Hammers in good spirits - McDonald
Published 16/01/2014 | 16:52
A vital win over Cardiff and the return to fitness of a number of first-team players has seen an upturn in morale at West Ham in the past week, according to assistant manager Neil McDonald.
The Hammers triumphed 2-0 in south Wales last weekend - their first Barclays Premier League victory since November 30 - to move out of the relegation zone.
The three points were made extra special for Sam Allardyce's side as they welcomed back Andy Carroll for a second-half cameo after the club-record signing had missed seven months with a foot injury.
During their poor run over Christmas and new year, Allardyce was often down to just 14 fit players, but now has James Collins and Ricardo Vaz Te back in contention along with Carroll.
McDonald reckons those factors have been at the centre of a spirited week's training for the Hammers.
"The mood has been very, very good," he said.
"We've had some good training sessions. The boys are all in a good frame of mind and they are certainly looking forward to the game against Newcastle on Saturday after a fine, gritty performance where we scored two excellent goals to finish Cardiff off and win for the first time in a while. That gives everybody confidence.
"Not just the result but getting the injured players back as well. We've got two or three who are almost there and hopefully they'll be in the squad for Newcastle on Saturday which gives everybody an even bigger boost."
With Carroll sidelined since completing his summer move from Liverpool, the Hammers struggled to score goals and as a result a slump in form saw them fall as low as 19th in the table.
The 25-year-old will once again be in the squad to face former side Newcastle on Saturday and McDonald is pleased with the work he is doing in training to get himself fully fit.
"Andy Carroll is coming along really, really well," he said.
"He has to go through a process of warming up properly to make sure he's ready to go. Then just get him on the training field. He's on the training field today. All the lads are in the gym doing a programme whilst he's outside working very, very hard on his fitness as well as the football aspect of it.
"It's not so much wrapping him in cotton wool - just making sure that he gets on the field and his fitness up."
Carroll is unlikely to start against Alan Pardew's Magpies, with Carlton Cole expected to be named in attack after penning a new 18-month contract on Wednesday, but McDonald knows he will be relishing coming up against his home town club.
"He was pencilled in for the Newcastle game, to be fair, so it was a bit fortunate that he's come back a little bit earlier against Cardiff," McDonald added.
"Newcastle is a game that he is certainly looking forward to because he's played for them in the past.
"(Whether he will start) is the manager's decision. Obviously we don't want to give too much away. He's certainly in the squad, that's for sure. It is a slow process for him. To play 20 minutes and then possibly start is a calculated risk that the manager will have to weigh up."
Ravel Morrison could also be involved despite a niggling groin injury and reports linking the England Under-21 midfielder with a move to Fulham.