Demel admits to mixed feelings
Guy Demel admits a part of him will miss playing in the Premier League for West Ham while he is away at the African Nations Cup.
The 31-year-old has just overcome a hernia problem and is likely to return for Sam Allardyce's side for the visit of Stoke on Monday evening. But he will soon travel to South Africa with the rest of the Ivory Coast squad for the Nations Cup, which kicks off on January 19. Demel said he is relishing the prospect of winning the tournament but will also miss being part of West Ham's season at a pivotal time.
"Going to the African Nations Cup will be good as I will be part of this competition for my country, but of course, I will miss some games for my club," he said.
"Playing my part in helping my club do well in the Premier League and achieving the goals we want is also extremely important to me, so the way I can look at it, is that hopefully I will play well for my country and come back ready to help my club again."
Demel joined West Ham in the summer of 2011 ahead of their Championship season that ended with play-off final success against Blackpool. But despite being Allardyce's first-choice right-back when fit, a number of injuries have kept the former Hamburg defender out of the side for prolonged periods. When asked if he was frustrated by his injury luck, Demel said:
"Yes, because you want to be playing all the time, you want to be available for the manager to pick you - I was looked after very well here at the club to get through the injuries I have had. "Now hopefully I can keep well and free of injuries and be able to play well as I said in the African Nations Cup and do well for my club for all of the season."
Demel will form part of the Elephants squad along with fellow Premier League stars Yaya and Kolo Toure and Cheick Tiote as well as other big names such as Didier Drogba and Didier Zokora. But one player who looks increasingly unlikely to form part of the Ivory Coast squad looking to win their first Nations Cup since 1992 is Crystal Palace youngster Wilfried Zaha. The 20-year-old was born in the Ivory Coast before moving to England as a child and made his first senior appearance for the Three Lions as a late substitute in the 4-2 defeat to Sweden last week. Zaha could still change allegiance and line up for the nation of his birth as the Sweden international was not a competitive fixture, but Demel believes only Zaha can make the decision as to which nation he wants to represent permanently. He said:
"I think Wilfried is a very good player now and has lots of potential to get even better as he is still very young. Of course, as an Ivory Coast player myself it would be great for him to play for our country, but it is his decision and no one else's.
"To play for your country, you have to play with your heart. You do this at club level of course, but the difference is you have to adapt to moving on from a club at any time, so to choose the country you play for stays forever.
"You don't change every season the country you play for, so it is a big thing for him to decide and it has to be right for him.
"I think he is an intelligent boy who will know what the right decision is and if he feels he is more English - as he has been growing up here - then choosing England will be right, but if he feels he wants to represent his birth heritage, then playing for Ivory Coast will be his decision. No one else can choose for him, it has to be Wilfried."
Related West Ham United News