Wednesday, 4 May 2011

War Cry!

I'm not sure what Jo Moore is doing these days but it's possible the former press officer has found gainful employment as a special adviser deep in the bowels of the Boleyn. If ever there was a good week to be smokescreening unpalatable news then it appears someone at E13 has calculated that now is seemingly the time. Apropos, a 'leaked' story buried deep in the Sun backpages that suggests West Ham are ready to make an audacious more for Neil Warnock.

Warnock has just taken QPR back into the big-time by clinching the Championship title but Andrew Dillon insists Hammers insiders believe a deal could be done to lure the controversial Yorkshireman from West to East London. QPR's promotion, of course, is still undecided with the outcome of the FA disciplinary hearing into illegal third-party dealings over the signing of Alejandro Faurlin not expected until Friday. An official move for Warnock would probably have to wait until the summer should West Ham go down. If that fails, Norwich boss Paul Lambert is also thought to be on the West Ham wishlist with Avram Grant looking doomed after just one season.

Warnock is a hate figure among West Ham fans after he considered a personal lawsuit against the club in the wake of the Carlos Tevez affair. Dillon quotes an Upton Park source as saying: "Even if QPR did make it into the Premier League, Warnock's still a target. He has a fabulous track record of getting teams promoted and the view is that he'd stand a better chance long-term of managing in the top flight with West Ham than with Rangers, because of the relative sizes of the clubs. The fans hate Warnock but if he won a few matches and knocked the team into shape would they still hate him or swallow it and back the team?"

Suddenly the Sun's big exclusive on Osama bin Laden today takes on added resonance. Say what you will about Warnock, at least he's still a friend of freedom, democracy and razors. "Children would kick balls over Osama bin Laden's garden wall and never get them back," sobs the Sun. The bastard. While he might have perpetrated several heinous crimes against the aesthetics of British football, you could never accuse Warnock of trying to stifle grassroots football in Pakistan. Indeed, he would probably admire such compound bothering long ball antics. There's more though, snarks The Guardian's Mill. Next to a picture of Bin Laden looking quite evil – even if he did have gentle eyes – ice cream vendor Tanvir Ahmed adds: "If a ball went into Bin Laden's compound the children would not be allowed to get it. They were given money instead. They were paid 100 to 150 rupees (£2.50) per ball." That's actually more than a ball's worth in Pakistan, so in some ways Bin Laden was supporting the game. Then again, given the whole mass murder thing, he probably still deserved to die.

It just goes to show that nothing is black and white these days. Take the same paper's report that Scott Parker is ready to declare himself fit for West Ham's crunch clash at home to Blackburn on Saturday. The article states the midfielder has missed rock-bottom Hammers' last three games with an Achilles problem but is desperate to help seal the club's survival. Desperate is one thing; capable is quite another. There have been whispering reports emerging all morning that Parker, 30, broke down in training and is now having a course of injections in a frantic bid to patch him up for the weekend.

A source at the club confirmed the Hammer of the Year is a doubt for Saturday’s match. "He didn’t train yesterday, but that doesn’t mean he won won’t play on Saturday. They are doing various things to try and get him fit. Often players don’t train earlier in the week but will closer to the game," the source said. "The player is obviously desperate to play and with time running out in the season, it is likely he will play. We need the points."

It was thought that Parker was certain to recover from his injury in time and had been earmarked for a return against Steve Kean's struggling Rovers side - a match that the Premier League's bottom club dare not lose. However, a different Hammers source told ESPNsoccernet: "Scott Parker broke down in training yesterday [Tuesday]. He has had injections which have a 50% chance of working." Interestingly, the breaking of this story is credited to Harry Harris, a close confidante of David Sullivan's - leading to speculation from some quarters that the disclosure of a setback is merely smokescreen subterfuge ahead of a hugly pivotal match.

Whatever the truth, Avram Grant is convinced his side can pick up the seven points he thinks they need to stay up and end a run of five straight defeats starting against Rovers, but that target is going to be deeply compromised if Parker is not able to play. If the midfielder makes like Lazarus he will be joined in the starting line-up by Matthew Upson, back from the dead-leg he suffered during the 2-1 defeat at Manchester City. Full-back Wayne Bridge will also be in the mix after he was refused permission to play against City while on loan from the Eastlands club.

A further concern is the knee injury suffered by England Under-21 defender James Tomkins at City. With that in mind, United have asked to recall defender Jordan Spence from his loan spell at Bristol City. Manager Keith Millen is said to be planning for Saturday's final day game with Hull City without the England Under-21 defender after being contacted by the Hammers. City boss Millen told "West Ham say they have injury concerns over two defenders and would like to take Jordan back. They have a 24-hour recall. It looks likely he'll be going back to them, but we're hoping the injuries clear up and Jordan would then be able to end the season with us before going back for the last few games in the Premier League. However, as things stand it looks likely Jordan will head back to them."

Anyway, I'm getting distracted here... much to Jo Moore's probable delight. Back to the Neil Warnock issue where rabid Daily Mail hack Leo Spall opines that David Sullivan sounds like a man who doesn't like to take responsibility for his mistakes - or indeed learn from them. Slagging off West Ham's players and then failing, along with his co-owner David Gold and vice-chairman Karren Brady, to turn up for their game at Manchester City last Sunday was an error, thinks Spall. Talking afterwards about the team's miserable away form making it a waste of time was a mistake too, even if they intend to be at Wigan when the team's Premier League future is likely to be decided a week on Sunday (May 15).
But instead of Sullivan owning up we have had only self-justification and these are not the first or worst mistakes that he and his board have made. When West Ham's shambles of a season ends Avram Grant is likely to be packed off, and rightly so because he is no Premier League manager. But let's not forget who appointed him and gave him a long deal after taking the expensive step of axeing a dignified boss who had (just about) kept West Ham in the Premier League, Gianfranco Zola. Let's not forget who agreed a raft of signings including Mido, Benni McCarthy, Pablo Barrera, Winston Reid and Lars Jacobsen.
Of course, not everything Sullivan and Co have touched has turned to dust and they did, after all, help save the club from financial meltdown, notes Spall. But they have also made more than their fair share of mistakes for people who have a lot of experience in the game. And if talk about the possibility of bringing in West Ham hate figure Neil Warnock as Grant's replacement is true, then they are still making them.

Bit harsh on Warnock that, when the original story hasn't been given any tangible credence as yet. Remember we're not talking about the stone-hearted hoarder of wayward Pakistani footballs here. Not that the club would employ such a man anyway. Another timely press release reveals United are so intent on promoting relations in that part of the world, the club are planning to send "football experts" to the Indian capital to conduct a 'Player Identification' camp and workshops for coaches and parents. A couple of players from the camp will then be invited to the club's international academy in England for 'Tryouts' — a process through which the selected ones "will get a chance to break into the main team".

The visit, scheduled from May 15 to 22, is a part of the club's tie-up with Deeksha Sports Management (DSM). "Player ID camp will be held all over the country followed by a national camp, and the selected ones will go for international Camp at West Ham," said Mike Kelleher, partnership development manager at West Ham's academy. "India has great potential and coaches clinic will be organised to follow up the camp progress. Billy Lepine of West Ham United international academy will educate parents through a clinic about how you can take your child to next level," said Paul Gibbons, who will be heading the camp there.

The USP of the camp will be that 1-2 players will get a fully paid trip to West Ham and some more will get opportunities to visit the various arenas of the London Olympics. During their stay in the city, the experts will conduct camps in a couple of schools, followed by clinics for coaches and parents. Students from 40 schools have already registered for the summer camp. All the players who participate in the training camp will be given at least a certificate to recognise their effort.

That's a nice story with which to wrap-up today's news, although it does raise one issue. If West Ham do actually have "football experts" in residence at the club then surely we could do with one or two in the Director's box at the moment. Or on the training pitch. Or in the first team. Come to think of it, Neil Warnock is probably the least of our problems right now. I bet only Jo Moore thought I'd be saying that this morning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lovely job again.


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