West Ham take on Bolton Wanderers in Avram Grant’s first Premier League game at Upton Park. The Hammers looked sluggish in their opening day defeat to Aston Villa and Grant will be hoping for a positive response on Saturday. Although the season has only just begun, the pressure is on for Grant to pick up his first win as boss, considering games against Manchester United and Chelsea lie ahead.
Bolton have beaten the Irons in their last two visits to Upton Park in the league. Last season they won 2-1, thanks to goals from Kevin Davies and Arsenal loan player Jack Wilshere. West Ham’s last victory against the Trotters in East London was back in 2007, when a brace from Carlos Tevez helped them cruise to a 3-1 win. Form is not on the Hammers side as they head into the game, as they have not beaten the Northwest outfit in seven games in all competitions. If West Ham are to get anything from this weekend’s game, they will need to sharpen up in the defence. Several players were guilty of sloppy passing in their defeat to Villa and Grant did not deny this. He may have to consider changes to his backline, as James Tomkins in particular looked nervy playing in the centre of the defence. However, he does believe his new side will bounce back: “One thing you see in all my teams before is that they react well to a defeat like this. There is a lot to learn from this game and I am sure the season will look much, much better.”
It would come as no surprise to hear Hammers fans fearing the worst after such a heavy defeat from a game in which they were outplayed. However, a win against Bolton could kick start their season and cultivate some confidence within the new team. With a number of new signings arriving in East London, it will take time for the side to gel together. New signings are constantly being linked with a move to the club and once the transfer window closes, Grant can start to focus on improving a settled team. A new striker is high on the manager’s wish list, including Felipe Caicedo who has held talks with the club. However, his switch depends on the possible move for fellow Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz, who could be joining the Hammers on loan. The Paraguay international’s high wages could prove a stumbling block as financial restrictions are in place.
In terms of players already at the club, Scott Parker has been offered a new five-year contract with the club. Famously the only player not to be placed on the transfer list this summer by the club’s owners, it is imperative he stays if they are to progress in the future. The vice-captain has been attracted interest from the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, but it appears he is set to commit his future to the East London outfit. One player that will not be moving for the time being is Radoslav Kovac, as the Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has ruled out a move for him. The midfielder was in talks with the Potters, but he was recalled to the side for the game at Villa Park.
Elsewhere, Vice-Chairwoman Karen Brady believes the club are best placed to become the long-term users of the Olympic Stadium. The new owners want to move out of the Boleyn Ground and move across to Stratford after the London 2012 Olympic games. There are a number of other parties interested in moving to the stadium but Brady believes the Hammers are the front-runners: “Put simply, we believe we would be the best anchor tenant for the Olympic Stadium. It would also provide the best chance for West Ham to grow and evolve in a way that fits with our proud traditions and history.” Some fans may argue that a move away from Upton Park into an athletics stadium will deprive the club of its tradition and notoriously partisan matchday atmosphere at the Boleyn Ground. The Clarets have played their football at Green Street since 1904 and life away from E13 may become a reality in the coming years, regardless of the fears of a sizeable portion of their fan base.