Hammers Preview - Home, 23rd Sept
After an unforgettable weekend of controversy Watford will be looking forward to getting back to the bread and butter of the league. However, they`ll have to wait until next Saturday for that as West Ham United come knocking in the League Cup. Though it isn`t the most tantalising of ties for either set of fans, nor the neutrals, it`s a crucial fixture for both teams.
Under new management, West Ham United are already Premier League certs according to many Hammers fans, and Gianfranco Zola is the greatest manager since Ron Greenwood. How long that will last is yet to be seen, but making the judgement after one game in charge is a tad premature. However, this team won the World Cup, so lets not argue!
A revered figure in West London already, Zola made his name as a player with Chelsea before returning to Italy for two seasons with basement boys, Cagliari. On retirement, Zola took to coaching with Italy`s U21 side and was the first competitive away boss at the new Wembley when his side took on their English counterparts in a 3-3 thriller. And, if reports are to be believed the diminutive Italian beat fellow countryman and former Italy coach, Roberto Donadoni to the post at Upton Park. Beware Mr Boothroyd!
Just to level out the playing field though, West Ham have about as many walking wounded as the 'Orns. Danny Gabbidon hasn`t been seen for a while now whilst Craig Bellamy and Kieron Dyer keep getting hit with setbacks after spending most of last season sidelined by injury. Dean Ashton recently came back only to do some damage to his ankle so he`ll be out too. David de Michele should start though after two goals at the weekend.
Watford will of course be without Priskin, Doyley, Sadler, Williamson, Francis, Rasiak, Robinson and Liam Henderson. This, plethora, of injuries will dictate the side Aidy Boothroyd puts out and of course the seriousness with which he takes this tie. It will of course be important though with the Hornets not having won in three games now. The League Cup has been a good excuse to put out the kids so far, but the kids are fast-becoming first-team players too.
West Ham players will of course be looking to get one up on their team-mates whilst the new boss settles in else the exit door could follow with the club`s financial situation not that great.
Former Hornet Calum Davenport should start at the back after Anton Ferdinand left for Sunderland whilst competition comes from Matthew Upson and Lucas Neill. New-boy Valon Behrami, an all-action, versatile midfielder could slot in at the back or move into midfield to accommodate Julien Faubert who impressed at right back at the weekend.
Finally injury-free, the French international should be a regular under Zola, his all-action style and committed performances the sort of thing fans and managers adore. If he does start at the back then Scott Parker or Mark Noble will get a start in midfield. Parker is another whose had injury problems but is heading back toward his best this season whilst Mark Noble`s busy doing his John-Joe O`Toole impression, popping up from the Academy and securing a midfield place.
There is also a possibility of Watford-born Jack Collison slotting into midfield for this game whilst forgotten men Hayden Mullins and Nigel Quashie are still on the Upton Park books. Luis Boa Morte is a bit-part player these days having never slotted in under Curbishly.
Up top, Carlton Cole looks likely to lead the line with de Michele playing off him, young gun Freddie Sears might get his opportunity with the Italian being rested dependent on the gaffers Cup ambitions.
In the battle of the skint clubs with cost-cutting at the top of the agenda, I think we`d all rather be in West Ham`s position. But, you can`t join 'em, so we gotta beat 'em!
[A Youthful] Watford
Lee; Mariappa, Bromby, Avinel, Parkes; Gibson, Bangura, Jenkins; Young, Hoskins and Ainsworth
West Ham United
Green; Faubert, Neill (c), Davenport, Ilunga; Parker, Noble, Behrami, Etherington; de Michele; Cole.