Club Focus – West Ham – Irons grateful for greater lack of quality behind them

A weekend where the recent optimism, which had arrived with David Gold and David Sullivan, took a huge blow with the team going down in a half-hearted display against Bolton.

In his programme notes Gianfranco Zola spoke about the need to win so that there was momentum going into the Chelsea and Arsenal games and a chance of maybe nicking something from either. That chance looks slim after this effort. Yes, Alessandro Diamanti scored a wonderful goal, but apart from that it was dire display. His spineless attempt at tackling Fabrice Muamba in a 50/50 challenge resulted in Bolton breaking away to score, and players who aren’t up for the fight leave supporters fearing the worst. The decision to yet again start Mexican striker Guille Franco ahead of Mido and Ilan would not have pleased the owners and it is beginning to seem more like an act of defiance against his superiors and questions about Zola’s future can’t be far away.

The reserves recently recorded an impressive 2-1 win over Chelsea at Woodside Park and, although a victory over Chelsea is always welcome, it is the 60 minutes which Kieron Dyer completed that will fill the fans with optimism. After completing 15 minutes for the first team at Old Trafford and 45 minutes against Bolton, fans will be hoping his match sharpness will come.

Defeat at Old Trafford was disappointing but somewhat expected and damage limitation was a concern before kick-off. Dealing with Wayne Rooney is proving to be an impossible task for any defender at the moment and the England marksman showed his class as he bagged two goals to put an end to the Hammers’ bright start. The story may have been a different one had Valon Behrami scored instead firing wide, but the opening 35 minutes will have given the 1000 or so Hammers who braved the trip a positive to reflect on. With defeat expected, tickets priced at £42, a long trip up the M6 on a cold Tuesday night and expensive and more local away days at Stamford Bridge and The Emirates approaching, it was a valiant effort from those fans who made it.

Gianluca Nani’s departure will be music to the ears of many supporters as Gold and Sullivan ended speculation about his future when his contract was eventually cancelled by ‘mutual consent’. His controversial time at the club included overseeing the signing of Savio, who was set to become the club’s record signing after add- ons for appearances and other clauses before he was sold to Fiorentina after making just 10 appearances for the club without scoring. Nani’s role as technical director became dangerously close to one of director of football, and his decision to sell George McCartney and Anton Ferdinand to Sunderland without consulting then manager Alan Curbishley led to the ex-Charlton boss resigning and then suing the club for constructive dismissal in the region of £2m – a case which he now won. He was also a key party in the signing of Luis Jimenez from Inter Milan on loan with an option to buy him for £15m at any point. Many Hammers fans wouldn’t have given £15 to sign the Chilean international on a permanent basis.

It’s Stamford Bridge next and although West Ham gained an impressive 1-1 draw last season it would take a brave man to bet his money on West Ham coming away with anything this time. Stoke are an incredibly tough side to beat and watching Chelsea dispatch them with relative ease in their cup tie is enough to leave Irons fans wondering how many it could be. At this stage survival is the only thing burdening the thoughts of Hammers fans and it was a relief to see Portsmouth enter administration, even if they haven’t received their points deduction yet. It is hard to see West Ham taking the plunge at this stage – but after the 2002/03 season you can never be sure. Hull City, Burnley and of course Portsmouth are currently seen as the weakest sides in the league and a new dawn awaits if relegation can be avoided. New management will most likely be seen, no matter what the outcome of the season.

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