Parker and Bellamy have been targeted by Mark Hughes, who is also said to be keen on signing Chelsea's Wayne Bridge and the Arsenal defender Kolo Touré. No further offer has been made by City for Parker or Bellamy, although there have been indications that they will lodge another within the next few days. The article states that Spurs are also weighing up whether to increase their offer for Bellamy after having an initial £6m rejected by West Ham on Christmas Eve. The north London club yesterday refuted claims they have bid £12m for the Welsh international.
The Independent claims West Ham have also told Matthew Upson that he will not be sold next month and it is understood the central defender has said he is happy to stay, despite interest from a host of clubs, including Newcastle United. Chief executive, Scott Duxbury, is taking a 'tough stance' and refusing to sell any of the club's top players. The club have also assured Gianfranco Zola that he will have the final say on sales and are determined not to break up what they believe is a strong spine to the first team, including goalkeeper Robert Green, Valon Behrami and Mark Noble as well as Bellamy, Parker and Upson. As reported elsewhere, if an offer of £15m was made for any of their prize assets, then it would at least be put to Zola.
The Daily Star take a slightly different stance and think United have privately encouraged Manchester City to come back with £20m to buy Craig Bellamy and Scott Parker. The Hammers are said to value Bellamy at £12m and Parker at £10m but would be willing to reach a compromise deal if much of the transfer fee was paid up front. It is reported that such a figure, along with hard money immediately, would allow for the signing of replacements and stop the need to sell any other key players.
If such an offer was accepted then Zola might not be around long enough to spend the cash. The Mail insist the United boss has told the West Ham board he will leave the club if he is forced to sell his best players next month. With a host of Premier League clubs queueing up to sign Craig Bellamy, Scott Parker, Robert Green and Matthew Upson, Hammers boss Zola wants the club's power brokers to give him assurances - or he's off after less than four months in charge. In particular, Zola prizes Bellamy highly, and has not been impressed by reported bids from Tottenham and Manchester City for the Wales star. He is also backed by James Collins, who has urged the club not to cash in on his compatriot in the transfer window. "You've got to hang on to players like Craig if you want to progress," said Collins. "I am sure everyone at the club will say the same thing because he is a great lad to have around." Of course, Collins might change his tune if a rumoured £3m approach from Fulham materializes next week.
The same paper claims Scott Duxbury held a crisis meeting with the players to reassure them there would not be a January clearout. It also insists that a player exodus still seems highly likely. This, of course, flies in the face of the public protestations of the last few weeks that the club are not in financial meltdown. It also comes on the back of yesterday's news that our Icelandic owners have exploited a legal loop hole (the artificial device of giving notice on 29 December to shorten the financial year by 1 day) to defer the publication of the West Ham accounts this month. Given the May year end, this is when the accounts of West Ham United Football Club plc and immediate holding company West Ham United plc should have entered into the public domain as public limited companies, allowing for the 7 months by law to lodge accounts at Companies House. WH Holding Ltd, the UK acquisition vehicle used by the Icelandic consortium, is a private company and therefore allowed 10 months to file its accounts, although in practice it lodged its 2007 accounts in December 2007, at the same time as the accounts of the two plcs. The new date for publication is set for 29 March 2009, thus extending to the other side of the transfer window and after the expiry of the Hansa moratorium on 6 March.
Whatever reasons for these machinations, the club have acknowledged there is a list of potential departures drawn up by Zola, Duxbury and the technical director, Gianluca Nani, as the club seek to reduce the size of the squad. It includes Julien Faubert, who is attracting interest from Nantes, Calum Davenport, who is believed to be wanted by Bolton Wanderers and fringe players such as Luis Boa Morte, who latest reports are linking with a January move to Cardiff City. A source claiming to have links with the football agent industry, whispered: "Luis is making a career move as he enjoys playing ninety minutes of football each Saturday. He will join Cardiff City in January. Whilst he has not had the best time at West Ham United he wishes to prove his worth and assist Cardiff City to the Premier." Boa Morte has already worked under Dave Jones during his time at Southampton.
Elsewhere defender James Tomkins has returned to United after the end of his loan spell with Derby County. The 19-year-old featured eight times in all competitions including the Carling Cup quarter-final win at Stoke City, only his second game at the club. He impressed with his performances and attitude at the heart of defence and the Rams had hoped to extend his stay. But the Hammers have made the decision to call him back to the Boleyn Ground where he will rejoin Gianfranco Zola's squad. It is the clearest indication yet that at least one of the central defenders will be leaving in the next few weeks, with the obvious departure being Calum Davenport.
Caretaker manager Chris Hutchings said: "It's disappointing to lose James as he has done well for us since he's been here, but it goes without saying we fully respect West Ham's decision to recall him and thank Gianfranco Zola for allowing him to come to Derby in the first place. He is a terrific lad and we all wish him well for the future and thank him for his contribution." In other loan news, winger Kyel Reid has held talks with Zola about extending his loan period at Blackpool.
On a positive note, Gianfranco Zola has confirmed that Kieron Dyer could be back in action as soon as this weekend. The England international who was 30 this week, has been out since breaking his leg in two places in August 2007, but the long road back may finally come to an end in time for the showdown with Barnsley at Upton Park. "He might be involved in the game," said Zola. "It might be difficult for him from the beginning, but he might be involved on the bench and maybe get something to do in the game."
It was the Carling Cup clash at Bristol Rovers 16 months ago when the £6million signing last wore the claret and blue. Since then he has battled setback after setback as well as three operations, before finally declaring himself fit. "I know it has been a big injury for him. He has been working very hard over the last few weeks," said Zola. "I know it is frustrating because he's been training, training, training and he would like to play, but after such a long time out, it is difficult for him to get his condition. But he is focused, he is very excited about playing and we will try to have him back because he is a very important player."
Zola may also give a game to Sunday's match-winner Diego Tristan, who came off the bench to grab the goal that beat Stoke City. Zola believes the striker is getting fitter by the day: "I wouldn't say he is 100 per cent fit, but he is better," said the manager. "Obviously we have got to give him a little more time on the pitch to make him sharper. He scores goals in the box and hopefully he is going to keep on producing them." Eyeing up a first start for the club against Barnsley, Tristan said: "It was fantastic. Now I’ve scored a goal I hope it will give confidence both to myself and to the manager ahead of the next match. I don’t know if I will start a game soon because it is the manager’s decision but I feel really good. I hope with this goal I can give more confidence to the manager in me. Bellamy and Cole are doing fantastically well but I hope that when the manager calls on me I can come in and score some goals."
Zola won the FA Cup with Chelsea in 1997 and 2000, and he knows just how important the competition is. "I've always said that winning my first FA Cup with Chelsea was one of the best things that ever happened to me. So it is important for everybody else to be focused on that," said the boss. "Obviously the league is very important, but I know from experience how important the FA Cup is, for the supporters, the club and the players. We want to do well as well so we will not underestimate it."
Finally, Carlton Cole is telling everyone that he is looking to score even more goals - despite already over-extending himself with two strikes over Christmas. The 25-year-old Cole has been on the receiving end of much criticism from some sections of the Boleyn crowd in recent weeks but silenced his vociferous critics with crucial goals against both Portsmouth and Stoke. "The main thing for me is that we're getting the results now," he said. "It was a great six-point weekend for us and we're up to tenth place now. For me personally, I've had so many chances to score and I've managed to get two in three days. I'm chuffed but against Stoke I think I should have got more. There were a few times when the things I've been practising in training didn't quite come off; I'd have got a couple more if I'd executed them right. Last season I wasn't getting in the right positions. Now, I'm getting into the right positions and trying to execute them. I'm working on it and hopefully I'm going to get there with the help and faith of the manager."