Brooking's return marred by Lee injury

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The Independent Football

Trevor Brooking was welcomed back as the caretaker manager of West Ham by the Upton Park crowd during the 1-0 win over Bradford City on Tuesday night. Yet the harsh realities of the job were soon sinking again yesterday as Rob Lee was added to the Hammers' growing injury list.

More than 30,000 watched West Ham win courtesy of Jermain Defoe's spectacular first-half goal, but Lee handed Brooking his first managerial headache of the season with a knee injury which could prove to be serious.

The 37-year-old pulled up just after half-time and will go for a scan to determine whether he will join Steve Lomas and Rufus Brevett as long-term absentees from a squad already at breaking point following the loss of 16 players this summer.

Brooking said: "It could be ligament damage. He's jarred his right knee quite badly. He will definitely miss Ipswich on Saturday. Midfield is an area which is quite thin so I could have done without it. We will try to battle on with what we've got."

Brooking will remain in charge of the Hammers for the trip to Portman Road, but expects a permanent successor to the sacked Glenn Roeder to be appointed in time for the club's next home game against Reading, and insists there is no shortage of candidates.

"It's a big appointment," Brooking said, "there are lots of people who want it - young, old, from overseas, whatever. I can understand that because it's a club with great potential. I don't think there will be a shortage of applicants."

It was clear who the West Ham fans at Upton Park wanted in the job full time by the way they greeted Brooking's return, but he has ruled himself out of the running.

Some still accuse Brooking of being put up by chairman Terence Brown to divert attention from the club's unpopular board. But he said: "I can assure you I'm not a stooge for anyone. I might be easy-going and placid but I've got a mind of my own and the players already know that. I'm a director of the club. I've been brought in to link the boardroom and the dressing room.

"I've always had a great rapport with the crowd and I'm grateful for the way they backed us. I have to say well done to the fans, there's been a lot of traumatic times and I understand the frustration. We made a big step on Tuesday night for the team and the fans. The players were bubbling afterwards. The newcomers hadn't heard that kind of noise since they've been here."

In his programme notes, Brown admitted a share of the responsibility for West Ham's plight, but defended his decision to sack Roeder after three league games as essential for the club's early return to the Premiership.

He wrote: "Being relegated last season was a huge blow to the club and it was essential the team made a good start to the season. Given the financial constraints, Glenn has made some shrewd signings and I would not wish, for one moment, to suggest that Glenn is solely responsible for our difficulties.

"Indeed, everyone connected with the management of the club need to share that responsibility but the board do believe a change of manager is necessary to ensure our return to the Premiership at the earliest opportunity.

Meanwhile, Neil Warnock, the manager of Sheffield United, who beat division leaders Crystal Palace on Tuesday night, has been handed a four-match touchline ban by the Football Association and fined £300 following two incidents during last season.

The first charge related to improper behaviour following the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal on 13 April when he made comments about referee Graham Poll. The second charge related to improper conduct and using insulting and/or abusive words in comments made towards referee Steve Bennett at half-time during the First Division play-off final against Wolves in May.

Warnock did not endear himself to the Palace manager, Steve Kember, on Tuesday night either. The Blades won 2-1 after first seeing their goalkeeper, Paddy Kenny, carried off, then conceding two penalties and having Michael Brown shown a straight red for a heavy challenge.

"The way Sheffield United slowed the game down left a lot to be desired and I didn't think much of Neil Warnock either," Kember said.

"He didn't want to shake hands afterwards and he gave it the 'big-time Charlie'."

Warnock, though, responded: "I don't agree with that. Yes, I punched the air with excitement at the final whistle and completely forgot to shake Steve's hand. I have a lot of respect for Steve and I wouldn't do that to any manager."