nice to play against one of the lesser teams when you are coming back, but I was happy to take up the challenge.

"I was pleased with my performance in the game, but obviously the result was not what we were looking for."

In the end, it wasn't good enough to hold Chelsea at bay, but the Welshman felt that the team played some decent football.

"I thought we did all right at times," he said. "We had a great chance to go 1-0 up, which we didn't take and we got the goal to equalise and we were doing okay with some good spells in the game.

"But in the second half they stepped it up a little bit and got a second and then a third and from then on it was always going to be hard. They kept the ball well and it was really hard to get it off them."

After the disappointment against Bolton last week, this was a better performance from the Hammers, despite the final scoreline, and Gabbidon feels that they must keep up that sort of commitment for the rest of the campaign.

"We have to show that fighting attitude for the rest of the season," he insisted.

"We've got Arsenal next, which doesn't get any easier. We have to show those qualities if we are going to stay in the league and I'm sure we are going to do just that.

"This was a tough game and not many people would have expected us to get anything from the match, but at times we did quite well.

"We have to take that attitude into the remaining games and stay positive and hopefully we can pick up the points to see us safe."

So, are West Ham too good to go down? Gabbidon thinks so.

"I think we will be okay, but we have to keep battling, give 110 per cent," he said. "We have got a few games coming up where we should pick up some points. We are not playing too badly at the moment, so we have to keep doing what we are doing and I think we will be fine."

On a personal level, the Welshman is just hoping that he will be fit enough to play a part.

His 10 games this season have seen just one victory - the 5-3 thumping of Burnley.

"It has been frustrating, the little niggles have not helped," he explained. "I got into the team and I was just beginning to find my form. I've had to start all over again and get my fitness back.

"It has been a little bit frustrating because my back has felt fine, but obviously it is the other little niggles holding me back.

"But hopefully now with nine games to go, I'm over all that and hopefully I will be available for the rest of the season."

Just like with Dyer, we have heard those sentiments before, only for both players to return to the treatment table.

It can only be hoped that this time both players will be around to strengthen the squad, because West Ham may well need them when the pressure is really on.

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