Club Focus – West Ham United – Zola Hammered again

West Ham United. Although there is not a lot united about the club at the moment. The owners, manager, players and fans all currently seem divided, as the club fights desperately again to retain its Premier League life.

The Wolves game was a humiliation – the mass exodus of fans when Wolves’ third hit the back of the net was an indication that enough was enough. As perfect of an away performance as it was by Wolves, to be outplayed like that was unacceptable especially considering the circumstances – that Wolves were the lowest scorers in the league and West Ham’s fierce relegation rivals when they arrived at the Boleyn.

There were early warning signs as Kevin Foley’s shot crashed off the underside of the bar and came back out, but an error from James Tomkins allowed Kevin Doyle to make the inevitable happen. As the team capitulated and ran out of ideas in the second-half it became brutally clear that the new wave of optimism which came with the new owners had completely vanished and that the good results picked up against Birmingham and Hull were nothing more than a false dawn.

It was always going to be a difficult task for the team to bounce back on Saturday against Stoke – especially when the club was still licking its wounds from Tuesdays nights mauling – but defeat for Zola’s men has seen life go from bad to worse for the Chelsea legend. As the game progressed – and after Mido’s horrific fluff in front of the Sir Trevor Brooking stand – it became apparent that another frustrating and ultimately painful afternoon lay in store for the Hammers’ faithful. Stoke found themselves in a no-pressure situation where their all but guaranteed safety allowed them to relax and capitalise on the growing unease around the ground, as Ricardo Fuller’s excellent run and finish finally put West Ham out of their misery to confirm their sixth straight league defeat.

At this stage of the season a managerial change seems unlikely and any manager who would be capable of putting the club in a better position would be crazy to take on such a challenge so late on in the season. On paper Zola has enough quality in the squad to get the team out of trouble, but as West Ham showed in the 02/03 season this doesn’t matter in the slightest. If anything it is worrying that the club possesses possibly a weaker side than the one that Glenn Roeder took into the Championship. What will matter now until the end of the season is – if Zola remains at the helm -that team spirit is lifted and fight and belief are restored back into the players’ hearts. The team must be far more organised and disciplined defensively as the schoolboy defending which has haunted them all season shows no sign of disappearing.

A trip to Goodison Park is next up for the boys in claret and blue and it is a trip which will leave many Hammers fearing the worst considering Everton’s recent revival and late charge for a European place. At this moment in time it is difficult to see West Ham leaving Merseyside with anything – on either of the two visits before the end of the season – but West Ham being West Ham and combined with the fact it is probably easier for the team to play away from Upton Park at the moment, never say never.

Fulham didn’t help matters for their London neighbours by prioritising Europa League commitments over their domestic ones, six changes to their line-up handed Hull the initiative and allowed them to pick up a valuable three points and draw level with the Hammers. Hull and Burnley still have to play each other and they are set to meet at the KC Stadium on the 10th of April – and this encounter could prove crucial as many Hammers could well find themselves praying for the miracle that Burnley can somehow record an away victory. Tense times ahead to state the obvious, but with no Carlos Tevez, one has to wonder where the inspiration to survive will come from this time around.

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