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Injury toll mounts as Hammers sweat on Upson

PUBLISHED: 17:41 03 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:10 05 October 2010

By JONATHAN CLEGG ALAN Curbishley is banking on Matthew Upson to save his injury-hit West Ham squad from the brink of collapse. The Hammers boss, already without TWELVE crocked stars for last weekend s visit to Sunderland, saw four more players join the

By JONATHAN CLEGG

ALAN Curbishley is banking on Matthew Upson to save his injury-hit West Ham squad from the brink of collapse.

The Hammers boss, already without TWELVE crocked stars for last weekend's visit to Sunderland, saw four more players join the casualty list at the Stadium of Light last weekend.

George McCartney limped off at half-time in West Ham's stoppage time defeat, while Carlton Cole was hobbled by a foot injury and Freddie Ljungberg pulled up with a hamstring strain.

Even John Pantsil - a replacement for McCartney - was carried off with concussion, leaving Curbishley with just four fit defenders in his first-team squad.

Now the club are sweating on the fitness of Upson ahead of Tuesday's home match against Portsmouth as Curbishley struggles to pick a patchwork team from the ranks of walking wounded.

"We are completely stretched to the limit," said Curbishley. "Everyone can see the problems we've had if they look at the back of the programme. It's frightening - we've got another team out there.

"We'll have to see if Upson will be right for Portsmouth but we don't want to put anyone else at risk."

Upson has been out for four weeks with a calf injury but Curbishley is desperate to get the defender off the treatment table and back onto the pitch for the final weeks of the season.

The 28-year-old forced his way into Fabio Capello's England squad in February on the back of a series of solid displays for the Hammers, and the West Ham manager admits his return will be crucial to the club's hopes of a strong finish to the season.

"It's been very difficult for us [without him] and you can see the disruption. I think Anton Ferdinand has had three different partners in the last five games.

"It's just been the story of the season - lots of people have been out injured long-term and the players that have been playing have had to play every week without a break. It's got to the chronic stage.

"We want to finish the season as strongly as we can and we need to put some wins on the board. We'll just have to see who we've got for Tuesday."

If Upson is unable to return against Portsmouth, Curbishley will be forced to hand teenage rookie James Tomkins a first home start at the heart of defence, with Jonathan Spector set to replace McCartney on the left side.

Tomkins struggled in the closing stages against Sunderland, but the West Ham boss believes the youngster's second first-team outing has given him valuable experience.

"He's going to learn and that's what it's all about," Curbishley said. "But we know we've got a player there.

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