The returning midfielder who could help ease West Ham’s Payet pain

The news that Dimitri Payet faces up to three months on the sidelines will come as a massive blow to West Ham fans after the Frenchman took centre stage in the London club’s strong start to the season.

With five goals and four assists already to his name in claret and blue the former Marseille man was becoming somewhat of a star at Upton Park and looked one of the signings of the summer.

However, a controversial scissor tackle from Everton’s James McCarthy has put the brakes on his progress with ankle ligament damage ending his 2015.

And it’s fair to say that the Hammers hierarchy were perplexed at how the Toffees’ midfielder escaped with only a yellow card.

So with a man who has been directly involved in nearly half of the goals for Slaven Bilic’s men set for a spell on the sidelines, you’d assume we can expect the Upton Park outfit to slide down the table, right?

Well, not necessarily, the Croatian manager still has the likes of Victor Moses, Manuel Lanzini, Mauro Zarate and the not missing like David Gold would have you believe, Michail Antonio, to call upon for attacking flair.

Much though will depend upon how quickly Alex Song can reintegrate into the starting XI and add that bit of quality to the Irons engine room.

The Cameroonian is on his way back from an ankle injury that has kept him out of action since arriving on another season-long loan deal from Barcelona in the summer.

But if the former Arsenal man can rediscover the form he showed at the start of his career in the East End, Payet’s absence could be glossed over without much cause for concern.

Before the turn of the year, Song was a regular fixture in the Hammers midfield as, under Sam Allardyce, they began the campaign in fine fettle.

With the 28-year-old in the starting line-up West Ham only lost two of their 10 games before the turn of the New Year, whereas when he was omitted from the first XI, they tasted three defeats in six matches.

As his form dipped at the start of 2015, so did the whole team, with the capital club fading into 12th.

What was obvious though, was that when he was on song (no pun intended), the ex-Barca man added an extra realm of quality that had been lacking under Allardyce.

The international break will give Song another two weeks to prepare for his return, but for West Ham’s sake he must be the same sort of player that graced the centre of the part in the first half of last term.

If he does that there is no reason to shirk an interest in a West Ham top six finish at 6/1 just on account of Dimitri Payet’s injury.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.