The Israeli defender Tal Ben Haim is to miss West Ham United's vital trip to Stoke City on Saturday because the match falls on the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur.
The former Bolton, Chelsea and Manchester City defender made his Premier League debut for West Ham in Saturday's 3-1 defeat to Chelsea, but he has decided he cannot play this weekend on religious grounds. The manager Avram Grant is also likely to be missing from West Ham's trip to Stoke for the same reason, although he has not yet made his decision public.
Ironically, Matt Upson yesterday blamed the weekly change in personnel in the West Ham backline for the club's dreadful start to the season, a situation that will not be helped by Ben Haim's decision.
Grant's side have failed to pick up a point from their opening four games and have conceded 12 goals following Saturday's 3-1 defeat by Chelsea. "It has been a shocking start in terms of results," Upson said yesterday, "but I am not hitting panic buttons yet and there were positives to take from the Chelsea game. We need some stability at the back. We've had four games and four different right-backs plus three different players on the right side of central defence. It is so hard to get that clarity of what your job is when you're chopping and changing all the time.
"The biggest negatives were the errors and that's something we have to eradicate. It is important how we behave in training this coming week, how it is structured, what we do. Those things are vital going into a game against Stoke."
Upson also refused to blame goalkeeper Rob Green for the error that led to Chelsea's second goal. "It was a difficult ball for Rob to hold. We've seen Drogba take those kicks many times – he gets top spin on to it," he said. "When it is going bad for you, that is what happens."
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