West Ham’s season has been one of turmoil, intrigue and bewilderment. In fact, those words have become almost synonymous with the club since the ill-fated signings of Argentinean duo Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano in 2006. The rollercoaster since has twice threatened to derail and Hammers fans will be hoping that the ride comes to a swift end before next season and before nausea begins to set in.
Firstly, though, they’re going to need a stable, experienced manager.
Fortunately, Steve Clarke has dutifully stayed on to offer assistance to whoever arrives. In spite of having to act as intermediary between players and chairman during debilitating bust-ups in March, the former Chelsea coach appears keen to stay with the club. Clarke’s input may well be vital and his presence may represent an unsteady ship as slightly more hospitable for any potential manager.
However, whatever polish is deployed by Sullivan, Gold and Clarke, the Upton Park vessel though remains caught in a crosswind. So which manager can be trusted to make the impact they desire?
Well, the short-list has been draw up and features, perhaps unsurprisingly, a less than luminous line-up including Sam Allardyce, Ian Holloway, Dave Jones and Avram Grant. Notably, no Slaven Bilic.
It’s an unattractive quartet in every sense of the word. It’s also a list that immediately makes Avram, after his tenure at Chelsea and his amicable leadership of Portsmouth, favourite to take the reigns.
As for Big Sam his relatively successful season at Blackburn will undoubtedly keep him anchored in the North West. Blackburn flew under the radar this season to reach a respectful tenth. Moreover, an already unsettled Upton Park faithful will hardly be heartily enthused by a dramatic change from their usual traditional flowing, passing style to an organized, defensive, long-ball game advocated by the former Bolton and Newcastle manager.
The inclusion of Dave Jones and Ian Holloway, meanwhile, connotes a hint of desperation despite their decorous successes. Ian Holloway, in particular, has done remarkable things at Blackpool, guiding them to this year’s Championship play-off final. It’s questionable, however, whether he has the profile or experience to handle a large, popular club like West Ham.
With the managerial position filled, the Hammers are also going to need footballing personnel if they are to succeed next season.
According to various sources, the right-midfield conundrum looks set to be solved by veteran French winger and striker Sidney Govou. Although time is against Govou, now he’s reached his fourth decade, he certainly has a pedigree that can benefit the East London club. He’s won seven French titles and, subsequent to a series of decent substitute appearances in the competition, delivered quite an impressive performance for Lyon against a dominant Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final second leg. There’s no doubt West Ham have lacked a really penetrative right sided player this season and Govou could go someway to assuage that problem.
Up-front, West Ham may look to either replace Carlton Cole or attempt to aid him. Yakubu Aiyebeni’s name has been whispered. Like Govou, Yakubu does have a decent pedigree and, furthermore, has the technical skill and strength to replace Cole. It is debatable however, how much his recent injury has affected his game. The Nigerian hasn’t excelled since his moved to Everton and hasn’t looked like returning to the form that made him so essential at Middlesbrough.
But before the offensive options are weighed and plucked, West Ham have more pressing concerns: their full-backs. Jack Charlton once said that the full-backs are the most important players on the pitch. Lamentably, West Ham’s Spector, Faubert and Ilunga fail to conjure the confidence required to demonstrate their importance. To this predicament, Luke Young, comfortable enough to play either side of the centre-backs, could provide relief, with Martin O’Neill currently giving preference to Carlos Cuellar.
The shopping list appears likely to lengthen in coming months depending on the two Davids’ temperament and on the man placed at the helm. Whatever happens, there are some incredibly important months ahead at the Boelyn Ground before the club disembarks on another Premier League season.