The curious case of West Ham Utd

The West Ham fans were quietly optimistic in August. The opening day win over Wolves was surely proof that Gianfranco Zola and West Ham Utd would kick on from the previous excellent season. There was no reason to believe otherwise.

A late run for a European place, coupled with some excellent free-flowing football towards the back end of the season had fans believing in Zola and his methods as a 9th place finish in the league was achieved.

It was astonishing to think that the West Ham job was Zola’s managerial debut. He had only previously had coaching experience with the Italy U-21’s, however along with his loyal assistant Steve Clarke, fans were hopeful that this was perhaps the partnership to take the club forward.

However, fast forward seven months from their two nil away victory on the opening day of the campaign at Molinuex; and the mood has changed somewhat around Upton Park. The depressing scenes last night at Upton Park served to remind fans of the stark reality that football can change very quickly.

As in August, Wolverhampton Wanderers were the opponents, yet the result could not have been more different from the corresponding fixture.

The 1-3 home defeat was devastating for West Ham, plunging them closer to relegation. Wolves outplayed them all over the pitch, leaving home fans chanting: “you’re not fit to wear the shirt.” Those heady days of last season must seem an age ago for the loyal West Ham fans.

Despite, the problems on the pitch, off the field, there has been reason for optimism. David Gold and David Sullivan have since taken over the club, investing some money in new players in January. They are both lifelong fans who have vowed to ensure that West Ham avoid relegation and take the club upwards.

Their track record at Birmingham proves that they know how to run a football team. One only has to look at Birmingham’s position this season, and their prospects for the future as proof.

However for West Ham, Gold and Sullivan have made it clear that avoiding relegation is so imperative to their plans for the future.

If they are to avoid the fall to the Championship, Zola must look at his underperforming squad. They currently lack any real leaders and stomach for a relegation fight.

The captain Matthew Upson has had a quiet season compared to his high standards. His head may have been swayed by the transfer rumours linking him to several clubs, whilst the other prize asset Carlton Cole predictably blows hot and cold.

Scott Parker has been inspirational for them all season, however he cannot do it alone. Players such as McCarthy, Ilan, Dyer and Kovac have not been good enough.

There is no doubt that selling James Collins was a mistake by Zola, as the Welsh centre back continues to prove what a solid performer he is alongside Richard Dunne for Aston Villa.

James Tomkins and Danny Gabbidon are good players, but not in the same class as Collins. Neither of the two current defenders has formed such a solid partnership with Upson as the current Villa man did.

That away win over Wolves on the opening day remains their solitary away victory in the league all season, and the situation has continually turned from bad to worse throughout a difficult season for the East Londoners.

Instead of hunting for European football and finishing level on points with their fierce rivals Tottenham- as they did last year, they are now in a nightmare scenario of desperately trying to avoid relegation; just like in 2007. It must seem like Déjà vu for the fans. Except this time, Carlos Tevez isn’t around to save them again.

Read more of Andy’s writings at his ‘12th Man’ Blog