Thursday, May 18

Daily WHUFC News - 18th May 2017

Westley – It's been an outstanding season

A delighted Terry Westley lauded his Premier League 2 outfit after they won promotion to Premier League 2 Division 1
The U23s beat Newcastle United 2-1 at St. James' Park despite falling behind
Toni Martinez's double was enough to see through the victory and the Academy Director had nothing but praise for his team

Terry Westley was delighted for his West Ham United U23 team after they secured promotion to Premier League 2 Division 1 with a 2-1 Play-Off Final victory over Newcastle United at St. James' Park. The Hammers fell behind in the crunch clash in the north east when Tom Heardman grabbed the opener after 19 minutes. But Toni Martinez – back in the team after returning from his loan spell at Oxford United – equalised just before half time when he fired across goalkeeper Tom Harker to make it 1-1. And then just nine minutes into the second half, the super Spaniard was at it again, smashing in a second to give the visitors the lead. It was backs to the wall stuff for the remaining half an hour but the Hammers held on sternly to see out the win and lift the trophy that sees them playing in the top division of PL2 next season. After the celebrations, Westley said: "The boys deserve to be praised for an outstanding season. They're delighted but they're spent and they've given it all which shows their real character. "You work with these boys every day; we know the effort they put in in training and we've had performance when we've had to dig in. "It was tough. It's been a long year for them. They're tired. But you can see after; we're delighted to have won in a hard competitive match. Going 1-0 down, the boys had to show some character, which we did against Wolves in the semi-final, it just shows what the players are like. "It was a real 50-50 game and we knew Newcastle would take it close. You look at the fixtures If you look at the fixtures, it could be Manchester City away, Arsenal away, Chelsea at home, Everton at home…they're tough fixtures, so we have to re-access where we are, and they have to be ready to go at the start of the season. "So, well done to all the staff and everybody at the Academy, but now we have to be ready for July 3."

The entire team's collective performance was outstanding in the north east, but even so, Westley commented on a couple of the standout performers. "Declan Rice is an immense captain and an immense leader and he's going to have a huge future in the game, that I am sure about. He is possibly the best player in this league this year. "Every single game the opposition talk about him, scouts talk about him, managers ring about taking him on loan; he's had an absolutely outstanding season and you can tell how tired he was at the end. He gives everything all of the time, he's a proper captain and a proper leader. "Then Kyle Knoyle – who won't be retained at the end of the season – had the option not to play, but he wanted to and he rolled his sleeves up and said he'd show people what he can do. With that type of career, he'll go a long way. "He has shown the character of what you're looking for in a young player. I'm delighted he's leaving on a note when he's a winner, because he deserves that. "And finally, with Toni Martinez, it's a bit different. He's gone on loan and actually scored against Newcastle for Oxford in the cup. "This was his first game for two and a bit months, and he's done really well to play and he summed up what he is all about tonight. His goals tally this season – 14 in 14 – is what he is all about."

The Big Interview - Ashley Fletcher

As a childhood Bolton Wanderers fan born just 20 miles from Turf Moor, Ashley Fletcher cannot wait for Sunday's Premier League finale at Burnley. The West Ham United striker was raised in the North West, joining Bolton at the age of nine before moving on to Manchester United four years later. There, he followed current Burnley and England centre-half Michael Keane, who could be marking him this weekend, through the Academy ranks. Like Keane before him, Fletcher is hoping to give Manchester United reason to regret allowing him to leave Old Trafford by making his mark on the Premier League – and hopes a return to the region where he grew up will give him an opportunity to do so.

Ash, you recently returned to Premier League action against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool after three months of mainly watching from the bench, which much have been pleasing?

"I think there were obviously a lot of people who came back from injury after Christmas, and I was very fortunate to have played a big part for the first half of the season. "I understood why I wasn't getting as much game-time as I would have liked, but that's football and all I could have done was keep working hard in training and showing the manager that I deserved some game-time and obviously getting some minutes against Tottenham and Liverpool was a bit of a reward and really good for me. "Hopefully I can get some more against Burnley."

Against Spurs you made a real impact, keeping possession for the team and going within inches of your first London Stadium goal when Hugo Lloris saved your shot late on…

"It was an all-round good team performance. First off, I think I had to go on and do a job and that was to see the game out, because 1-0 is a precarious situation. "With the opportunity, it was one of those that if the 'keeper doesn't get a touch on it, the ball goes into the back of the net and you're a hero. It's just fine margins."

It must have been great to be part of such a great night at London Stadium in terms of the atmosphere, too?

"It was the best atmosphere I've ever played in myself. Obviously getting on in a London derby against Spurs, I know how much it means to the fans, so for us to win the game as we did and end their title hopes was a good achievement."

The fans had been singing for your introduction in recent matches, which must have been nice to hear?

"As a young English player, all you want is the fans behind you, because it gives you a massive boost. "The manager picks the team, so I've just got to keep proving to the manager that I deserve to be on the pitch. Then, when I get there, I need to show the manager and the fans why I should be playing. "The fans have been fantastic ever since I got to the Club. They've really got behind me and I can only that them for showing me support while I've not been playing."

The summer transfer window will be open soon, and there is a lot of talk about signing a new striker, but presumably you believe you can save the Club a few pounds?

"Goalscorers are hard to come by these days and it is difficult to go out and spend a big amount of money on a player and them be an instant success. "For me, as a young player coming through, if I'm given an opportunity and a run in the team, it can only benefit me. I look at Marcus Rashford who has taken his chance, stayed in the team and now he's one of the best strikers in England. The same goes for Harry Kane as well. "There aren't many young English strikers playing in the Premier League, so hopefully next season I can get more game-time and fulfil my ambitions of doing well and playing for this massive Club. "I'll work hard over the summer on my own to get stronger and quicker and I can come back in for pre-season firing."

Before then, of course, we go to Burnley on Sunday. As someone raised down the road in Bolton, and a potential opportunity to impress, this is a big game for you…

"I said to my Mum and Dad last week that, although the season is coming to an end, any game-time I can get is vital because, in my eyes, the season is not over and I've still got a lot to prove and achieve. If I can get some minutes and perhaps even start the game, that would be great and I'd like to reward the fans with a goal or two. "I scored in the League One Play-Off final for Barnsley last year, which we won, and my confidence over the summer was massive, and I took it into pre-season and scored a few goals. "Momentum is a massive part in football, because if you do well in one game it carries through to the next one."

Sunday's game could see you come up against a fellow Manchester United Academy graduate in Michael Keane – someone who has left Old Trafford but is clearly on his way back to the top of the game…

"Michael is a true professional who has had to leave Man United to make a career for himself, and everyone knows about the speculation around him at present that he might be going back to a top-four club. "My ambitions have always been to play at the highest level and I want to do so with West Ham in years to come. I'm following a similar path to Michael and I know his game and he probably knows a bit of mine too, so it should be a good battle."

Connor's debut delight

Young Hammer Connor Wilson went home with more than he bargained for after attending his first West Ham United match!

The seven-year-old was taken to the Premier League 2 Division 2 Play-Off final against Newcastle United at St James' Park on Tuesday evening by his dad Carl, where he watched Toni Martinez score twice to secure promotion in dramatic style.

Not only did he see his Hammers win, however, but Connor met most of Terry Westley's squad on their way to the team coach after the game, where he managed to persuade captain Declan Rice and winger Dan Kemp to part ways with their training top and shin pads!

"It was Connor's first West Ham game, so he was made up to be just going to the match for starters," said Carl, who moved to Whitley Bay with his Newcastle United-supporting wife Lisa nine years ago.

"We thought we would hang around after the game and Connor managed to get his picture taken with half the squad, then he managed to get a training top from Declan Rice, who was a really nice guy. He then managed to persuade Dan Kemp to give him his shin pads, so he was bouncing on the way home on the train!

"Connor went to bed with a massive smile on his face and it was still there in the morning. I've taken him to England matches before, but he said seeing West Ham win was better than watching England!

"It was great for him to see his team play in Claret and Blue at St James' Park and his night was just rounded off with him being treated so well by the players, so I'd like to say a big 'Thank you' to all of them for making Connor so happy."

For Carl, seeing West Ham in action, even at U23 level, is a rare treat since he swapped his home town of Dover for the North East.

"It was a great game and a great result, but it was actually the first time I'd been able to see West Ham play this season," he confirmed. "I usually go to a few away matches each season, but I've not seen the first team play for a while.

"Now, Connor is already planning to go to the Premier League game when West Ham visit Newcastle next season. He can't wait for the fixtures to come out, so he can see his favourite player Michail Antonio in action."

However, while you might think Hammers are hard to come by in Whitley Bay, you would be mistaken!

"You wouldn't believe it, but there are a couple of other kids who support West Ham at Connor's school, Cullercoats Primary," Carl revealed. "And the bloke who lives over the road from us is also a Hammer, so there are a few of us knocking around up here!

"One thing we all agree after last night is that we want to see some of these Academy lads given a chance in the first team.

"Who knows, perhaps one day Connor will be able to tell people about the night he saw the Spain striker Toni Martinez score, he was given a training top by the Ireland captain Declan Rice, and a pair of shin pads by the England winger Dan Kemp!"

Keep checking for more stories about some of the people who make West Ham United much more than just a football club.


Looking forward to next season
Filed: Wednesday, 17th May 2017
By: Jamie Norwood

I am sure I am not the only one who is relieved that the season is over on Sunday. It has been a real struggle and we have limped over the line to Premier League survival. This season there have been nothing but problems and it will be good to see the back of it. Slaven Bilic's job has come under question many times throughout the season, but I actually think he has done a good job, considering what he has to deal with:

1. The stadium move. Going from Upton Park to the London Stadium was never going to be easy.
2. The Payet situation. It doesn't help when your best player wants out and is causing unrest in the squad. (Bilic dealt with this brilliantly, in my opinion.)
3. No (little) investment in the squad. After finishing 7th last season, we had a good opportunity to push on and improve on that, instead we 'stood still'.
4. Injuries. I've lost count how many injuries we've had this year. Reid, Antonio, Ogbonna, Carroll, Sakho to name a few…

I'm not saying Bilic is perfect, he's far from it, some of his substitutions and team selections are bizarre, but I still believe he is the man for us and deserves time to turn it round.

After such a great season last year we had a real chance of pushing on and consolidating a comfortable top half finish. We missed that opportunity with a terrible transfer window in the summer, doing it on the cheap and scrimping and scraping around for loans and free transfers.

We all know what we needed in the summer - a proper goalscorer. The owners knew it too, they just failed to act on their words. They promised a '20-goal-a-season striker' and we ended up with Simone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri on loan deals. Not backing the manager going into the new stadium was a massive error.

For me this summer is huge for the club, a last chance for the owners to put the money where their mouth is. We have increased stadium capacity by 20,000, the TV money is higher than ever, they really have no excuses to do it on the cheap again.

We don't need 'squad players' or 'stop gaps' – we need first team players who will come straight into the team and improve us. Not only that but it will give us a better chance of keeping players like Manuel Lanzini at the club.

One thing this team really lacks is pace. The only two players I can think of who possess genuine pace are Michail Antonio and Arthur Masuaku. How many times this season have we seen the opposition come to the London Stadium and rip us apart? Most of the games I sit there watching and the players look like they are 'knackered' – at the start of the game! We are crying out for some pace.

Potential targets? We've been heavily linked with Pablo Zabaleta. Now that's not particularly an exciting signing but I wouldn't be too disappointed with him. He would bring leadership (something we lack) and he could be a good mentor for Sam Byram.

I would like to see us go for Joe Hart or Jordan Pickford, both commanding goalkeepers and Premier League proven. Darren Randolph isn't good enough for the league and Adrian looks to be back off to Spain.

Other areas I feel we need to improve is on the wings. This is where pace is essential. I watch a lot of La Liga and think ex Arsenal man Carlos Vela would be a great fit for us. He has a very impressive record at Real Socidedad both with goals and assists.

I would also look into the Championship, as we have a fairly good record signing players from that division (with Antonio and Aaron Cresswell). With Fulham losing in the play-offs, I wouldn't mind seeing us go for Tom Cairney who has had a really good season. He has good technical ability and I think he would link up well with Lanzini.

On to the strikers - and this will be our most important acquisition this summer. One player I would suggest is Kelechi Iheanacho at Man City. Rumours are they are prepared to let him go and I really think he would be perfect for us, he has pace and from what I have seen of him, a real goalscoring instinct.

We've been linked with Jermain Defoe again, after trying to sign him in January. On a free transfer and given the history of his departure from West Ham previously, would you take him? I probably would, he's proved he still has got that 'eye for goal'.

Going back to La Liga and another player I think we should be looking at is Sandro Ramirez, who is a striker for Malaga and ex Barcelona. He is skilful, strong and has scored 14 goals this season in a struggling Malaga team.

With our current strikers being Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Jonathan Calleri and Ashley Fletcher I can see us needing three 'proper strikers'. It is time we stopped relying on Carroll's fitness. Valencia isn't good enough, Calleri isn't good enough and I think Fletcher could do with a season long loan to a Championship side.

So I think we need to plan for a major overhaul of our squad in the summer. I really hope the owners back Bilic with funds and get business done early and not leave it until the last minute to try and get a better 'deal'.

It has been a very disappointing season but with a good summer this year there is no reason why we can't push on.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to,

Jermain Defoe would 'prefer' move to West Ham, says Tony Cottee
By Nick Lustig
Last Updated: 17/05/17 5:32pm

Jermain Defoe would prefer a return to former club West Ham in the summer, according to Sky Sports pundit Tony Cottee.

The England forward, 34, is expected to leave Sunderland following their relegation from the Premier League and is available on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract at the Stadium of Light.

Sky Sports News HQ understands West Ham are interested in signing Defoe, who has scored 15 goals for Sunderland this season, but will face competition from Bournemouth.

When asked whether Defoe would be playing his football at London Stadium next season, Cottee told Premier League Daily: "Yes, I think he will be. I think that's his preferred choice. Obviously it depends on the owners and the people running West Ham.

"Would I like him there? Yes I would. He's a goalscorer and it's hard to buy goalscorers now. People say he's 34, but with the modern game, I think it's easier to play at a latter age.

"I retired at 35, but I think you can now play at the age of 36, 37 in the Premier League and Jermain has done it this year, scored a lot of goals and led the line on his own with not a lot of support.

"Bournemouth will be in for him and many other clubs, but I think his preferred option would be West Ham."

Defoe joined West Ham from Charlton as a 16-year-old in 1999 and had a spell on loan at Bournemouth before breaking into the Hammers' first-team.

He went on to score 41 goals in 105 for West Ham, but following the club's relegation from the Premier League he left to join Tottenham in 2004.

West Ham forward Diafra Sakho to work through summer to regain fitness
By Nick Lustig
Last Updated: 17/05/17 8:49am

Diafra Sakho will work through the summer in a bid to be fit for the start of next season. The West Ham forward has endured an injury-hit campaign, with a persistent back problem and a hamstring injury restricting him to just four appearances. Sakho was ruled out for the remainder of the campaign earlier this month and Sky Sports News HQ understands he is currently in his native Senegal having been given time off by West Ham. However, the 27-year-old will return to London early next month to begin a rehabilitation programme on his long-standing back injury and will continue this through until the start of pre-season in July. Sakho has been dogged by injuries since joining West Ham from Metz in 2014 and has managed to make only 54 appearances during his three years at the club.
He has netted 20 times for the Hammers during that period and attracted offers from Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion last summer.
Sakho has 13 months remaining on his present contract at West Ham.

West Ham should try to sign Mamadou Sakho this summer
Vincent Ralph

The Liverpool defender would immediately transform West Ham United's back line. According to a report from the Times, Liverpool want over £30million for centre-back Mamadou Sakho this summer, and while that is a considerable amount of money, West Ham United would be smart to enter the bidding. It remains to be seen if anyone will be willing to go that high for the French international, however there is no question he would immediately transform a Hammers defence that has come in for plenty of criticism this season. Jose Fonte does not look like being the answer, while James Collins - for all his qualities - is not getting any younger. Sakho may have fallen out of favour at Liverpool but he quickly proved his doubters wrong during his loan spell at Crystal Palace, playing a vital role in their Premier League survival and making Jurgen Klopp's decision to overlook him all the more baffling. Palace reportedly want to make the Frenchman's move to Selhurst Park permanent. However if West Ham are serious about challenging for a European spot next season, putting this year's woes behind them in the process, they should attempt to gazump their London rivals. West Ham manager Slaven Bilic will know he cannot continue with a defence that has been alarmingly porous during his time at the club, and at 27 Sakho would be the ideal addition. While some fans may feel £30million-plus is too much to pay for a defender, Sakho would be an instant hit at the London Stadium; something that cannot be said for many of West Ham's recent additions.

Ending Tottenham's title hopes was a 'good achievement' for West Ham, says Ashley Fletcher
Evening Standard

Bringing an end to Tottenham's title hopes was a "good achievement" for West Ham, according to Ashley Fletcher. Spurs travelled to the London Stadium earlier this month aiming to keep up the pressure on pacesetters Chelsea. But the Hammers edged past their rivals courtesy of a 1-0 scoreline, which effectively brought the curtain down on the north Londoners' title challenge. Fletcher featured as a late substitute against Spurs and was delighted to contribute to such a key night for Slaven Bilic's men. "It was the best atmosphere I've ever played in myself," Fletcher told West Ham's official website. "Obviously getting on in a London derby against Spurs, I know how much it means to the fans. "So for us to win the game as we did and end their title hopes was a good achievement."

West Ham's victory retained the club's top-flight status for another season and they have an opportunity to climb even further up the table when they travel to Burnley on Sunday. Fletcher has been restricted to just four substitute appearances in 2017 but is hopeful he will be handed a final opportunity to impress at Turf Moor. The 21-year-old said: "I think there were obviously a lot of people who came back from injury after Christmas, and I was very fortunate to have played a big part for the first half of the season. "I understood why I wasn't getting as much game-time as I would have liked, but that's football. "Getting some minutes against Tottenham and Liverpool was a bit of a reward and really good for me. Hopefully I can get some more against Burnley."

David Tully

St. Petersburg, Florida is not the type of place where you would typically expect to find a three-time English Premier League winner plying his trade for the local football team. But head down to the city's Al Lang Stadium this season and you can watch one in action. Underneath the floodlights, with a clear view of St. Petersburg's harbour over left field, there'll be a familiar face amid the 22 United Soccer League (USL) players. The former Chelsea, West Ham, and Liverpool star and owner of 56 England caps, Joe Cole, has headed to the Tampa Bay Rowdies to see out the dying embers of an eventful career in the heat and humidity of America's Sunshine State.

Florida has long been established as a mecca for America's retirees. According to the Pew Research Center, 19% of the state's residents are aged 65 and over. It's perhaps fitting, then, that the 35-year-old Cole has seen fit, for the the twilight of his storied career, to check into a destination known for its long, lazy days and nights. The temptation might be to think that Cole has come to Tampa to do little more than unwind on the beautiful stretches of sand that exist not half an hour's drive from the city's downtown area. But this would be false, for Cole has contributed to the Rowdies' exploits on the field since his arrival in May 2016.

In his debut season for the Floridians, he played in 24 matches - his highest number of appearances in a single season since 2012 - and delivered nine goals, while also chalking up seven assists. Cole, then competing for the Rowdies in the North American Soccer League (NASL), was voted into the team of the season last year. Not bad for a veteran who had been playing League One football for Coventry City only a few weeks prior to his move, and who had forgone his summer break in order to hit the ground running for his new club 4,000 miles away from home.

One or two in the football world might sneer at Cole's final destination. After all, the USL is not a league that receives a lot of attention outside the U.S, and is below the oft-criticized Major League Soccer in the pecking order. Cole himself pulls no punches regarding the playing quality, telling Sky Sports, "the standard's okay, but then you've got some players who wouldn't get into a League Two, Conference-style side. It's a mishmash. But there's some players, you think, "he's got a chance here"".

So, why did the mercurial talent make the trip across the Atlantic for his career epilogue? Chiefly, one imagines, though Cole claimed that he received offers from all around the world, it's doubtful whether any could have bettered Tampa as a location and a place to raise three young children. And on a professional level, it's hard to imagine the Londoner received too many offers from a better standard of football club given how low his stock has plummeted over the past several years.

The low-key nature of Cole's final years as a professional is in stark contrast to its beginning. Football supporters in the late nineties knew of the name Joe Cole before the player had even made his debut for West Ham United. Through a multitude of communication channels, everybody had heard about the special talent that the Hammers had waiting in the wings of their fabled academy. Those lucky enough to watch him live couldn't stop talking about him. He was the special one, the very best of the lot, the new Paul Gascoigne. West Ham's then-manager, Harry Redknapp shared a story that every conversation he had with Sir Alex Ferguson ended with the Scot somehow managing to steer the conversation towards Cole. "How's the boy Cole doing?", Ferguson would question, before renewing attempts to persuade the East Londoners to part with their precious gem. Redknapp was having none of it. By the time the 17-year-old Cole made his long-awaited debut in January 1999, the hype had reached fever pitch.

The intense speculation about Cole's God-given abilities threatened to be well justified once the veil had finally been lifted. Cole was indeed a precocious attacking talent, one who played as if he had come directly from the schoolyard straight onto Premier League football pitches. Cole was a throwback to the footballing mavericks and mercurial talents of the seventies and eighties. Whether it was a nutmeg, a dribble, a drag-back, or a Cruyff turn, Cole had it all in his creative arsenal. But it wasn't just about the flair: there was something about the way the youngster played the game that appealed to the purists. The pint-sized talent played with such joy and footballing innocence. From the moment he made his debut, and despite his love for the Hammers, it was obvious that he was destined for greater things. With a 19-year-old Michael Owen leading the line for England, most assumed that the Cole-Owen axis would be the English attack for at least the next 10 years.

Cole was to stay in the claret and blue for four more years, but West Ham were a team that went from a fifth-place finish in 1999 to relegation only four years later. By the time they fell through the Premier League's trapdoor, Cole, by now the Hammers captain, had sacrificed a lot of his attacking instincts in order to provide more defensively for the strugglers. Teenage kicks had, to some degree, progressed into hard running and tackling, but despite the yards, it wasn't enough to save the Upton Park side from the drop. On the last day of the season, Cole trudged off the pitch at Birmingham City's St Andrew's stadium in tears, aware that he had to leave his boyhood club in order to fulfill his potential.

Despite Claudio Ranieri signing him, Cole's time at his next club, Chelsea, is best remembered for the impact, both positive and negative, that Jose Mourinho had on his career. Though Cole's medal cabinet was soon filling up, it came at the expense of his footballing nature. The ex-Porto manager turned Cole from a creative attacker into a resolute, tactically-aware cog in a well-oiled machine. The footballing purity that was so beautifully displayed in Cole's early West Ham's appearances was sacrificed for a more pragmatic approach.

Mourinho values the system as his star, and his results provide justification for his methods, but he is not as well regarded as some of his peers when it comes to developing attacking talent. The man who coined the phrase "parking the bus" regularly preferred having rapid, chalk-on-the-boots wingers out wide in his strict 4-5-1 set-up. While that suited Arjen Robben and Damien Duff, that wasn't Cole's game, though he often found himself deployed in such a way. To his credit, Cole's efforts made him a firm crowd favourite over his five years at Stamford Bridge, but to the wider footballing world, whilst acknowledging a great footballer, there was more of a sense of unfulfilled potential. Cole was still remembered as the boy who was supposed to become a world great, not merely a Chelsea great.

In fairness, it wasn't just a Chelsea failing, for his forays into international football did little to negate suggestions that Cole had fallen shy of his huge potential. There were some mitigating circumstances for Cole's performances with England because, as at club level, he found himself "doing a job" out of position on the left wing, rather than the number 10 position he craved. As a member of the most talented English side for generations, he should have been its talisman, but instead found himself repeatedly the odd one out whenever a change needed to be made.

After an injury-plagued final two years in West London, Cole was told that his contract was not being renewed. The now 28-year old Cole was to surprise everybody by pitching up at Liverpool. Moving to Anfield, at that time ravaged by the dysfunctional ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, was an unmitigated disaster for the Londoner. Those who questioned his choice of new surroundings pointed accusingly towards the mouthwatering four-year deal and rumoured £100k-a-week deal that Liverpool offered, but arguably it was the guarantee that Cole would finally get his long-awaited chance as a number 10 that may have swung it in the Merseyside club's favour. Cole had waited his whole career for an opportunity in what many felt was his natural position, and he was promised that he would receive it at Anfield. Liverpool even broke up the fruitful Gerrard-Torres combination to accommodate him.

While it was accepted that the player arriving in L4 might have already seen better days, few had prepared themselves for the drop-off ahead. Cole's injuries had robbed him of that special something. Rarely do you see a great footballer's abilities suddenly fall off a cliff quite like Cole's did, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Cole was sent off on his Liverpool debut for a horrible late lunge on Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny, and then missed a penalty in his next appearance for the club. But something else was amiss: Cole himself. The player wasn't just below par; he was physically light years away from his best days, and, with everybody aware of his cushy contract, the player who was once universally admired suddenly had supporters on his back demanding to know why he wasn't performing.

By the time the next season rolled around, Cole found himself bombed out on loan - heading to Ligue 1's Lille. While not an unmitigated disaster, Cole's time in France was not as well received on the French side of the Channel as the more positive reports in England suggested. The player himself later remarked, "I wanted to stay in France but it never materialized. It was very successful for me out there - we had a great time on and off the pitch." However, in the context of the heights Cole had previously scaled, his time in Lille still invoked more of a shrug of the shoulders rather than solid evidence that he was capable of getting back to his best.

After an unsuccessful attempt to find his way back at Liverpool, Cole was afforded the opportunity to return to where it all started: West Ham United. As romantic as the story might have been, it was a sobering reality that Liverpool were only too willing to tear up Cole's contract and allow him to move freely back to London. His big return to Upton Park started well enough with two assists against Manchester United in the FA Cup, but Cole's form tailed off and never threatened to hit the heights of his first stint. It was the right club, but at the wrong time. The Hammers were managed by Sam Allardyce, a coach whose philosophy couldn't have been more at odds with Cole's profile as a player. Instead of what could have been a fitting curtain call to one of East London's favourite sons, Cole found himself playing second fiddle to younger, more physically able talents, with only fleeting glimpses of his former trademark flair ever displayed.

After a blink-and-you-missed-it dozen games at Aston Villa, Cole created more headlines than he had made in years by dropping down two divisions to play in League One for Coventry City. Despite the now universal acceptance that the boy who once had magic in his boots was a shadow of his former self, Cole was still a name, and Coventry's way of announcing it through Twitter reflected a lot of the head-scratching surrounding his surprise move: "Welcome to #CCFC Joe Cole, yes actual Joe Cole. Seriously, Joe Cole. The real Joe Cole". Cole didn't pull up any trees while in the West Midlands, but his willingness to put ego aside and drop down the divisions to still play the game he loves has to be applauded. There was no financial incentive to keep playing on; he was already a wealthy individual. "I just want to play football," he told the Guardian, post-move in 2015, "regardless of the level, proper football, competitive football. I want to play for the right team and the right manager who plays the right way. I'm just excited to play the game," he said.

In lots of ways, Cole's later-career decisions to drop down the English football pyramid, and then to make his way to an unheralded North American footballing outpost, is in keeping with a footballer who, from his debut, could be looked upon as a throwback to those mavericks of yesteryear who took on nomadic journeys down through the divisions once their powers began to wane. Despite playing the majority of his career at the top level, Cole was arguably unfortunate to play in an era where unpredictable talents like his found themselves on a tighter leash - a knock-on effect perhaps of most managers now only ever being a few bad results away from the sack. Back in the days of moustaches and short-shorts, Cole would have been allowed the number 10 platform, allowed to become the fulcrum of the team, and forgiven the odd day where it just didn't happen. And so it's a pity for Cole that a thoroughbred became part of a system, rather than the system being created for the thoroughbred. English football rarely produces players with the gifts Cole once possessed.

What then of the future? Though the man himself is by far the most decorated player in the USL, Cole is delighted with how his move to Tampa has worked out. Longer-term, the ambitious club has designs on joining the MLS. It's unlikely Cole will be around long enough to see that come to fruition, but he's happy enough just to feel wanted again. You'll find him walking along the bay on his way to the Rowdies stadium, happy and relaxed with where his journey has taken him. He'll run out in front of a few thousand spectators at the Al Lang Stadium content to just be enjoying regular football again. His manager Stuart Campbell's instructions to him are said to be simple enough: express yourself. And after all, that's all Joe Cole ever wanted to do.

By IBWM Senior Writer David Tully. Header image credit goes fully to In Mou We Trust.

EXCLUSIVE: Dan Kemp delighted with West Ham U23s' hard-fought Newcastle win
The Hammers came from behind to win the play-off final
Football London
12:01, 17 MAY 2017

West Ham academy winger Dan Kemp couldn't hide his delight as the U23s secured promotion to Division One of PL2 on Tuesday night. The teenager celebrated his call-up to the England U20s squad earlier that day by starring in claret and blue at St James' Park. Toni Martinez scored twice as West Ham came from behind to win 2-1 in the play-off final but Kemp put in a brilliant display on the right wing. The diminuitive winger ran his socks off and came in for praise from academy boss Terry Westley post match for his performance.
Speaking to after the game, Kemp told us this season has been one of his best after joining the club from Chelsea. He said: "I am over the moon. All the hard work we put in this year to win now is amazing, we all deserve it. "We showed great character and knew we had the quality, it came through in the end and showed great resilience, it was about time we beat them [Newcastle]. "We are all delighted, we can go and enjoy it but we also have to focus on a tough next season. "Division One is where be believe we should be and we are all really excited. Personally, I am really looking forward to playing against the best players in the country and I get to show my former side what I can do as well. "I had ten great years at Chelsea but I have been pushed on by Terry [Westley] and Liam [Manning] here to bigger and better things."

Kemp was full of praise for his coaches at Chadwell Heath too as they helped him to his three goals and four assists, which led to the Young Lions call up. "I'm obviously looking forward to the Toulon tournament as well. It's been one of my best seasons and I have got the honour of the call up, I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing for England. "Terry and Liam have been massive for my development and I really have to thank them for their work which led to my call up."

Manuel Lanzini: I am very happy at West Ham
Evening Standard

Manuel Lanzini has insisted he is "very happy" at West Ham, and revealed his desire to help the Hammers improve their Premier League form at the London Stadium next season. Lanzini, 24, has enjoyed a fine campaign for the east Londoners with his eight league goals and two assists seeing the Argentine be named as the West Ham Players' Player of the Year at the club's end of season awards recently. One of his eight strikes in the top flight this term was the winner over London rivals Tottenham earlier this month, which not only assured West Ham of their place in the Premier League next season but also stopped Spurs' charge for the title. Such has been his form, particularly following the departure of Dimitri Payet at the start of this year, that reports have claimed Liverpool and Everton could be interested in signing Lanzini. But the midfielder has quashed any talk of a potential exit from West Ham, saying he feels settled at the club. "The season was good for me on a personal level," he told West Ham's official website. "At the beginning it was not great [he suffered a knee injury in pre-season], but then I could achieve a good level. "Dimi is a great player. He left and it was not a good news for the squad but luckily at the end I had a very good season. "[With the win over Tottenham], we achieved the points to stay in Premier League, which was the most important thing. We did not have a good start of the season, but now we need to think in the next game and the next season. "For now, I am thinking of the next game then thinking of having good holidays with the family. I am very happy here." He added: "We did not start [the season] as we expected but we had few problems and injures to deal with and now we have to work hard for the forthcoming season. "All changes need time to adapt to. The pitch and the stadium are much bigger than the previous ones [at the Boleyn Ground]. Now we have adapted to these changes and we achieved our target of remaining in Premier League.
"Next year, if we work hard, we will get a better result."

By Blind Hammer 17 May 2017 at 12:00

Blind Hammer reflects on Liverpool, closing the gap and whether Zola the Coach could help?

Going into this game we always knew it was going to be tough. Years ago Bill Shankly described top level football as a competitive knife edge. Most matches in the top league start up with both teams battling, teetering on this edge. The key to success is to manage to garner enough quality to force your opposition over this knife edge. Once pushed over this initial precipice momentum to force your way back becomes ever more difficult as you fall away.

This certainly described Sunday's game. For the first 15 minutes we conceded lots of possession but did compete and threaten occasionally, in particular Byram's break and shot might, on another day against another goalkeeper have transformed his afternoon. As it was Byram subsequently managed to undo some of the credit he accrued during the Tottenham game and reinforced the need for a quality right back recruitment over the summer.

The first goal was always going to be critical in this match. The Stadium Commentator was at one stage saying that the game needed a goal, any goal. I disagreed as I thought our best prospects came either from a nil-nil or scoring first. As soon as Fonte played Sturridge onside for the first goal I thought it was game over and I suspect deep down this team, denuded of perhaps 6 or 7 players who would reasonably have played ahead of them but for injury felt the same.

Despite this we may, at various times, forced our way back into contention. Ayew's inexplicable hitting of the post whilst only inches out from goal, the elbowing of Read which should have lead at least to a penalty and possibly a sending off for Liverpool. This could all have changed the pattern of the game. These are the small margins which can affect the outcome of any particular game.

This remote chance that we may have gained perhaps an unlikely point should not blind us to the obvious current gap in quality between Liverpool and ourselves. Antonio has announced his ambitions to play in the Champion's League with West Ham. To displace one of the top four will require remarkable transformative processes on this current squad.

So what did we learn to aid this transformation? The deficiencies in the team are obvious and I will not repeat them here. What is clear to me is that we cannot compete at the top level with the money to buy in big signings with the expectation of instant success in the manner of say a Manchester City. This means that we need to have an alternative strategy. Bilic certainly needs to recover his touch in identifying talent in the transfer market this summer. We need to again get a quart out of a pint pot.

However I also believe more is needed in club philosophy. If we cannot buy in instant success, and even big money signings can flop, (remember Fernando Torres decline and fall for Liverpool)? Then we may have to plan for deferred success. I think we need to develop some patience, both as a club and as supporters.

I received some criticism last year when I argued in a late season Review post that we should show patience and seek to retain Victor Moses, either by extending the loan or by stumping up the transfer. I thought Moses had done well, given injury in adapting quickly. I thought he and Antonio could have forged a fearsome pacy combination on the right side of our team. I remember people arguing he was not the person to "take us to the next level". It is interesting that after his departure Payet identified him as the most talented player he had played with at West Ham. Frankly I would have preferred the £20 million spent on Moses rather than Ayew. This was however most definitely a minority viewpoint last summer.

I think further patience now needs to be extended to other members of our Squad. It seems likely that the club are looking to offload Sofiane Feghouli. I see little point in doing this. Feghouli has been an erratic performer who also has had his share of injury problems but he is precisely the sort of X factor player who, after the experience of a season's "settling in" and getting used to team patterns, could pay some dividends next season. He was certainly one of the few people who emerged with some credit on a torrid afternoon when he came on yesterday. If we sign a Feghouli replacement this will again start the process of a player trying to settle in from scratch.

Having signed Ayew we should again persevere with him, he does not look a £20 million striker yet but he has, despite his miss yesterday, managed to score some vital goals in a struggling team, which has ultimately provided us with survival.

Snodgrass also needs time. Hull were relegated yesterday despite their wriggling like a Salmon in recent weeks. Silva's masterminding of their recent improvement in form should not disguise the fact that Snodgrass remains even now their leading goal scorer and leader in their assist table. Snodgrass came from one struggling team to another but he should be at least a squad player who should improve the more he becomes familiar with Bilic's systems and styles. He was inches away from scoring one of the goals of the season yesterday. Small margins again.

So when we embark on the surgery on the squad over the summer we need not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. It is unlikely that we will romp into the top 6 next seasons, let alone the top 4. A season without fear of relegation and a Cup run may be our more realistic prospect. If we are to improve the squad over time it will be by player development and patience that we achieve this.

Coaching will be critical to squad development and this has been questioned in recent months. A left field suggestion from me is that we look to offer Gianfranco Zola a specialist coaching role. Zola has sadly now blighted his management career with repeated failure. Tactically Zola is weak in reading games and his management seem very ineffectual. . However there is no doubt in mind that he can individually improve players by working on their skills. Scott Parker benefitted in particular from Zola's input in the approaching twilight of his career. Carlton Cole had his best improvement with the input of Zola. I personally would be fascinated to see what Zola could make of Jonathan Calleri. Zola is by all accounts a likeable person who the players had enormous respect for in his knowledge of skills and techniques. His amiable personality should assist in helping him assimilate into Bilic's coaching setup without ruffling feathers. We cannot know how the dynamics and coaching review will play out but if there is room for specialist input from Julian Dicks, then I cannot see why Zola could not also be approached for help. In relation to West Ham at least Zola has a positive player development record. It could be the wisest investment of funds over the summer.


David Griffith


Premier League side West Ham have been in talks with Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy over a potential summer move. According to The Daily Mail, Ruddy has been speaking to the Hammers regarding a switch to the Olympic Stadium, with his Norwich exit looming. Ruddy is due to leave Norwich when his contract expires at the end of next month, as he was part of a raft of first-team players released by new sporting director Stuart Webber. West Ham have struggled to find a consistent number one this season and could look to Ruddy to fill that void for next season. Ryan Bennnett, Youssouf Mulumbu, Kyle Lafferty Steven Whittaker, Michael Turner and Sebastien Bassong are also set to be let go by the club. Bennett has already been touted with a move back up to the Premier League, with former Norwich manager Chris Hughton – at Brighton – keen on his signature. The report also claims that Norwich are looking to offload Graham Dorrans and Steven Naismith – who scored a combined 13 goals for Norwich from midfield this season.

West Ham United and Swansea City chasing Sandro Wagner
Aiden Cusick

Both West Ham United and Swansea City are said keen on the Hoffenheim striker. West Ham United and Swansea City are chasing Hoffenheim striker Sandro Wagner, according to Bild. The towering German has scored 11 goals and made another four in 30 Bundesliga outings this season, helping the villagers to Champions League qualification for the first time ever. Speaking in January, Wagner refused to rule out a move to English football one day, although Hoffenheim's recent success could scupper West Ham and Swansea's chances of signing him.
And if Wagner was to leave the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena, former club Bayern Munich would be at the top of his list of destinations - even if it was only as back-up to Robert Lewandowski. "Bayern are my club and will always be my club," the striker, who began his career at the Allianz Arena, told Bild. "That is why I can very well imagine myself returning to Bayern at some point. In Andy Carroll and Fernando Llorente, West Ham and Swansea already have strikers in the Wagner mould, although neither player's future is thought to be certain heading into the summer transfer window. Both clubs managed to preserve their Premier League status for another year, despite having flirted with relegation at various stages.

Sir Trevor Brooking: Pablo Zabaleta is 'absolutely perfect' for West Ham
Evening Standard

Pablo Zabaleta would be "absolutely perfect" for West Ham if the Manchester City defender joins the Hammers this summer, club legend Sir Trevor Brooking has said. Zabaleta, 32, played his last home game for City on Tuesday night in the 3-1 win over West Brom and afterward received an emotional farewell from the players and the fans as he prepares to depart the club this summer. Standard Sport believes that West Ham have offered the defender, who has spent nine years at City, a two-year contract as Slaven Bilic looks to reinforce his defensive options this summer. Brooking believes Zabaleta would bring much-needed leadership to the east London side and admitted he would be "delighted" if the Argentine chose to join the Hammers. "If you link him to West Ham, which seems to be the case at present, he'd be absolutely perfect," Brooking told BBC Radio Five Live. "He can play a few different roles, but more than anything, the West Ham team have lacked leaders. When things have gone a little bit dodgy during a game and you're looking around for who is going to get hold of it and put a couple of tackles in - Zabaleta would be perfect for this group of players at the club. "Whoever he ends up with, he's going to be a plus. I'd be delighted [if he joined West Ham]."
City put on a presentation for Zabaleta following the victory over West Brom in which the Argentine was shown various video tributes, including one from Mario Balotelli. Speaking about the farewell ceremony, Zabaleta - who has won two Premier League title at City - said: "As a football player and as a football fan it was a dream to come to the Premier League. "My favourite moments were when we beat Manchester United in the semi-final at Wembley and the first Premier League we won with Sergio Aguero's goal. The fans had waited so long and we did it in a City way."

West Ham coach confirms club set to release Kyle Knoyle
Dan Coombs

West Ham coach says young talent Kyle Knoyle won't be retained. West Ham United academy coach Terry Westley has confirmed young talent Kyle Knoyle will be released this summer. The 20-year-old right-back has not had a proper look in at first team level despite the area being a problem position for the club. Knoyle featured for the under-23 side in their promotion decider against Newcastle last night and earned big praise from Westley for his impressive performance in the win, which he says was even more notable given the circumstances. Westley told West Ham's official website: "Kyle Knoyle – who won't be retained at the end of the season – had the option not to play, but he wanted to and he rolled his sleeves up and said he'd show people what he can do. With that type of career, he'll go a long way. "He has shown the character of what you're looking for in a young player. I'm delighted he's leaving on a note when he's a winner, because he deserves that."

Knoyle made one first team appearance for West Ham, back in 2015 as they put out a second string side against Astra Giurgiu in a Europa League preliminary round during Slaven Bilic's first couple of months in charge. He has spent time on loan after the past couple of seasons at Dundee United and most recently Wigan Athletic although this latter spell was ruined by injury. Knoyle has represented England at under-18 level and despite his promise, a move away from the Hammers to find his own path is surely his best option at this stage of his career.

West Ham must build team around Lanzini
by Scott Johnson1 minute agoFollow @greensthammers

West Ham must keep Manuel Lanzini at the club this summer. He should also remain the focus of the squad for years to come. Last year all the fans were saying keep Payet. West Ham must keep Payet or it'll all go wrong. Well now he's gone, but a phoenix has risen from the ashes, and is attracting attention. If the club are to progress from mid-table scrappers to European challengers they must improve. And part of that is keeping top players, and keeping them happy. To that extent, the Hammers must do everything in their power to keep Manuel Lanzini at the club and content to be there.

Heads Turning?

According to rumours heading around twitter at the moment, Lanzini is wanted by Everton. There is a potential gap at the club as Barkley is rumoured to be on his way out, and Koeman likes creative players. But they will not be the only side interested. Many pundits have pointed out how he has risen to the fore in Payet's absence. With quality absent in the squad, the Argentine was a shining light. Hence he should be the first and last thought for every attacking transfer. When building a squad it is more than just a collection of good players. You can't suddenly bring players with different styles but all of a top quality together and win. Hence Lanzini's style and mold should be considered the centrepoint for the squad rebuilding process. There are a lot of young players in the youth squad ready to come through, and again Lanzini should be considered their mentor. As such, getting him on a long contract with a view to him becoming a long standing player is vital. When your best players are coming in and out of the squad, you cannot hope to proceed.

Tiny Dan Kemp stood tall for West Ham and Declan Rice will be a star - U23s talking points
A number of Hammers youngsters put in stunning displays
Football London
07:00, 17 MAY 2017

The Hammers winger can't be much taller than 5ft 4in and you suspect when the opposition left back sees him, they will think they are in a field day. But, they would be wrong. So very, very wrong. Kemp has a heart and also an engine that belies his diminutive stature. He is so hard to shrug off the ball, he isn't brushed aside easily and his low centre of gravity makes it tricky for defenders. He was brilliant against Newcastle and he was equally good at Wolves as well. In the two games, the little man has been the one who stood tall and was counted the most when West Ham's backs were against the wall. The Spanish striker was playing his first game in ten weeks after injury and he certainly looked rusty in the opening exchanges at St James' Park. His touch was a bit off, he wasn't making runs and he had a shot which went 20 yards over the bar. But, one pass made the difference and it was from midfielder George Dobson, who got Martinez in behind the defence for the first time, two minutes before he scored the opener. That gave Martinez the confidence he needed and the next chance he had - bang - it was past the Newcastle stopper Nathan Harker before he knew it. Then, Martinez had his second chance on 59 minutes and yet again, he was so, so clinical as he smashed home from the edge of the box. One touch - woof - it was in.
He scored 15 goals in 14 games for the PL2 side and when the likes of Jonathan Calleri and Ashley Fletcher are really struggling, it's a surprise we haven't seen Martinez in the first team.
If you watched the game at St James' Park, you won't recall Declan Rice making a single mistake all night. Not one. He was imperious and showed exactly why he was Young Hammer of the Year this season. Terry Westley claimed the centre back was the best player in PL2 division two this season and it'd take something special to try and disprove that. Rice has pace, strength, energy, leadership, commitment, passion - everything you want from a West Ham player. If anyone deserved to lift the shield on Tuesday night, it was him.
Now that promotion is secured, the Hammers are in Division One of the PL2, they enter European competition and also, the Checkatrade Trophy next season. On the horizon are Chelsea, Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham acadamies. West Ham were a big fish in division two but no more, they will be the small fish in the top flight. It may need a change in ethos on the loan system and we could see the likes of Josh Cullen, Reece Burke and Reece Oxford not heading on loan next year but the U23s will be better for it.

Toni Martinez plots path to the West Ham first team after stunning debut season for U23s
The Spanish striker fired the U23s to PL2 glory
Football London
22:16, 16 MAY 2017UPDATED23:09, 16 MAY 2017

West Ham hero Toni Martinez has said he "hungry for more" after his brace fired the Hammers U23s to play-off glory. The Spanish striker - playing his first game in two and a half months following an injury he picked up on loan at Oxford - scored two extremely clinical goals as the Hammers came from behind to beat Newcastle at St James' Park. Tom Heardman had prodded the Toon into a first half lead but Martinez struck on 43 and 59 minutes to take the Hammers into Division One of the PL2 structure. It was their second 2-1 win in a row and the second time they had to come from behind to do it after beating Wolves by the same scoreline in the semi final. A beaming Martinez said after the game that he is already plotting to break into the Hammers first team after bagging 15 goals in 14 PL2 games this season. He said: "I am so happy to get the promotion and to do the objective and I am already looking forward to next season.
"I just tried to do my best, score goals and help in the most possible way and am happy tonight, I scored two goals and we won so it's a well done for me. "I just look forward to next season now, I will work hard to earn more opportunity. It is difficult to play for the first team but I will try my best to get there."
The Spanish star said he was happy to be back with the Hammers, who brought him to England from Valencia in the summer. "I enjoyed much my time at Oxford, but I am happy to be back and playing for such an important game," Martinez added. "I learned direct, physical football, long balls at Oxford. It is important for a striker to learn that and I am happy I achieved it. "It was an important game for us tonight, we started a goal behind again but we relaxed, kept the ball and the goals came. "It has been a good end of the season, I will rest now and I am hungry for pre-season to get started again."

Trevor Sinclair offers reassurances to Pablo Zabaleta over West Ham move
Damien Lucas

Manchester City legend Pablo Zabaleta has been linked with a move to West Ham United this summer. After securing Premier League safety West Ham United will now be turning their attentions to the summer transfer window. Slaven Bilic has already been heavily linked with a host of moves for the likes of Joe Hart, Jordan Pickford, Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe and Pablo Zabaleta. His side has failed to live up to lofty expectations this season after a stunning farewell campaign at the Boleyn Ground. A bigger pitch at the Olympic Stadium and lack of real athletes possessing the kind of pace needed to thrive in the Premier League have been highlighted as reasons behind West Ham's disappointing season. Another problem position for the last two seasons has been at right back with Michail Antonio spending much of his time filling in there and Sam Byram struggling to truly establish himself in the role. According to the Evening Standard, the Hammers are waiting to hear whether the 32-year-old Argentine will become their first summer signing.

As the Etihad hero mulls over his next move, one man who knows both clubs, Trevor Sinclair, has offered him reassurances over the move.
Boyhood City fan Sinclair served both clubs with distinction and is a legend at West Ham having been part of the side which recorded the club's highest ever Premier League finish of fifth under Harry Redknapp. And the ex England winger took to Twitter to air his views.
"This man (Zabaleta) epitomises courage and determination," Sinclair said on Twitter. "Blues fans will give him the send off he deserves tonight (his final home game vs West Bromwich Albion). "If Zaba joins the Hammers he'll definitely get a great East London welcome. Come on you Irons."

Trevor Sinclair ✔ @trevor8sinclair
This man epitomises courage and determination. Blues fans will give him the send off he deserves tonight #onceabluealwaysablue #OURZAB 🔵⚪️
10:59 AM - 16 May 2017
182 182 Retweets 612 612 likes
Trevor Sinclair ✔ @trevor8sinclair
IF Zaba joins the Hammers he'll definitely get a great East London welcome #COYI
5:20 PM - 16 May 2017
17 17 Retweets 145 145 likes

The right back has been one of the best and most consistent performers in the Premier League over the last decade. He was hailed as the best right back in the Premier League by Manchester United legend Gary Neville. His signing would buy West Ham more time to find a long-term successor in that role and provide great experience for Byram to learn from.

Pavoletti well suited to West Ham United, but he needs to rediscover form
football fancast
by Danielle Joynson
2 minute read 16/5/2017 | 11:20pm

West Ham United are considering making a move for Napoli striker Leonardo Pavoletti this summer, reports Tuttomercato. The Hammers seem to be keen to strengthen their attacking options next season, and the Italian is believed to be a target. Tuttomercato claim that West Ham will have to battle Marseille, whom they sold Dimitri Payet to in January, for Pavoletti's signature. It is believed that the 28-year-old would consider a move away from Napoli given that he has struggled for regular game time. Pavoletti only joined the Serie A outfit in January from Genoa, but he has only made nine appearances in all competitions, scoring three goals. Any suitor would have to fork out a relatively large fee given that the forward still has four years remaining on his contract.

Does he suit West Ham?
Pavoletti could fit into Slaven Bilic's system as he is strong in the air yet also slick on the ball, but he may need time to settle.
The forward has failed to cement a regular starting spot at Napoli, but he proved at Genoa that he can be fruitful in front of goal.
In 46 appearances for his former club, he netted 25 goals and also made six others, so if he can carry that form with him to the London Stadium, he will be a positive addition to the team. It is clear that the Hammers are in need of some firepower given that the likes of Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho have struggled with injuries, while Simone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri have failed to make an impact.

Bonner backing Randolph despite club woes
May 17 2017 2:30 AM

Packie Bonner is relaxed about Darren Randolph's West Ham woe with a view to Ireland's summer internationals and is more worried about problems at the other end of the pitch. Ireland number one Randolph lost his place with his club after a couple of high-profile errors, but Bonner is sure that he remains the right man to steer Ireland through the June 11 World Cup qualifier with Austria. He thinks that the player can use the preceding friendlies with Mexico and Uruguay to build confidence if necessary, believing that the 30-year-old has a body of recent work that should remove any fears about an impact on his confidence.

"I think Darren has done really well," said Bonner yesterday. "He handled the European Championships well and what I liked about him is that he was really alert, he got into the line of the ball very quickly. If I had to talk about Darren five years previously, when he was at Motherwell or at Charlton, then I would have said he needed to get his fitness levels up and to get sharper. I think he's stepped up. "I think we're in a really good position now. He was left out of the West Ham team, which was a wee bit disappointing for him, but the pressure is so much on these teams now. If you make one or two mistakes you are out. In our day, you could make ten mistakes and you were still there. That's changed.

"He'll have time with the Ireland squad, two weeks together. He knows what it takes to play at that level and I think he's old enough now to handle all of that. He's in a different position now than he was three years ago - that's for sure. People will come looking for him (if he remains on sidelines at West Ham)." Rob Elliot and Keiren Westwood are the leading alternatives with the former back fit and contributing to the end of Newcastle's promotion challenge and the latter starring for Sheffield Wednesday who meet Huddersfield in their play-off semi final second leg tonight. As a former incumbent of the role, Bonner is quite satisfied with Ireland's lot post-Shay Given and it's the striking situation that troubles him. We haven't got Robbie Keane who was an out-and-out goalscorer," he continued. "The rest are much of a muchness. Now we have to look at midfielders, guys like James McClean, are scoring goals so we've to move it around."

One player he would like to see get a run is Aberdeen's Adam Rooney, a player he watches regularly in his work as a TV pundit in Scotland. However, he wonders if the Dubliner falls between two stools in terms of what Martin O'Neill is looking for. "Adam is not quite 6' 2'' - he's not Daryl Murphy and maybe that's what Martin is looking at also. And he's not the quickest either..
"What he can do is get himself into really good areas to score goals and Aberdeen are about getting the ball wide and into the box. He's done well at that level. Now can he step up to the next one? "He's good in the air and has a nose for the goal by getting himself into good areas, so he needs good delivery. I would certainly give him a chance from what I've seen."


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