Boss Alan Curbishley demands a strong finish from West Ham

Last updated at 09:56 10 May 2008

Alan Curbishley has urged West Ham to end the season on a high with a victory over Aston Villa tomorrow which would cement a top-half place and ensure finishing above fierce rivals Tottenham.

Before the first ball was kicked back in August, Curbishley stated he would settle for finishing "on the first page of the Ceefax table", and that was before he lost big-money signings Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dyer and Julien Faubert to long-term injuries.

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The attacking trio have made just 15 starts between them and West Ham badly missed their goals and creativity, often grinding out results with five in midfield.

But having occupied 10th place since the autumn, the gap has closed after a stuttering end to the season and Tottenham are now just two points behind.

West Ham must at least match Spurs' result in their game against Manchester City to secure 10th place.

And if any additional motivation was needed, the players' bonuses will only

kick in if West Ham finish in the top 10.

"We have had our worst run of the season at the end. We have been in this

position for a long while and if Tottenham get a result we have got to get a

result," said Curbishley.

"If we get it, we finish in the top half. I think 10th would be a good finish

because of the injuries we have had.

"No other club of our size could have done any better in our predicament."

Anton Ferdinand could return tomorrow after a month out with a hamstring injury

but it is likely that right-back Lucas Neill and James Tomkins will continue as

the makeshift centre-back partnership.

Nigel Reo-Coker can expect a hot reception when he returns to Upton Park for

the first time since leaving West Ham for Villa.

Reo-Coker, who captained West Ham to the FA Cup final in 2006, was blamed by

many fans for the breakdown in team spirit and the subsequent slump in form

which almost saw the club relegated last season.

He submitted a transfer request and completed a £7.5million move to Villa Park,

where he was quickly joined by another ex-Hammer in Marlon Harewood.

But Curbishley has tried to temper any hostile reaction by praising Reo-Coker's

role in the club's dramatic escape from the drop.

Tevez, Mark Noble and Robert Green are widely credited with inspiring West

Ham's dramatic escape but Curbishley believes Reo-Coker should be seen in the

same bracket.

"There was a lot of flak flying around and he was getting singled out for some

of it," said Curbishley.

"Obviously he wasn't happy about it but I told him to get through to the end

of the season because the club is more important than anything else.

"I thought in the second half of the season, from the Manchester United game

where he got the winner, his performances in the run-in were up there with the

contributions the others made.

"I think in the run-in he got back to where he should have been. I was

delighted with his performances."

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