Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Wheels Are Turning

And the wheels keep turning, all the time,
But there's no pounding or purring, not a sound,
Just a feeling of stirring, hold them down, hold them down, hold
them down...

Fulham have been given permission by West Ham United to open talks with Bobby Zamora and John Pantsil. Cottagers boss Roy Hodgson has been busy trying to strengthen his squad this summer and has already added Zoltan Gera and Andranik Teymourian on Bosman free transfers from West Brom and Bolton. Now he has identified the two West Ham United players as key targets. According to Sky Sports, an official approach was
received by the club this morning and permission to allow Fulham to speak with the pair granted shortly after. The Daily Mail claims the fee involved is close to £6.5million and labels the sum a 'staggering amount' that is likely to shock Fulham and West Ham United fans alike. Should all parties reach an agreement the pair could be on their way to South West London by the weekend.

"West Ham can confirm the club have received an approach from Fulham for the transfer of Bobby Zamora and John Pantsil," read a statement on the club's official website. "The club are looking forward to an exciting new season with a fully-fit squad, including the return of Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy along with Dean Ashton secured on a long-term contract. Added to the form of Carlton Cole and the emergence of Freddie Sears, the decision has been made to let Fulham speak to the two players." West Ham United CEO Scott Duxbury added: "We recognise Bobby Zamora and John Pantsil have had limited first-team opportunities last season. They want to play regular first-team football and we have given permission for them to speak to Fulham with a view to concluding a move."

Bobby Zamora endured an injury-troubled season and was expected to be allowed to leave this summer. His name has continually been linked with Queens Park Rangers among others over the last month and also with Fulham at the beginning of June. The 27 year striker was prolific with Brighton in the lower divisions, with 83 goals in 136 appearances, but has always somewhat struggled in the top flight. A £1.5m move to Tottenham in 2003 proved frustrating and 18 months later he was shipped out as part of the deal for Jermain Defoe having played only 18 times, 11 of these as a substitute. Since the move to Upton Park in 2004 he has gone on to score 40 goals in 152 appearances for the club, including pivotal play-off strikes that will forever be etched in the memory of all Hammers fans. However, horrendous injury problems caused him to fall down the pecking order last season and with competition for places in attack set to be fierce yet again, West Ham are clearly ready for him to move on.

Roy Hodgson wants to reinforce his squad in a bid to head off another relegation scrap next season. Zamora is seen as an ideal replacement for departed skipper Brian McBride. The striker, who scored only once in 14 matches last season, will tie up the move subject to a medical and personal terms being agreed in a deal which is also likely to include full back John Pantsil, who has long been surplus to requirements. The Ghanaian defender, who enjoys cult status among the Irons faithful, joined West Ham for around £1 million after an impressive World Cup in 2006 but has never been a regular in the side, making just nine starts and 24 appearances in total. He had recently spoken of his desire to stay at Upton Park despite interest from other sides, but realizes he too has to look elsewhere for regular football.

Alan Curbishley clearly feels that with Dean Ashton, Craig Bellamy and Carlton Cole vying for places up front, along with the emergence of Freddie Sears at the end of last season, Zamora has become surplus to requirements or at least a viable way of adding to his transfer kitty. A report in tonight's Newham Recorder predicts West Ham United are on the verge of a big-money signing, and have been in negotiations with an international player for the last few weeks. Although the article initially ruled out the target as being Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, developments with Zamora this evening could have changed that thinking. Whatever the truth, the announcement of the new signing is likely to come during the club's tour of the United States and Canada which begins with a match against Colombus Crew in Ohio a week on Sunday.

The Recorder reports that insiders at the club are suggesting that as well as a big-name signing coming into the club, supporters should expect a big-name to leave in the next couple of weeks. Bobby Zamora not withstanding, that would seem to suggest, they conclude, either Anton Ferdinand may be out of the exit door or more likely Lucas Neill will depart for Turkey. If that move comes to fruition then the signing of a new right back would be a top priority for West Ham United, and the Recorder reveals Technical Director Gianluca Nani has been eyeing Italian full backs in the last week or so for just such an eventuality.

Intriguingly, the BBC report West Ham United have also turned down an improved £4.5m offer from Sunderland for Northern Ireland defender George McCartney. The 27-year-old full-back joined the Upton Park club from Sunderland in 2006 in a four-year deal worth £1m. The Hammers paid £600,000 for McCartney in a swap deal which saw Clive Clarke moving in the opposite direction. Since then McCartney has become a firm fixture in United's defence, and played the whole of last season without a dedicated back-up. However claims that McCartney's wife is unsettled in London led to rumours of Sunderland's interest, and today's bid is thought to be the second attempt the North East-based club have made to prise the Northern Irish international away from London. McCartney is a former Black Cats captain and played 157 times for the team in an eight-year spell. According to the Guardian, the deal will be revived if West Ham United manage to land Nicky Shorey from Reading.

That may not be so simple though after Reading manager Steve Coppell insisted he won't get bullied into selling his stars. Alan Curbishley is thought to be monitoring the situation at the Madjeski Stadium and has been linked with bids for left-back Nicky Shorey, midfielder James Harper and striker Kevin Doyle. However, Coppell has stated that, in spite of the club's relegation from the top flight, he is under no financial requirement to sell his best players. "We will only accept realisitc market values for our players. There is no financial pressure on us," he told the Reading Evening Post.

Coppell also confirmed that he will not sell players just because they are disheartened with life in the Championship. "The one thing you can't do is sell somebody who is unhappy, then it's an invitation for disaster. There is a responsibility when you sign a contract, and we can't respond to that bullying. When you are relegated you are vulnerable. I have players who feel they should be in the Premiership and Premiership managers who would love to have them in their staff. But there is a process to go through. There is speculation first and then maybe reality, then possibly movement."

In other news, one time Hammers target Sammy Traore has reiterated his ambition to leave Paris St Germain for a Premier League club. The 32-year-old defender has previously said he would 'sign straight away' if Alan Curbishley's men came in with an offer. Speaking to a French newspaper, he said: "I want to play in England, and in the top flight. That destination attracts me. The atmosphere there is unique. In England there are plenty of scraps to get involved in and I really like physical battles. Truly, I see myself going and trying my luck there." The Malian international has spent his whole footballing career in the French League and has made 22 appearances for the Parisian club since joining them in 2006.

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