Mauricio Taricco has quit West Ham after just one week having being ruled out for up to two months through injury.

Matthew Upson has assured Birmingham City that he wants to stay with the club.

The England defender has emerged as one of the country’s top centre backs since he moved to St Andrews from Arsenal in 2003.

His form has now seen Barcelona and Newcastle linked with potential swoops and his manager Steve Bruce was quick to state his desire to keep the 25-year-old.

However, Upson wants to stay put and agree a new deal with Birmingham.

“It’s flattering to be linked with other clubs,” said Upson.

“But I’m happy here and they want to talk to me.

“I’ve shown people I’m good enough and I’ve had help from manager Steve Bruce, who knows a thing or two about playing centre half!”

Crowd favourite Thomas Hitzlsperger has not written off Aston Villa’s chances of keeping him in Birmingham, although he wants a regular first team place.

Hitzlsperger will be a free agent in the summer if Villa cannot persuade him to commit to fresh terms.

Both Hamburg and Bayern Munich are reportedly interested in signing the German but he is also happy to stay in The Premiership.

“I have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play for my country on home soil at the upcoming [2006] World Cup,” he said.

“But I need to play permanently in The Premiership as this is tremendously important for my career in the national team.

“I need to find a club and a coach which helps me to improve and become a better player and Villa have done so in the past. But I have to find out if they or another club in England, or in Germany, will offer me the best prospects.”

A rasping winner at Bolton Wanderers recently underlined his class and Hitzlsperger started in Villa’s victory against Tottenham. His thunderous shooting has earned him the nickname ‘Der Hammer’ and the crowd now cry ‘shoot’ every time he is in possession near the goal.

A good display on his second appearance for his country in the 3-0 win against Cameroon has stirred interest from his homeland.

“I don’t want to comment on any certain club yet because this is the kind of stuff my agent takes care of,” he added. “But, if Hamburg do fulfil my conditions, I can see myself playing there, that’s for sure.

“However, I haven’t made up my mind yet. Maybe I’ll stay on with Villa or, maybe, I will join another Premiership club or move to Die Bundesliga.

“It’s a difficult decision as I am driven by the ambition to play for Germany and compete in the UEFA Champions League in the years to come.”

Sir Alex Ferguson feels it is too early to tell which teams will fight it out for this season’s Premiership title.

The Manchester United boss thinks it is only after the festive period that genuine contenders emerge.

He said: “You certainly get an idea of how the League is shaping up going into January. The bottom teams don’t normally pick up a lot of points.

“In my experience as manager, one of the top three or four teams then is certainly going to take the title.”

Ferguson is anxious to make up lost ground on the leaders between now and the end of the year, and says seeing Chelsea and Arsenal only draw their games last week helped his side’s cause.

“For them to concede goals in the last 10 minutes was a bonus,” he said. “Them dropping points is a big boost to us.

“We’re still nine points behind Chelsea and seven behind Arsenal, so there is still a bit to go.

“But what we are trying to do at the moment is get a consistent run of victories.

“It is absolutely imperative that we win our matches against the teams in the bottom half of the league.”

Over Christmas and the New Year United have four games in nine days, taking on Bolton, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Tottenham.

“If we win these matches, by the time the New Year comes around we will hopefully be much, much closer.”