Saturday, 24 January 2009

Welcome To Monkey-Hanging Hell

West Ham United have told Tottenham Hotspur not to bother submitting a new bid to sign the striker Carlton Cole after they immediately rejected an £8m offer. Jason Burt, writing in this morning's Independent, says the bid was made earlier this month, after which Spurs concentrated their attention on trying to sign Craig Bellamy, who subsequently joined Manchester City for £14m this week.

United chief executive, Scott Duxbury, said earlier this week that he does not want to sell the club's best players to Spurs – and rejected four bids for Bellamy – and has informed them that they will be wasting their time if they make an improved offer for Cole. One of Spurs' failed bids for Bellamy included a straight swap for Darren Bent, but this was dismissed by West Ham. Burt believes that the striker may be offered again in return for Cole, who has been a long-term target at White Hart Lane. West Ham tried to sign Bent before he joined Spurs but they no longer have any interest in him, while the striker has also been offered, without success, to Sunderland. Spurs also tried to sell him to Aston Villa, who have subsequently agreed a £3.5m deal to acquire Emile Heskey from Wigan Athletic.

West Ham rejected two bids from Sunderland for Cole last summer, including an offer of £5m, and since then he has signed a new five-year contract, while his form has improved dramatically under the manager Gianfranco Zola, a former team-mate when both were players at Chelsea. Cole has scored five goals in his last five games, and nine in all this season, and is being monitored by the England manager Fabio Capello, who was at Upton Park last Sunday when the 25-year-old was man-of-the-match in the victory over Fulham. Capello is considering Cole as an understudy for Heskey and has been impressed by recent performances.

West Ham are understandably determined to hold on to Cole, not least because they have sold Bellamy and promised Zola that he will not lose any more key players. The manager has also been told that the funds from the Bellamy sale will be re-invested and West Ham have been in negotiations this week to seal a club record £10m signing – the fee includes add-ons – of the German Under-19 international Savio Nsereko from Brescia. One of his agents, Patrick Bastianelli, who represents Savio in Italy, told yesterday: "At the moment West Ham are in pole position. The situation could be unlocked next week. Roma were following him, but in the January market many teams – including Roma – are not entering into transactions."

According to the Sun, Gianfranco Zola will unveil Nsereko as Craig Bellamy’s replacement on Monday. He ran a personal check on the young star after director of football Gianluca Nani identified the German Under-19 star. Pat Sheehan writes that Nani worked with the player when he was in charge at Brescia and has gone back to grab one of Europe’s emerging talents.

Elsewhere, West Ham's Jordan Spence has rejoined Leyton Orient on loan until the end of the season. The 18-year-old spent six weeks at Brisbane Road this term but made one appearance under former boss Martin Ling. But with his side struggling in League One caretaker manager Kevin Nugent has brought the defender back.

Before that, Zola takes his side to Hartlepool for the FA Cup fourth round clash on Saturday. The Italian wants Hammers fans climbing up lamp-posts — just like his dad did when the former Chelsea star won the FA Cup. Zola is desperate to put the smile back on the faces of fans who had their hearts broken in the 2006 final. Zola remembers the sheer pleasure of helping Chelsea win the Cup in 1997 but insists nothing could have prepared him for what he saw as the open-top bus went through West London. He said: "We’ve nothing like it in Italy so, even after we beat Middlesbrough, I did not expect that. When we turned down the King’s Road, the joy on fans’ faces was fantastic. I was waving and then saw my father Ignazio. He was trying to get a better view and climbed a lamp-post! I’ll never forget him holding on tight and waving at me. Unbelievable."

Zola wants a team spirit at West Ham that reflects his time at Chelsea, where he won two FA Cups — the second after beating Aston Villa in the final in 2000. He added: "We tried to create the environment to work — if you can do that, you are a step ahead in what you want to achieve."

West Ham have no major fresh injury worries ahead of today's FA Cup fourth-round match against Coca-Cola League One side Hartlepool. Striker David Di Michele is pressing for another start after he replaced Craig Bellamy and scored last week. Midfielder Kieron Dyer has been nursing a slight muscle strain, but could again feature among the substitutes as his recovery from a broken leg continues. Striker Dean Ashton (ankle) and defender Danny Gabbidon (groin) are long-term absentees.

Team (from): Green, Neill, Collins, Upson, Ilunga, Behrami, Parker, Noble, Collison, Cole, Di Michele, Stech, Boa Morte, Tristan, Sears, Faubert, Mullins, Dyer

Hartlepool United caretaker manager Chris Turner will urge his players and the club's supporters to "give them hell" when West Ham United head to Victoria Park on today. The former Manchester United goalkeeper wants his League One side to make life as uncomfortable as possible for Gianfranco Zola's Premier League team when they visit the North East for their FA Cup fourth-round tie. And his hopes of an upset have been bolstered by the way his team dumped Stoke out of the competition in the previous round as well as eliminating West Bromwich Albion from the Carling Cup last August.

"They will have seen enough to know that they will be in for a rough ride even though they have fantastic players," Turner said. "It will be a pleasure to have them here at Victoria Park but for the 90 minutes we want to give them hell. West Ham will have taken notice of the fact we beat West Brom who are a very good football side and we beat Stoke who are a strong, powerful unit. We have the opportunity to be mega giant-killers this year in the greatest knockout competition in the world and we've got every chance of securing a little niche in football folklore."

The FA Cup's rich tradition for serving up shock results has convinced Turner, the club's director of sport, that the League One side can overcome the odds. The former Sheffield Wednesday manager added: "I'm not daft and I realise that because they have a fantastic array of talent but you know that if they come here in the right frame of mind which I'm sure they will do and they play to their strengths they will make life very difficult for us. But it's a great opportunity for the players to go head to head with some of the best footballers in the business and it will be fascinating for the fans to watch. I know it's a cliché but in football anything is possible. It's 11 versus 11 and it's what happens on the day. Obviously we need a little bit of luck or West Ham to be off-key. I will say to our players we can win this game. There have been FA Cup upsets throughout the course of the competition's history. That's because when it's your day, it's your day. I know my team will give 100 per cent effort and commitment and if that's enough to beat them on the day then so be it."


emlyn said...

funny how some foreign chap i have never heard off, gets me all excited. has anybody seen this guy play? youtube only shows not very impressive footage. While I'm in the mood for questions, is Brescia going to run out of employees soon?

Trilby said...

German U20 coach Horst Hrubesch is quoted today in the German daily, Bild, as saying Savio is the "complete footballer" and will have no trouble handling the expectations and pressure that comes with such a big fee. I do remember him from the U-19 World Championship and am genuinely excited at the prospect of his arrival.

As for Brescia, they still have that polish midfielder Bartosz Salomon. For now at least!


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