Way clears for Ferdinand exit

The anticipated return from injury of Wales centre-back James Collins could help speed the exit of Anton Ferdinand from West Ham after reports of a £6m bid by Sunderland.

Collins missed virtually all last season with groin and knee problems and eventually needed surgery in February for cruciate ligament damage.

But if he comes through a private practice match this week, manager Alan Curbishley will have an abundance of options in central defence and is likely to let former England Under-21 star Ferdinand go to further ease the inflated wage bill at Upton Park.

Ferdinand missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury but Matthew Upson and Calum Davidson formed a formidable pair at the back in Saturday's 2-1 win over Wigan - with an obviously impressed Fabio Capello promptly naming Upson in the England squad.

And Curbishley is also awaiting the return of outstanding young prospect James Tomkins who has been injured for three weeks after returning from duty with England's Under-19 squad.

With former Wales captain Danny Gabbidon, Collins' former partner for both club and country at Cardiff, recovering from a long-term groin injury, the Hammers boss knows he has a strong playing staff - when they are all fit.

American defender Jonathan Spector is also on the mend after a hip injury and striker Dean Ashton is back in training after the suspected calf injury which forced his early exit after a two-goal performance on Saturday, and ruined his chances of an England call-up, turned out to be no more than severe cramp.

But Curbishley has not ruled out diving into the transfer market again before the close of the August window, having bought only £5m Swiss right-back Valon Behrami from Lazio and reserve goalkeeper Jan Lastuvka from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer - and seeing Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg being paid to tear up his contract.

He said: "Like everybody else we are trying to see if we can sign people but the hardest thing at the moment is to get somebody to say yes.

"I'm hopeful one or two of the injured will be back in contention for Sunday's game at Manchester City and so we'll see, but we've got two weeks left before the window shuts and it will probably go right to the end for us."

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