By JAMES CLARK
Saturday, January 31, 2009
A Tremendous Run, And Still In The FA Cup
By JAMES CLARK
Good times all around in East London, in a footballing sense, and we have a tight-knit squad and the coaching/managerial talents of assistant Steve Clarke and head man Gianfranco Zola, respectively, to thank for that right now. Unbeaten in 8 after Saturday's nil-nil result carved out against Arsenal at The Emirates, the Hammers are finding themselves as the 2008-09 season head into what's commonly known as the "business end." Let's start at the back -- you can't say enough abut the quintet of goalkeeper Rob Green, outside backs Herita Ilunga and Lucas Neill and, most importantly, the center-back pairing of Matty Upson and James Collins. Seriously, other than the fact that he represented homegrown talent, does anyone miss the erratic form of Anton Ferdinand? He was a touch-stone for us at Championship level and during that blissful first year back in the Prem, but Upson and Collins are the real deal. These guys don't let opposition strikers get a sniff. As stated before in this space, Collins' forehead is a ball magnet, and Upson must use his arms for balance more noticably than any defeder in the top flight. When you think of Iluga's play, does anyone really miss George McCartney? Or, more importantly, does the sale of Macca to Sunderland really stand up as a reason for Alan Curbishley to resign his position? And that's a good transition to Curbs' ridiculous views on the acquisition of Italian striker Davide Di Michele, which have also been documented here. After a week in which Zola and Clarke have sung No. 32's praises, it's easy to see that Upton Park needed the fresh eyes of Zola and technical director Gianluca Nani to make a push for the UEFA Cup places. Plus, a home tie in the fifth round of the Cup v. Middlesbrough puts us in great position to reach the final 8 (round 6). Also, factor in the continued good form of Coley plus the capture of club-record signing Savio Nsereko, and all signs point upward for the Hammers. No wonder !! my personal life is in such shambes. Oh, well, as they say ... Fortune's always hiding!!