Must win game! No Noble, Parker a doubt and Cole to be dropped
Avram Grant is considering axing England striker Carlton Cole for the Hammers’ must-win match with Wigan after a behind-the-scenes bust-up, according to ESPNsoccernet sources.
Grant has called a players’ meeting and told his squad that, while criticising the manager is one thing, he cannot tolerate public rebukes for team-mates, a pointed attack on Cole who said he had been starved of chances playing as the lone striker in the first half at Anfield.
Cole’s place in the team for Saturday’s game, which the club have themselves billed as the “save our season” match, is now under threat, with the likelihood of him being dropped down to the bench.
The striker’s future at West Ham is also on the line after he publicly criticised Grant after being ‘hooked’ in the shambles of a game at Anfield.
Grant is sure to ring the changes for the make-or-break game with Wigan, where Scott Parker might be forced to play, even though he is not fully recovered from a bout of flu, because Mark Noble has joined a long injury list after damaging a hip in training.
On the subject of the Anfield defeat, Grant felt that Cole had failed to play to instructions. The player felt isolated in the first half as the lone striker, and while he felt it was better in the second half, Cole complained in an interview with the local paper at being hauled off.
Cole’s comments heaped more pressure on the already under-siege Grant, and could endanger the pact to pull together to try to haul the club off the bottom of the Premier League.
The striker almost left Upton Park in the summer with Liverpool and Sunderland both chasing him, and the club will now be willing to listen to offers to offload the striker called up by Fabio Capello ahead of Kevin Davies for the recent friendly with France.
Grant called all the players together after the Anfield humiliation and there was a frank exchange and a declaration for everyone to pull together. But Cole had already given an interview immediately after the game, where he was critical of the manager’s tactics.
Cole said: “When we changed to 4-4-2 in the second half, I felt more comfortable because someone was up there with me and I felt that we were starting to get on the ball a little more. But then I got taken off and I was like, okay, that’s not what they want me to do. They would rather I stood up there on my own, trying to make nothing happen.”
Grant called another team meeting ahead of the Wigan game, in which the Cole issue was the prime topic of discussion. The outburst could cost the striker his place in the team and possibly any chance of staying at the club, even though Cole apologised for what he said.
Meanwhile, Wally Downes has begun work on the training pitch as defensive coach, and his mission is to discover why West Ham cannot score from dead-ball situations and have conceded from them too often, which has been pinpointed as one of the main reasons the team are rooted at the foot of the Premier League. Downes has not been appointed as Grant’s No 2. Instead he arrives as the defensive specialist.
The Hammers are also examining whether it would be worthwhile bringing in an attacking coach, but there is still a reluctance to hire the maverick Paolo di Canio, even though the Italian legend has expressed his desire to help the team if he can and will be at Upon Park on Saturday.