Ross ready to step up recovery

Ryan Esson looks set to keep hold of the Inverness number one

slot for the Scottish Premier League clash with Kilmarnock after

boss Terry Butcher hinted he will be his first-choice goalkeeper

for the remainder of the season.

Esson missed four months with a hip injury but replaced Antonio

Reguero for recent defeats to Kilmarnock and Celtic.

Butcher, whose side has a clean bill of health for Kilmarnock’s

visit to the Highlands, said: “Ryan has great experience and it was

my call to put him back in. But Antonio is pushing him all the

way.”

Rangers target Cammy Bell will sit out a second game in

succession for Kilmarnock as he recovers from a hip injury.

The goalkeeper, linked with a pre-contract switch to Ibrox, was

replaced for Saturday’s 2-0 win over Motherwell by understudy Kyle

Letheran and will once more watch on from the stands as his

team-mates take on Inverness at the Caledonian Stadium on Wednesday

night.

Cillian Sheridan and Rory McKeown have also been ruled out of

the match after they also missed the Motherwell encounter at Rugby

Park.

The Irons are without a Premier League match now until they host

Tottenham on February 25, when they will be seek to maintain safe

distance between themselves and the battle for survival.

Such a trip proved the perfect tonic for Allardyce’s squad 12

months ago when, on their return from the Middle East, they lost

just one of the remaining 14 npower Championship games as West Ham

secured promotion back to the top-flight through the play-offs.

Allardyce is in no doubt the five-day break will prove to be of

great benefit.

“It worked last year, we had a fantastic finish to the season

and I still think the trip that we had at this time last year was a

big benefit in the end for getting us promoted into the Premier

League,” Allardyce said on West Ham TV.

“I have talked to a lot of managers and they have already taken

the opportunity to get away when they can, a few more (teams) are

going around the same time as us and some more afterwards.

“Nearly everybody does it today which obviously is a benefit to

you and the team, and the results when you come back.”

Allardyce maintains the squad will reap the benefits as they

look to get Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at relegation-battlers Aston Villa

out of their system, which was a fourth loss in six league

games.

“When they are in gloves and hats, it is hard to keep them warm,

you have to keep them going. It is not an ideal environment,” he

said.

“When the lads can train in short sleeves and shorts, they don’t

want to finish training, they just want to carry on. You get an

awful lot more out of them.

“The benefits mentally will be massive. The pressure on players

today is enormous in the Barclays Premier League, it is all around

you, all the time, 24/7.

“So to go away and recuperate physically and mentally is a big,

big thing for us.”

Striker Carlton Cole is in no doubt the break will boost

players’ stamina levels.

“The boys will be re-charged and reinvigorated,” he said.

“We keep focused on training and doing the right things, but the

difference is that you benefit from the warmer weather and it is in

a different environment, just a change and it mixes it up for all

the lads.

“I have always found it positive and we have come back to good

results after trips like this.

“It is a chance for the team to also look at what we have done

so far and what there is still to be done, talking and looking at

this all together.”

Meanwhile, London Mayor Boris Johnson refused to be drawn on

whether West Ham had moved a step closer to moving into the Olympic

Stadium.

Reports suggest the Irons have agreed a compromise following

demands from Johnson – who is also chairman of the London Legacy

Development Corporation – over a share in profits were the Premier

League club to be sold in the future.

Speaking to ITV, Johnson said: “I can’t go into the details

because negotiation is going on, but I am very confident that there

will be a good outcome whatever happens, that we will have a

fantastic future for the stadium – as I constantly say – with or

without Association Football.”

The 21-year-old dislocated his shoulder in August but only

returned to action just before the new year.

He has made three brief substitute appearances since then before

reclaiming his starting role for games against Kilmarnock and

Celtic as he readjusts to the hectic pace of the Scottish Premier

League.

But Scotland Under-21 cap Ross – who struck the opener in

Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Neil Lennon’s SPL champions – insists he

needs to complement his growing lung capacity with an eye for

goal.

He said: “It was very good to get on the scoresheet at the

weekend. It’s something I need to add to my game. In my first

season in the SPL it took me 30-odd games to get a goal.

“So it was good to get one against Celtic after coming back from

being injured.

“It was just a shame about the result and we’ll look to do

better tomorrow.

“I’ve got two for the season and two isn’t bad. I’d obviously

like to do a lot more. Just getting games at the moment is the

important thing. If I can get back fit, hopefully the goals will

come.”

Ross injured his shoulder in another defeat to the Hoops just

four games into the new campaign and was forced to undergo surgery

before he could resume playing duties.

But the pace of the SPL is still taking him time to get used

to.

“It’s good to be back,” he said. “I was stuck on the bench for a

long time and in the gym getting fit again and that’s tough.

“I’m still getting used to the tempo. On Saturday it was tough,

a bit of a struggle. The first 20 minutes were hectic but I got

used to it before tiring at the end.

“But that is to be expected because of the length of time I was

out for. Playing games is what is important now and the more I play

the stronger I’ll get.”

Ross’ return to the Caley Thistle squad has coincided with the

team’s worst run of form so far this season.

Despite sitting joint-second in the top-flight standings, the

Highlanders have won just one of their last seven matches.

They were also knocked out of two cup competitions in the space

of a week with defeats to Hearts and Kilmarnock amid a run that now

stretches to four consecutive loses.

The visit of Killie to the Caledonian Stadium on Wednesday on

league business now offers Ross and his colleagues a chance to try

and right their ailing vessel.

He said: “Maybe a month ago, we’d have won a couple of these

games. We’re playing well right now but just not getting the

results.

“We went to Kilmarnock and played quite well but got beat 2-0,

then did the same at St Mirren.

“Results just aren’t going for us but we are trying hard to

change that.

“However, every time we look at the table, we know we are having

a good season and that a couple of results isn’t really a set-back,

just a few games where we could have done better.”