After a dismal, if not wholly unexpected, start to the season for West Ham, things have started to pick up for the east London outfit, and although still bottom of the Premier League on goal difference, the club is currently on an unbeaten run of 5 games in all competitions. This unbeaten streak must, in some part at least, be attributed to the form of striker Frédéric Piquionne, who has scored 3 times in the run, including a headed winner in the 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in September.
The French striker’s form can be placed in stark contrast with the form of another West Ham striker, Carlton Cole, who is yet to get off the mark at all in the current season. Does Piquionne’s current form, combined with fervent interest in the England international over the summer, mean the January transfer window represents the perfect opportunity for West Ham to balance their books by offloading Cole, or is the striker worth more to the club than his current form suggests?
With the financial mess West Ham owners David Gold and David Sullivan keep emphasising they have inherited, and bids of up to £7m being rejected over the summer, Cole could fetch a tidy sum for the club, especially with reports of renewed interest coming from Liverpool, and a possible January bid for the striker. Furthermore, with Cole losing his striking mentor in former Hammers manager Gianfranco Zola, perhaps the former Chelsea academy graduate feels his time at the Boleyn Ground is up, and the prospect of a move to a Liverpool side looking to rebuild after a dismal start to the season could prove the perfect catalyst for Cole’s career.
However, with a West Ham strike force looking threadbare in terms of talent, and with the jury still out on Piquionne, I think it would be a tad previous and disingenuous to Cole to think that his sole worth to the club lies in fiscal, rather than footballing, terms. After a superb start to the 2009-10 season, both in terms of goals and performances, Cole was sidelined for four months after sustaining an injury against Burnley in late November, and after returning in late February, he struggled to regain the form in which he had started the season. His goal drought this season has been disheartening for the striker, but not disastrous, and with West Ham looking likely to participate in their second successive relegation battle this season, Cole has the attributes to cause any opponents problems in the penalty box and aid West Ham in their quest to retain Premier League status.
In addition, there appears to be more than meets the eye, or at least the ears in terms of the sound bites offered by Gold and Sullivan, with regards to West Ham’s finances. Having stated the club would face ‘Armageddon’ were they to be relegated last season, the pair subsequently offered Ruud van Nistelrooy £100,000 per week. I understand the notion of speculating to accumulate, but that kind of offer from a side in ‘financial trouble’ seems fairly ridiculous. This, combined with lucrative deals offered to Thierry Henry and taken by Scott Parker, shows the financial situation at Upton Park is slightly more opaque than has been reported.
Selling Cole, in other words, would be a case of taking the money and running for West Ham, and with an international striker missing from their ranks, it would seem likely the Irons would be running straight to the Championship.