Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Siren Song Of Stamford Bridge

Now the Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence. And though admittedly such a thing never happened, it is still conceivable that someone might possibly have escaped from their singing; but from their silence certainly never.

Gary Megson reckons football management is a suicidal occupation and that his days are numbered — along with fellow ‘kamikaze pilot’ Gianfranco Zola. Bolton boss Megson believes he and his West Ham opposite number will soon be for the chop because of the lack of job security for Premier League managers. "You look at Chelsea and Portsmouth sacking their managers in the past couple of weeks and you start to wonder why we put ourselves through this," reflects Megson. "Myself, Zola and countless others, we’ve got the job security of a kamikaze pilot but everyone accepts it. You can have a long-term plan but whether you get the chance to see it through is open to doubt."

If Gianfranco Zola is feeling particularly self-destructive then he should probably avoid all newspapers for the foreseeable future, so intent are they on ushering the Sardinian towards the mantic siren song of Stamford Bridge. The latest beguiling susurration comes via Bill Bradshaw in the Express, who reports that on the day that Guus Hiddink stressed in his first press conference that he would not seek to stay at Chelsea beyond the end of this season, Roman Abramovich has already earmarked Zola and Steve Clarke as his replacement in the summer.

Zola is widely regarded as one of the most successful foreign playing imports into the Premier League during his seven years at Chelsea and his ability as a manager is now having an impact at West Ham. While Clarke, another former Blues player, left Scolari’s coaching staff in fairly acrimonious circumstances earlier this season and many now recognise that his worth as an on-pitch organiser was greatly undervalued during his final months at Chelsea. Bradshaw suggests West Ham United are sure to try to resist any approach for the pair but 'understands' discreet soundings have already been taken about following up Chelsea’s interest at the highest level.

Over at the Sunday Times Juventus Ranieri has added to the insidious media chorus by stating his belief that the Hammers boss is capable of taking charge of Chelsea. "Gianfranco Zola is doing very well as a manager," Ranieri is quoted as saying. "Could he be a good choice for Chelsea? Why not? He has a great history with the club and the fans would be very happy." Ranieri admits, though, that he initially doubted Zola’s suitability for top-flight management. "At the beginning I didn’t think Gianfranco would do so well," he revealed . "I don’t know exactly why I have been surprised by how well he has done, but I just didn’t think he could do this for a big team. Yes, I thought he may be a good coach for younger players, like the under-21s, because he sets a great example. But I’m very happy for him, surprised and very happy."

Away from such choppy waters and Zola hopes to have Kieron Dyer available again next month. The fragile midfielder ended 17 months of injury frustration last month when he returned from a double leg fracture but after making a brief appearance against Barnsley in the FA Cup, picked up a calf problem. Zola has now confirmed that he has undergone another operation, but he should be back in March. "Kieron had another operation which went very well and it wasn't a big thing," the Hammers boss told the Sunday Mirror. "He is already doing something with the physio again and should be available soon." Hopefully also back soon will be James Collins, who is due to undergo a scan today on the hamstring injury that forced him out of yesterday's game. Zola said: "I do not know how long he is going to be out but it does not look good. He will have a scan tomorrow. It is a pity that we will lose him for a while as James has been playing well."

In other news, Histon youngster Lee Brennan is heading to Upton Park for a two-week trial in east London. Brennan spent a week with Manchester United in the summer and Histon manager Steve Fallon believes it is testament to the hard work that has gone into developing his club's youth academy. The talented young striker was one of four promising players to sign a contract at the start of the season and his two-week stint at a Premier League club is a great opportunity for him to further his career, while giving the Stutes' reputation for developing players a significant boost. "Lee has done well and the club have been monitoring him," said Fallon, who believes Brennan could follow in the footsteps of Jack Collison, who was spotted by the Hammers at Cambridge United in 2005. "They will have a look at him over the two weeks and see if they can push him on and be another Jack Collison. Hopefully they'll like what they see. It's great for the Academy."

Finally, United management are said to be delighted with the goalkeeping talent currently at the club. Young stars Adam Street and Deniz Mehmet have been called-up by Canada and Turkey respectively and Academy goalkeeping coach Jerome John said the call-ups were a boost for both the players involved and the club as a whole. He told "Adam has been doing really well. He has worked really hard and has been rewarded with a couple of reserve team appearances. When he has been called upon he has done well and we have high hopes for him for the future. Ludek Miklosko is excited about his prospects and the fact that we have another good young goalkeeper coming through. Deniz has also played well for us and is going to represent his country at an age-group a year higher than he could be playing in. He has recently come back from a successful tournament in La Manga in Spain and is full of confidence. Myself, Ludek and all the coaching staff at the club are all very excited about the promising crop of young goalkeepers we have coming through and there are more to come."

Alongside Street and Mehmet, West Ham also possess England international Robert Green, former Czech Republic Under-21 international Jan Lastuvka - who is on a year-long loan from Shakhtar Donetsk - Czech Under-19 international Marek Stech and Hungary Under-21 international Peter Kurucz. Gianfranco Zola included Kurucz in his squad for yesterday's defeat at Bolton. The 20-year-old goalkeeper has joined on loan from Ujpest in his native Hungary until the end of the season with a view to a permanent transfer. An Under-21 international, Kurucz warmed up with No1 Robert Green and understudy Jan Lastuvka as goalkeeping coach Ludek Miklosko put the shot-stoppers through their paces.

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