Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? A decent training facility and the cuckoo clock...West Ham United kicked-off their pre-season training camp in Switzerland with a busy and varied day of training on Saturday. According to the official site, the 26-strong first-team squad were up early for a session in the swimming pool before heading off to a nearby training complex for activation and an intensive hour-long football session. After a break for lunch and an afternoon of well-earned rest, the squad reassembled and returned to the training centre for another hour of circuit training and specific strength and conditioning work.
The likes of Robert Green, Scott Parker, new boys Kevin Nolan and Abdoulaye Faye and trialists Joey O'Brien and Hernani da Rosa were all put through their paces by manager Sam Allardyce, assistant manager Neil McDonald and the backroom staff. "Linking the staff and the integration of all the departments are very important at this time of year - the medical, sport science and football departments have created a very good working programme to encourage the football and fitness of the players in the build up for the start of our new season," said Allardyce. "We have had three very good sessions today which we will review at the end of the evening. All the players appear to have come through their sessions today and there are no injuries, which is one of the most important things in our pre-season. We are in a very tranquil spot in the mountains of Switzerland. We're training at altitude which is always good for the condition of the players. What little downtime the players have, there are good facilities at the hotel, a fantastic lake, outdoor swimming pool and a mini golf course where they can enjoy each other's company. This helps with the very important matter of team bonding that is vital."
Meanwhile, back in Blighty, several newspapers are reporting Carlton Cole is on the brink of joining Stoke City in a deal worth £4.5m up front plus an additional £1.5m based on appearances. Cole has been a Stoke target ever since their promotion to the Premier League and is expected to have a stringent medical over the weekend before signing a four-year deal. Newly-promoted QPR looked to be favourites to land the 27-year-old before Tony Pulis came back in with the money West Ham were looking for. Stoke had a £3m bid thrown back at them earlier in the summer, but club owner Peter Coates has now been persuaded to match the asking fee.
Stoke had been trailing Birmingham duo Scott Dann and Cameron Jerome in a double deal which could have risen to £16m with add-ons. When the two clubs could not agree on the amount of the down-payment, Stoke decided to switch their attention back to the United striker. Despite earlier reports suggesting the player was happy to stay in east London, the Sun quotes a source close to the deal as saying: "Cole was desperate to stay in the Premier League and was impressed by the plans manager Pulis has for the team. The club targeted him and went all out to get him, which he was impressed with." Stoke flew out to Austria for their pre-season training camp yesterday and hope Cole can join them within the next 48 hours.
Curiously, one-time reputed Hammers target Thomas Sorensen has been among the most vocal in voicing his opinion over the new arrival. The goalkeeper believes Cole, who he knows from a loan spell at former club Aston Villa, will prove a shrewd piece of business. "He is a much improved player," he said. "He was fairly young when I played with him at Villa. He was a little bit indisciplined and needed a lot of work. But he has definitely improved. The role he has had at West Ham has given him a lot of responsibility and you can see he has grown. He has been involved with the England team and, whenever we have played him, he has been a handful with his physical presence. He has also capped every season with quite a few goals. If he came to Stoke, I think he would be a great signing for us."
Hammers boss Sam Allardyce has always insisted his wantaway trio of Cole, Scott Parker and Robert Green would not be allowed to leave until the club’s valuation was met. That said, West Ham are reportedly 'desperate' to get the big earners off their wage bill following relegation last season. The 6ft 3in striker still has two years left on his Hammers contract but it is believed his wages would have been a concern. Cole also endured a disappointing campaign, finishing with only five league goals from 35 appearances, while there remains lingering doubts about the long-term fitness of the player.
Cole will be the fourth 'big name' to leave Upton Park since West Ham's relegation to the Championship, after Demba Ba, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Matthew Upson. The Sun suggests England goalkeeper Robert Green could make it a nap hand after moving to the top of West Brom's wishlist. Albion boss Roy Hodgson wants a new stopper - and is looking at Green and Birmingham City's Ben Foster. It is reported relegated Brum will not budge on their £9m valuation of Foster and that would price Baggies out of a deal. It is suggested Green would be available at less than half that and Hodgson admitted both are names on his radar. "There are good goalkeepers available at the moment in the sense that they don't want to play in lower divisions - you'd be talking about Foster and Green," he said. "And goalkeepers who are second choice at their club despite having a lot of experience. If anything we have a barrage of suggestions and possibilities."
The same paper also states West Brom have bid £2.5million for Jack Collison. The midfielder, 22, is yet to sign a new deal with the Hammers after two weeks of talks. Baggies manager Hodgson made his move this week in the face of competition from Stoke, Newcastle and Everton. The Wales star said: "It's flattering but I'm in negotiations over a contract at the moment. Let's see how that goes." Collison is one of West Ham's lowest earners on just under £4,000 a week but has two years left on his deal. Hodgson is offering to treble Collison's salary and Premier League football. The West Ham youth product only returned from a serious knee injury at the back-end of last season, and Allardyce is hoping he will forge a partnership in midfield with new arrival Kevin Nolan. Speaking on Twitter, David Gold responded to questions from worried fans by insisting 'Jack is not for sale'.
In other news West Ham have asked the Italian Football Federation to suspend Alessandro Diamanti’s registration with Brescia. The Italian left West Ham for the then Serie A side in August 2010, but the latest instalment of the £2m transfer fee has not been paid according to the club. Furious Hammers chiefs have accused Brescia of holding back the payment and are adamant the striker should be banned until the cash bust-up is resolved. A club spokesman said: "Due to the failure of Brescia to pay the latest instalment fee, West Ham have asked the Italian Football Federation to suspend the player's registration and requested that the national association and FIFA impose sporting sanctions until the matter is resolved." Diamanti hit six goals in 31 outings for Brescia last term, earning his first Italy cap.
Finally, Allardyce might be otherwise engaged at the moment but he still found time to blame Margaret Thatcher for the ruination of this country... sorry English football. Speaking in today's Sun, the West Ham manager laments the shutting down of extra curricular sports lessons and believes the country is "only producing half the players the school system used to". Allardyce believes former Prime Minister Thatcher "killed football" in England and is to blame for the lack of good young English players in the game. He also blamed cut-backs for a lack of homegrown talent coming through and a lack of opportunities for youngsters. "[Margaret] Thatcher killed football, no doubt about it," he said. "Since Margaret Thatcher stopped teachers being paid extra money for coaching sports after school, all sporting activities have diminished on a competitive basis. This was a working class game but it's only at private schools where the children get the sports opportunities I had - and even then a lot of them don't play football, it's mainly rugby. Despite putting in place all sorts of advanced academy systems at clubs we are only producing half the players the school system used to. Our [West Ham's] youth trainer, Tony Carr, is fighting to find the next [Rio] Ferdinands and [Frank] Lampards with one hand tied behind his back."