Monday, 6 August 2007

Season Preview- Goal

West Ham: Ready To Usher In A New Era
By Max De Luca

With the Carlos Tevez saga - haunting the club like a midsummer nightmare - finally having drawn to a close, the focus at Upton Park can finally shift towards what Alan Curbishley has been up to. The former Charlton miracle worker has efficiently built a squad well capable of finishing in the top half, and with some luck, even in the top six. Or perhaps have a good Cup run like two years ago!

The Tevez saga has stolen all the headlines from the plethora of signings made by the club during the summer transfer window. Enigmatic chairman Eggert Magnusson must have wondered what he got himself into last year, just barely surviving the plunge into the Championship, but he has opened up his chequebook and the players have been flocking to Upton Park. The club had a few envious glances cast towards them when they plucked midfield maestro Julien Faubert from Bordeaux for 9 million euros. He was bought as a direct replacement for Yossi Benayoun who left London for the comforts of Anfield. Unfortunately, Faubert tore his Achilles tendon on July 17 in a friendly against Czech side Sigma Olomouc and will miss up to six months of the coming season.

West Ham further strengthened themselves in the middle of the park by signing the tenacious Scott Parker, who will be reunited with his old manager. West Ham fans will hope that Parker can rediscover his old form when he was with Curbishley at Charlton. He will fill the void left by former captain and English U-21 star Nigel Reo-Coker, who was offloaded to Aston Villa. Most Hammers think Parker will be an upgrade over Reo-Coker, who in their minds did not perform to his potential for most of the year. Curbishley then pulled off a real 'coup d'etat' when he convinced Freddie Ljungberg to stay in London after being wooed by a variety of European teams. Freddie is a proven winner and will bring a veteran presence to the dressing room which should help offset the antics of misfit Craig Bellamy who was deemed to be surplus to requirements at Liverpool.

Curbs hopes that the inconsistent yet wildly talented Bellamy will settle down and make headlines on the pitch rather than off it, like he did for much of the season two years ago at Blackburn. If anyone can handle such a character, Curbishley can. The boss will be counting on him to more than replace the goals scored by Marlon Harewood who left Upton Park and will reunite with Reo-Coker at Villa Park. Goalkeeper Richard Wright was brought in to provide cover for Robert Green, but is considered a gamble as he carries the reputation of an underachiever.

They lost the versatile Paul Konshesky to city rivals Fulham, and the imminent arrival of Kieron Dyer would have offset fears, but that has fallen through as well, and remains the one real worry for West Ham. The defence is in good shape with Matthew Upson, Anton Ferdinand and new skipper Lucas Neill. The middle of the park will have a different look to it with Ljungberg and Parker leading the charge, along with Faubert when fit. However, in the likes of Lee Bowyer, Luis Boa Morte, Etherington, Mark Noble and Nigel Quashie, there are options aplenty.

Up front Bellamy and local boy Bobby Zamora will be counted on to score the goals. However, there is an ace that we have sorely missed: in fit-again Dean Ashton, who will hand Curbs added bite in his attack. Ashton will probably be a regular first team player, and could strike a good partnership with Bellamy if the Welshman can get it right. Carlton Cole will provide much needed cover.

Ever since the controversial yet grand escape, Curbishley has worked closely with Magnusson during the close season to put together a squad that blends the physical with the technically gifted - one that should be able to stay in the top half of the table this coming season.There might be another midfield signing given the bizarre failure of the Dyer move, but all in all, this is a team ready to ruffle a few feathers. Magnusson got the fans involved brilliantly last season, and that will also pay dividends. All in all, a few heads should turn!

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