Spector opts to extend his stay at Upton Park
LONDON -- Jonathan Spector has signed a new three-year contract at West Ham, even as he recovers from a hip injury that forced him to skip several glamorous spring friendlies and the Olympics.
"I appreciate their confidence in knowing I'm going to be making a full recovery and knowing I was doing everything I could possibly do in the U.S. for my rehab to make it back," Spector told ESPNsoccernet. "I've certainly enjoyed playing for West Ham and it's somewhere I want to be. I feel I have some things I want to accomplish at West Ham, and I was happy that the club gave me the opportunity to do that."
Spector, at ease anywhere in the back four or as a holding midfielder, struggled with the hip toward the end of last season and could only watch as the U.S. faced England (at Wembley Stadium), Spain and Argentina. Diagnosed with a torn labrum, the 22-year-old underwent surgery in June, giving him no chance of competing at the summer Olympics in Beijing in August.
Expected to be sidelined for three to six months, Spector recently resumed practice. He's not rushing back, though, and wants to feature in a reserve game or two prior to pondering first-team action.
Injuries are nothing new at West Ham. Key players -- including strikers Dean Ashton and Craig Bellamy and midfielders Scott Parker and Kieron Dyer -- have missed chunks of time in recent seasons.
"Obviously, it gets tougher and tougher each week you're out," said Spector. "It gets more frustrating because all you want to be doing is playing. But when you're out for that length of time, one week here or there you're not going to take a big risk unless you're completely comfortable -- because in the big picture, an extra week isn't make-or-break."
Spector started 13 games and made 13 substitute appearances in the Premier League in 2007-08, almost mirroring his 2006-07 totals following his move from Manchester United.
His goals include becoming a "mainstay" on the team and helping the Hammers qualify for Europe. Currently, they are 14th in the division, one point above the relegation zone, under new coach Gianfranco Zola.
Spector believes the Italian coach, a former Chelsea standout and one of the Premiership's best-ever imports, will reverse fortunes soon. Zola, who replaced experienced Englishman Alan Curbishley in September, touched base with Spector during his recovery in Chicago and when he came back to England about two weeks ago.
Winning its first two in the league with Zola in charge, West Ham has subsequently lost five and drawn one. The latest setback was an ugly 3-1 defeat Saturday, at home, to Everton. Everton scored three goals in the final seven minutes to erase a 1-0 deficit.
"He's had an impact on the club since he's returned to English football, and I think it's a positive impact," Spector said. "I know the results as of late haven't been what we want, but just in terms of the way the team is playing, I think we're playing much better football, and I think that in the long run it's going to pay off."
Ravi Ubha is a London-based freelance journalist covering Americans abroad for ESPNsoccernet. He also covers tennis for ESPN.com.