When Gianfranco Zola got back on the team bus from Goodison Park yesterday he could be forgiven for thinking “Only one more week and we can get this club sorted out”.
Gianfranco Zola is a legend of English football – particularly at West Ham’s city rivals Chelsea. A connection that may have initially made some hammers fans reception of the Italian a tad lukewarm when he first sat in the hot-seat at the Boleyn. I think we will struggle to find a Hammer who doesn’t hold him in some form of adulation now though. Zola has started to develop a good footballing side with a bit of flair that makes their play easy on the eye. The Irons are now destined for a respectable top ten finish, nothing to shout about you may feel when you look at it on paper. However it is the circumstances in which Zola has performed that make this stick out.
The Hammers recent history off the pitch has been well documented. The Tevez affair has been an absolute shambles from start to finish – on both sides of the argument. Not only has it cost the club time and money it helped in creating an air of uncertainty in the corridors around Upton Park. In the same season the Hammers procured the services of Tevez and Mascherano, the club were taken over by an Icelandic consortium fronted by businessman Eggert Magnusson.
The Icelander’s first few months in charge were met with excitement and expectations from the fans. Magnusson has made his money with a biscuit and bread manufacturer in his home country which led to the chants of “If you make a lot of money selling biscuits by our club”. By a quirk of fate, ‘Eggert’s’ face does humorously resemble an egg. Magnusson was the front of a consortium backed by fellow countryman Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, who is now the club’s Chairman after Magnusson’s departure in December 2007.
During the proceedings of the Tevez affair it ’emerged’ that West Ham were deep in the mire of the credit crunch. In a season where the clubs shirt sponsors XL Holidays went bust and were thus removed from the teams shirts – Gudmundsson’s financial solidarity was being thrown into doubt. Gudmundsson was a majority shareholder of Iceland’s Landsbanki which was seized by the nations government. In the wake of the banks demise the Icelandic government are to investigate the actions of Gudmundsson. What will not make pleasant reading for Hammers fans is that the man in question was allegedly given a suspended prison sentence in the early 90’s for bookkeeping offences, after originally being indicted in 1985 for on charges of fraud and embezzlement.
With the situation off the pitch being as turbulent as a 12 hour flight through a storm it is no wonder that Zola’s performances have been praised. What awaits West Ham this summer is yet more instability. Rumours of the club being taken over by Icelandic government appointed officials as well as rumours of new foreign owners set to purchase the club in June. West Ham’s supporters deserve better than picking up the paper in the morning to see the rumour mill in full-flow regarding their club.
West Ham United F.C have been and continue to be synonymous with the development of homegrown players in the English game. Current England internationals Joe Cole, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Micheal Carrick and Glen Johnson all came through the ranks of West Ham at sometime or another. To see the club in the state that it is saddening for the game. The Irons DESPERATELY need some stability off the pitch to ensure they retain the services of management duo Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke, who have done magnificent jobs.
With club still producing homegrown talent such as Freddie Sears, Mark Noble and Jack Collison it is not all doom and gloom in the borough of Newham. If and when the club can sort out it’s troubles and back the management duo with some decent transfer funds then maybe the sun will shine on the statues in Barking Road again. However if the last two years are anything to go by it could be another few months of uncertainty for all concerned with the East London club.