A second successive miserable home performance condemned Gianfranco Zola’s men to a sixth straight defeat. The result leaves the Hammers standing over the precipice as Hull – in 18th place – beat Fulham at home to move level on points with Zola’s side with a game in hand.
An under-fire Zola was left bemoaning his sides’ lack of clinical finishing when after a rare good passage of play, Mido’s poor first touch saw a gilt-edged chance go begging. The Egyptian was unmarked near the penalty spot with the keeper in no-man’s-land after parrying Carlton Cole’s shot. Mido was one of five changes Zola made to the side that capitulated against Wolves in midweek. Manuel da Costa, another of the new faces, was floored by the skill of Ricardo Fuller as he turned the Portuguese defender before skipping past Matthew Upson and Scott Parker on his way to slotting the ball coolly past Robert Green. Carlton Cole did have a chance to pull the scores level but was unable to capitalise on Robert Huth’s error, failing to control the ball when clean through.
The two results and a week of public criticism of the team by owners David Gold and David Sullivan has forced Zola to seriously consider his options. In a post match interview he said: “I need to find out what the problem is, and if the problem is me. I will have to think about it overnight.” After Sullivan’s comments in midweek, stating that: “Nobody should delude themselves that we are a good team.” Zola defended his side: “I don’t think it’s the players who are not trying. The bottom line is to see whether I can help them or not. I thought in the first half we did quite well.” The Italian has expressed his dissatisfaction with Sullivan’s outburst, publicly airing his concern at the damage it could cause to a squad already low on confidence after a woeful run.
If Zola does go West Han may once again turn to Sir Trevor Brooking. The club legend guided the Hammers to three wins and a draw when he stepped in for an ill Glenn Roeder, narrowly missing out on avoiding the drop in 2003. In his column in the Daily Mirror the Spurs striker Jermain Defoe, who was with the West Ham at the time said Brooking was “fantastic and helped keep everything in perspective.” The stewardship of Brooking may also get the West Ham fans, who have made their frustration clear with a chorus of boos and jeers in recent games, behind a team clearly buckling under the weight of expectation from the terraces and the board.
West Ham’s remaining games include a visit next Sunday to an in-form Everton, a trip to Anfield and a home game on what could be decisive day for both clubs against top-four chasing Manchester City. Whoever is in charge will target the home matches against Sunderland and Wigan and a trip across London to Fulham as must-win games if they are to avoid the “Armageddon” Sullivan declares the club will face should they be relegated.