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What comes next for relegated Hammers?
WEST HAM’S rollercoaster season may have come to a shuddering halt on Sunday, but there promises to be many more twists and turns during the hectic summer months ahead.
The club’s chairmen, David Gold and David Sullivan, drew up a ten-point to-do list this time last year, following a narrow escape from relegation.
And they will surely be reaching for the pen and paper once again, with plenty of issues to address in the intervening period between now and the beginning of the Championship campaign in August.
The first port of call is the appointment of a new manager after Avram Grant was sacked at the weekend, minutes after the team’s fate had been sealed and the whistle had blown on a 3-2 defeat at Wigan.
Steve McClaren’s was the first name to rise to the top of the bookies’ list, but he quickly ruled himself out of the running.
Sullivan then counted out fans’ favourite Paolo Di Canio, revealing he would ‘definitely’ be looking to appoint a British manager to the role.
Ex-Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton was the man leading the race to take charge of a club determined to bounce straight back to the bigtime next season.
He is a manager with previous in that respect, having masterminded Newcastle’s immediate return to the Premier League last year, before he was inexplicably sacked by owner Mike Ashley, despite having steered the club into an impressive mid-table position in the top flight.
Watford manager Malky MacKay, Queens Park Rangers boss Neil Warnock and Sam Allardyce are the other names to have been linked with the manager’s job this week.
Sullivan has set a deadline of two weeks to find the right man, and he will hope to this time deliver on the pledge made twelve months ago that aimed to ‘recruit a high-calibre manager with the necessary experience to deliver good football and, most importantly, results’.
Sullivan this week admitted Grant’s appointment was a ‘bad selection’, and that is something that must be remedied soon to stabilise a club that is straining under the weight of huge debt; a situation that has been made worse by the drop into the Championship, despite the parachute payments of £48million that will arrive in instalments over the next four years.
Last year, the club promised to sign ‘hungry’ players, ‘strengthening in the right areas to ensure an exciting and balanced squad that is well placed to cope with the rigours of a Premier League season’.
Of the players that were brought in last summer, only Frederic Piquionne and Thomas Hitzlsperger can claim to have made any kind of impact, with the latter being forced to wait until February for his debut through injury.
Winston Reid and Pablo Barrera have hardly kicked a ball this campaign, while Tal Ben Haim was sent back to parent club Portsmouth.
Last year’s pledge called for a change in direction, stating that ‘for too long the focus has been on players leaving rather than arriving’. The emphasis will certainly be on player departures this summer, with the club desperate to trim the wage bill and raise funds from sales.
Already, Football Writers’ Player of the Year Scott Parker has been linked with a move to Tottenham and Arsenal, while striker Carlton Cole is being tipped for a switch to Newcastle and goalkeeper Robert Green is reportedly interesting Aston Villa. Club captain Matthew Upson’s contract is also up this summer and he is likely to be heading for the exit.
An immediate return to the Premier League is imperative for a club set to move into the Olympic Stadium after the London 2012 Games, and it will take more than an ambitious to-do list to achieve that.
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