Gabbidon's back and looking cool

IT HAS been 18 months since defender Danny Gabbidon pulled on the claret and blue, but during his return for the friendly against Grays Athletic on Sunday, it was like he had never been away. There was that old anticipation, that coolness under pressure,

IT HAS been 18 months since defender Danny Gabbidon pulled on the claret and blue, but during his return for the friendly against Grays Athletic on Sunday, it was like he had never been away.

There was that old anticipation, that coolness under pressure, there was that steely determination to succeed.

The 29-year-old last played in the Carling Cup quarter-final defeat against Everton in December 2007, and he knows that he still has a lot to do in order to get back.

"This game will do me the world of good and hopefully I can push on from there," said the genial Welshman on Sunday.

"I am still a fair way off from Premier League fitness. Your body is not used to playing and all the different movements that come from playing, so I would probably say I have got a fair bit to go."

Gabbidon played the second half at Grays alongside Icelandic youngster Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson in the centre of defence, and he passed the test with flying colours.

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"My last game was over 18 months ago," he confirmed. "It has been a really long time and it has been tough watching the players go out and play and not being able to be out there helping your team-mates.

"But I have kept positive and I always thought I would get back out on the field."

It has been a nightmare time for the former Cardiff City man, with one niggly injury seeming to follow another.

"Basically, it has just been a bit of wear and tear from playing so long with a few problems and I just carried on playing," he revealed.

"It kind of got worse and I developed some problems with my back and groin and it just proved quite hard to get rid of the problem.

"I have had to be patient. I have done a lot of work with the physios at West Ham and finally I have got there. It is nice to be back out on the pitch and performing in a West Ham shirt."

It was great for the Hammers' fans to see him too, and Gabbidon is now confident that he can get the matches under his belt, keep up with the training in Austria during the pre-season tour, and finally make it back towards match fitness.

"There are a lot more games throughout pre-season, so hopefully, by the time the season comes around, I will be in good shape and ready to go," he said.

MEANWHILE, Gabbidon's Welsh international team-mate James Collins also returned from injury on Sunday.

The 25-year-old centre half played the opening 45 minutes against Grays Athletic, and though he was turned by Jamie Slabber for the home team's goal, he still looked solid and full of fitness.

The defender hasn't started a game for the Hammers since the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in April, but he seems to have overcome his injury problems.

Collins has also been linked with a possible �5million move to Sunderland, where he could team up again with Anton Ferdinand.

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