Clarke in line to take Zola’s job
Gianfranco Zola is now expected to remain in charge of West Ham United until the end of the season with the club understood to be considering appointing his assistant Steve Clarke as the new manager in the summer.
By Jason Burt
Also under consideration is former England manager Steve McClaren, although he would be in the running to take over from Zola only if West Ham were to remain in the Premier League. Clarke, it’s understood, may take the job if they are relegated.
More importantly the Scot has also made no secret that he would also like the opportunity to manage a club, rather than be an assistant, and this was part of his motivation for joining West Ham from Chelsea.
He earns £900,000 a year, a high salary for an assistant, but one which also reflects the fact that he has greater duties than are usually associated with the role.
West Ham’s co-chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold, who have a controlling 50 per cent interest in the club, are therefore pondering whether to give Clarke the opportunity to stake a claim.
However they would also like to lure McClaren from the Dutch club Twente, where he has quickly re-built his reputation as a coach, although it would mean he would have to turn his back on the possibility of Champions League football.
McClaren also knows that his stock is continuing to grow at Twente and there may be some nervousness at joining West Ham given the club’s financial state and the clear indications that the likes of Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Valon Behrami are to leave at the end of the season.
Sullivan maintains that, with six games to go and West Ham desperately fighting to avoid relegation, he has given no consideration as to who will be the manager next season.
It does seem certain that, even if he were to win all those games, that man is not going to be Zola, who returned to Sardinia last Sunday, following the home defeat to Stoke City, to consider whether or not he should quit the club immediately.
It appears that Sullivan has little faith in the Italian, and he maintains that the shareholders’ agreement he signed when he bought half the club in January does not preclude him from sacking Zola. Zola is likely to spare him having to do that and is believed to be set to walk out at the end of the campaign.
He is torn as to what to do having decided that he did not want to leave now and to be deemed a failure in what is his first job in management. Nevertheless his relationship with Sullivan has been strained, almost from the start.
West Ham yesterday wrote to the Premier League to ask for their “thoughts” on Fulham’s decision to play a weakened team last weekend against Hull City.
Fulham still have an outstanding claim against West Ham for the merit money they believe they missed out on, in finishing lower in the table, because of the Carlos Tevez affair.