So that is it then. Safe. After all of the drama which has gone on over the season, from embarrassing on pitch results, to a change of owners, to being plastered all over the papers for being in financial turmoil, there has been a happy ending.
The season has finished in a non dramatic fashion for the Irons which is crucial now as the club looks to secure its long term financial status and start moving forward again. But will Zola lead them into next season? Unlikely. The little Italian has himself come in for a lot of criticism from the West Ham fans, not just because of his poor tactics and his side’s inept performances at times this season, but also because of his rumoured £1.9 million a year salary which he is raking in, far more than a lot of his counterparts in the league who are doing a much better job. It was a nice touch as Scott Parker made the effort to celebrate his winning goal with Zola on Saturday showing the dressing room is still totally behind their manager, but after a season which looks like ending in a finish just one place above the relegation zone, overall his efforts this season have to be deemed not good enough.
Zola is a dignified man – and he showed a lot of mental strength and character by not walking away after the humiliating defeat at home to Wolves – but surely his judgment will tell him that the owners will want to bring in their own man now the job of keeping the team up is over. However, after Steve McClaren was recently linked heavily with the manager’s job at West Ham after doing an excellent job in Holland with FC Twente, Hammers’ fans will perhaps be hoping for a manager they can be proud of rather than a Chelsea legend or a manager hated by all English supporters for his time as England boss. Mark Hughes looks like an attractive option when considering his unfortunate dismissal from Manchester City and that he is a tough character and excellent leader, as does Martin Jol, simply because Spurs shouldn’t have sacked him.
It was a vital three points on Saturday, not only to boost and ultimately confirm survival hopes, but defeat a team who are only one place above the Hammers and have had an equally as disappointing season. Having gone a goal behind to Jonathan Spector’s own goal it looked for a while that disaster would strike and relegation would be staring them in the face, but Parker’s wonderful strike was a fitting way to get the job done. Premier League football had to be a must next season when bearing in mind the debt levels which are present at the club currently. The previous owners were a disgrace as they haemorrhaged money and ran the club far beyond its means jeopardising the stability of the famous and proud East London outfit. They were chasing the unrealistic dream of becoming part of the Premier League’s elite clubs, paying out crazy wages and making big money signings that the club simply couldn’t afford to do.
You can look no further than Kieron Dyer, Freddie Ljungberg and Lucas Neill for players who were on massive wages, and for Ljungberg and Dyer in particular, they contributed nothing to the Irons’ cause apart from plunging them further into debt with their rumoured £80,000 and £70,000 a week wages respectively. David Gold and David Sullivan are both astute businessman and have seemed to have been involved in a ‘good cop bad cop’ role play since they arrived at the Boleyn, with Gold the approachable media friendly face and Sullivan the stern looking character who has no hesitation in making his disapproval of on pitch events known to the public. The fans can be reassured by the fact that they are being run by hands on people who genuinely have the clubs best interests at heart and if they can successfully lower the debt over the coming years without sacrificing many of the clubs better players there is no reason why strides can’t be mad back to the good times.
It is scary to think that only four years ago the club was contesting an FA Cup final and only lost it due to that strike by Steven Gerrard. If only Lionel Scaloni had let the ball run out of play, things might have been a lot different. With only 2 games remaining now there will be time to enjoy and reflect on the fact that everything is going to be alright, for the time being at least. There is an away trip to Fulham to enjoy, and if they defeat Hamburg at the Cottage this week there is every chance Roy Hodgson will field a weakened side for the encounter, which could mean three points against Fulham again. Manchester City will visit the Boleyn on the last day of the season as Carlos comes home. The little Argentine is hero at Upton Park and the fact that a cruel stroke of irony in Tevez relegating West Ham on the final day has now been avoided is also a massive relief.
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