Monday, 6 August 2007

Season Preview- Setanta

With the start of the new season less than a week away, every media outlet will be producing their season preview guides. Below is Setanta's view of the season ahead for West Ham United, doubtless the first of numerous such efforts to appear over the next few days...

"I hope I never have to go through that again," sighed West Ham manger Alan Curbishley after keeping his side in the Premiership on the final day of last season. West Ham already possessed a squad that shouldn't have been flirting with relegation, and after buying half a new team in the last six months they should have even less to worry about. Expect to see the Hammers hovering between sixth and 10th this season.

Strengths: He was never likely to rival Billy Bonds' appearance record, so Carlos Tevez's expected departure (to be confirmed as we went to press) shouldn't cause too much concern, especially as stepping into the breach is the potentially exciting new partnership of Dean Ashton, back from injury, and Craig Bellamy, the new £7.5million signing from Liverpool. The presence of England midfielder Scott Parker, once again playing under the manager who got the best out of him, should fortify the team.

Weaknesses: The West Ham defence could be walked through with little resistance for most of last season- they gave away an alarming 59 goals. While Lucas Neill and Matthew Upson were brought in during January, the back four still looks flimsy, staffed by James Collins and Anton Ferdinand. And for all West Ham's new-found riches, there is the nagging belief they are neither signing the right players nor getting anything like value for money.

The gaffer: After arriving at Upton Park in December last year Curbs looked a beaten man through most of the spring, seemingly resigned to relegation. But a run of seven wins from their final nine games saved both West Ham and his reputation. The decline of his former club Charlton merely confirmed Curbishley's powers.

A lesson from last season: Keep humble and make sure the 'Baby Bentley' culture does not rear its head once again. And confiscate Anton Ferdinand's passport.

One to watch: Julian Faubert. A graduate of the same AS Cannes youth academy as Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira, the 23-year-old midfielder was signed from Bordeaux for £6.1million during the summer. He has so far won one cap for France, scoring on his debut in August last year, a goal his wife celebrated by diving fully clothed into their swimming pool. "It was a bet between us," he explained. "If I scored for les Bleus, she had to take the plunge." What will she do this season if West Ham win a trophy?

Any other business: It's not all signings: West Ham have sold keeper Roy Carroll to Rangers, striker Marlon Harewood to Aston Villa and defender Tyrone Mears to Derby, while Yossi Benayoun has completed his dream move to Liverpool.

Odds to win: 500-1

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