Chin up, Franco

  • by Staff Writer
  • Thursday, 17th December 2009

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.

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