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Chin up, Franco

Filed: Thursday, 17th December 2009
By: Staff Writer

Concerns regarding Gianfranco Zola's state of mind have been expressed following his 'no show' after Tuesday's defeat at Bolton.

The West Ham manager, who was lacking his usual effervescence on the touchline during the game failed to appear for the cameras following the disappointing 3-1 defeat which left United in 19th place in the Premier League.

Instead his role was taken by number two Steve Clarke, who defended his partner by insisting that any criticisms regarding the teams' performance should be aimed at him, not Zola.

"If anyone's looking to blame, they'll have to blame me," Clarke told the post-match press conference. "I'm the guy they brought in to help Gianfranco. He's the novice manager, just in the game but if anyone wants to point fingers, point them at me."

Zola contemplates defeat at the Reebok Stadium

Zola has worn a brave face this year whilst the club's owners have instigated the release of a number of his players - players such as Craig Bellamy, Matthew Etherington, Hayden Mullins, Lee Bowyer, Lucas Neill and James Collins. But he has looked increasingly ill-at-ease in recent weeks as West Ham's results fail to improve.

Yet despite the recent disappointing run, Zola continues to enjoy the backing of the majority of supporters - as does Clarke, although some criticisms - notably regarding team selection and perceived tactical inflexibility - have been raised.

Supporters are instead attributing the club's malaise to concerns over the purportedly perilous financial position and uncertain ownership situation and yet another chronic injury crisis that has left Zola and Clarke without established first team players such as Carlton Cole, Matthew Upson and Valon Behrami.

Although this weekend's fixture with the current league leaders could come too early for Zola's makeshift side it is during the next few weeks that better opportunities to secure vital points will arrive.

Prior to February, West Ham play bottom club Portsmouth both home and away in the Premier League and also play host to fellow strugglers Wolves and Blackburn. A healthy return from those four games - plus a little bit of luck in the other pre-February fixtures againt Tottenham and Aston Villa (both away) - could help to assuage relegation worries.

* Join the Zola debate on the KUMB.com forums.

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by smiffy2712
12:09PM 19th Dec 2009
''Let's be fair to Franco - the board have sold his best player - James Collins - and we haven't replaced Lucas Neill at right back. Neither Spector nor Faubert would get in my pub side! Add to that the injuries to Carlton Cole, Matt Upson and Valon Behrami and the little fella is up against it.

Collison, Tomkins, Hines and Stanslas are looking good but they still have a lot to learn. Diamanti, Franco and Jimenez need to make more of an impact and we desperately need a 20-goal-a-season striker - James Beattie perhaps?

The club needs to accept Gold & Sullivan's offer and give Franco some money to buy players with in January - our priorties are a right back, centre half and a goalscorer. Two or three wins will see us ok and we won't go down!''

by Lee Byron
01:41AM 18th Dec 2009
''I too am left scratching the old barnet at some of the decisions made by Zola/Clarke, but isn't that always the way when you're struggling? I agree that Nouble should be given Cole's role, and not throw Da Costa on up front (ridiculous and desperate). That is a throw back to our last relegation season when our best defender at the time, Ian Pearce, was thrust up front for periods of games.

Let's get behind Zola (what are the alternatives?) and Clarke, even with their sometimes questionable decisions, and appreciate the football they are instilling in our players.''

by sp.howlett
05:25PM 17th Dec 2009
''If Steve Clarke wants to take the blame and Mr Zola is sulking, let me pick the defence for them. How may times do they want to play Faubert and Spector, they just are not up to this (and Ilunga looked lost at Bolton).

If we exchange Upson to the Spuds ask for Hutton and Bale, and Pavlechenko on loan. That would solve the problem, try this defence: Green, Daprela, Ferrari, Da Costa, Upson/Tomkins. Could this do any worse than what we try week after week?

Last point, try Franco with Nouble against his old club, the old saying if you're good enough, you're old enough - and he might want to prove something to Chelsea.''

by Tell it how it is Charley
04:34PM 17th Dec 2009
''At the end of the day it's about the players' commitment, something that has been really lacking; some of them plainly just don't appear to be fit. I've been one of the folk that has been questioning Zola's tactical naivety. However, at the same time there must be questions about Nani "the director of football". It's not as if Zola is a one man show. It appears this Nani is responsible for all the signings.

If Zola resigned or was sacked who would want the job of West Ham manager? It's near enough mission impossible. I think there are players that perhaps might be too big for their boots. If Green, Upson and Parker want to go, let them.

You look at Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, the success they have enjoyed has been stable management. I hope the crowd stay loyal to Zola, come what may I think he has the traditionals of the way the fans want to see football played. Just rmember Lyall in the 70s and 80s. Under his reign there were bad times but plenty of good times too.

Makes me laugh reading about the Liverpool crisis - fifth in the table with half the season to go!''

by g portugal
03:16PM 17th Dec 2009
''Sulking isn't the answer nor is walking around with a smile pretending that everything will turn up roses. Perhaps getting a bit angry and sticking a a fire beneath the rumps of his players would not go amiss. Hiding is not the answer.''

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