If there’s one positive about David Sullivan’s outburst last week, such was the reaction to it, he’ll hopefully keep quiet until the end of the season. It’s a tricky situation when you’re a chairman of a club struggling at the wrong end of the table, but sometimes, you’ve got to keep quiet. In Sullivan’s case, that may be trickier than it sounds, such is his penchant for shouting about everything from the rooftops.
During his tenure at Birmingham City, Sullivan was quick to judge and had a constant battle with the fans of his ownership. The crowds were poor, even when Birmingham were chasing down the title last season, but having spoken to some Blues, I don’t think many people would pay £40 to watch your team play Scunthorpe in the second tier of English football.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Sullivan is certainly not to blame for West Ham’s current ills, but the rant last week simply confirmed for me that he doesn’t rate the current manager. Gianfranco Zola maybe one of the nicest men in football and a was a damn fine player in his time, but Sullivan, for me, clearly doesn’t rate him.
Of course, once Curbishley walked out due to the boardroom interference, the Hammers were always walking a tightrope. They are paying the price for splurging money on some very bad buys indeed and the Icelandic financial meltdown. It was always going to be tough for any manager and whilst eyebrows were raised at the time, the financial situation clearly scared most of the experienced candidates away from Upton Park.
That’s no offence to Zola, but it now seems certain in my mind that he was only given the job due to the lack of applicants. Managing a Premiership club, despite the financial implications, is a tantalising opportunity for anyone. Zola would have been mad to not take the job but he is beginning to resemble a dead man walking. The Hammers squad looks bereft of confidence and belief, two things you need in abundance when trying to get clear of a relegation scrap.
This is a side with youngsters being thrown in at the deep end and then left to drown, loan signings and journey men footballers bolted on to the players still remaining from the biscuit buyout. It is not a healthy mix for a squad and when you’re picking up strikers who have struggled in the top tier of France, you are always going to be in trouble. Zola seems unable to instill any fight in the side, though most teams would struggle to get anything out of a trio of games against Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.
The defeat to Wolves left a bitter taste in most people’s mouths but it shouldn’t take anything away from the quality of Wolves’ performance. They were magnificent throughout the 90 minutes, despite West Ham’s problems. Of course, the one shining light throughout all the recent trouble has been the form of Scott Parker, who has continued to give 100% throughout his tenure. If only he could instill some of his grit and determination into some of his more experienced colleagues such as Matthew Upson or Mido.
Zola has been making do since he came to the club and I feel sorry for him and the West Ham fans. They expect better after seeing so much talent come through the club in the last 20 years, though sadly, none of it stayed for very long. The current crop of youngsters certainly have plenty of potential, but blooding them in a relegation scrap with chairman mentioning financial armageddon every other week doesn’t help any of them. Yet what can Zola do? His hands are clearly tied financially and with the players taking Sullivan’s words the wrong way, it doesn’t auger well for the fight that is yet to come.
With Hull suddenly finding a bit of form, and the gap to safety having stretched to four points, the Hammers have it all to do. A visit to Goodison on Sunday, with Chelsea and Manchester United already beaten there is a cause for concern. The final match of the season against Manchester City points to the irony of Carlos Tevez being in a position to relegate a side he kept up just 3 seasons ago.