Hammers fire sale
In light of West Ham's relegation speculation has already begun regarding a potential fire sale at Upon Park. We look at who might be heading where as the club's board look to cut the cloth accordingly.
By Alex Dunn - Follow me on Twitter @skysportsaldunn. Last Updated: 16/05/11 12:37pm
When Avram Grant's protestations that he wanted to bring messrs Gold and Sullivan back into the boardroom with him fell on deaf ears, the inevitability of having Karren Brady crook a finger in his direction and utter the immortal line 'you're fired' must have dawned on him. Whether Brady donned a Danger Mouse mask to dispense with her nemesis Baron Greenback at the DW Stadium is privy only to those present, but what is less cloaked in secrecy is that the West Ham side which starts next season in the Championship will look very different to the one that trudged off the field on Sunday.
Beleaguered West Ham fans may take solace in talk of multiple exits but despite the fact the majority of those who have donned claret and blue this season have underperformed, there will be no shortage of takers at the Upton Park fire sale. Here, we look at those likely to depart the East End outfit over the summer and ruminate on where they might pitch up next.
While it's fair to say Green has endured a difficult 12 months there will almost certainly be Premier League takers for a goalkeeper who on his day is a largely dependable performer. Green started the season still scarred by his monumental gaffe in South Africa against USA, with a series of mistakes in the first part of the campaign further undermining his confidence. At the DW Stadium on Sunday he was outstanding prior to gifting Charles N'Zogbia a late winner and it is this inconsistency in his game that could put off a top-six outfit enquiring after his services. Aston Villa may be in the market for a keeper as Brad Friedel is not getting any younger, while his best chance of a move further up the pyramid could be at Arsenal - whose problems in this area have been well documented.
While most neutrals wrongly assume it is Scott Parker who wears the captain's armband at Upton Park it is real skipper Upson who could be first out of the exit door. The centre-half shelved contract talks in January and with his existing deal set to expire in the summer, it seems implausible he'll be playing Championship football next season. Although his form has been indifferent at best, some West Ham fans would say that's a generous description, an experienced England international available on a free transfer is rarer than a Robbie Keane goal and as such, there will be plenty of takers. Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp is known to be a fan and given he'll be mulling over the futures of both Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King over the summer, could see Upson as a favourable alternative. Upson was linked with a return to Arsenal in January but going backwards is unlikely to pacify a disgruntled Gunners faithful craving big name signings.
The Football Writers' Player of the Year has had more eulogies written about him than Pippa Middleton's derriere over the past few months. Parker embodies everything West Ham have lacked this season; guts, drive, determination, application, quality. At the DW Stadium he gave an emotional farewell to the travelling band of Hammers, who will bear him no malice whatsoever when he signs off his West Ham career on the final day of the season. David Gold has already conceded he will not stand in his talisman's way should a big offer be lodged and January suitors Spurs will not be the only club hankering after his services. In recent Euro 2012 qualifiers he has excelled and in showing he has the necessary qualities to be a success on the international arena, has opened up a move to a top-four side. Arsenal are crying out for a ball winner to complement the studious promptings of Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere, and the fact Parker teamed up so impressively with the latter while with England will certainly intrigue Arsene Wenger. Sir Alex Ferguson could see him as a suitable alternative to the perma-crocked and almost certainly on his way Owen Hargreaves, while Liverpool are known to be keen and Manchester City aren't exactly short of a few bob either.
While it's fair to say Grant has acquired more boobs in the market than the editor of Playboy, the signing of Ba has proved an unqualified success. Stoke rejected the chance to land the Senegalese hit-man in January when he failed a medical but West Ham took a chance and were rewarded with a series of exciting displays and a goal record that currently reads seven from 12 top flight appearances. His goal-rate at Hoffenheim in Germany was equally impressive and now he has proved his fitness, and ability to cut it in the top flight, Ba could be on the move again in the summer. Sunderland, Blackburn and Newcastle have all been tentatively linked.
Had injury not prevented West Ham's marquee summer signing from having to wait until 21st February to make his debut the club might still be a Premier League outfit today. Since returning to the fray the Germany international has shown all his class, with 52 caps testimony to a player with no shortage of ability. It has been documented that Hitzlsperger has a relegation release clause and with budgets to be cut as the club gears up for the Championship, the highest wage earners will likely be shown the door. When the midfield schemer, with a jackhammer of a left foot, left Aston Villa earlier in his career he said he was open to a return; a declaration that may interest whoever is in the Villa Park dugout next season. Although a player of his calibre is unlikely to be shy of offers.
Dubbed 'Can't Control' by some Hammers supporters exasperated by a season in which he has regressed, Cole looks like a man in desperate need of a change of scene. Under Gianfranco Zola last season he finally looked to be fulfilling the potential that once saw Claudio Ranieri bestow on him the moniker 'Young Lion' during their time together at Chelsea, but this term he has lacked any kind of form whatsoever. On Sunday at Wigan strike partner Keane's profligacy proved contagious as Cole got his feet all wrong when presented with a sitter at 2-2. Fabio Capello remains a fan and when his head is right and playing with confidence, Cole can be a genuine threat in front of goal. Liverpool have been linked in the past but their acquisition of Andy Carroll will likely see him have to scale back his ambition of a move to Merseyside.
Of the rest....
The nomadic Freddie Piquionne is unlikely to fancy a spell chasing lost causes in the Championship at this stage of his career and could jump ship. His goal record is hardly Lineker-esque but with a decent touch and top flight know-how could appeal to newly promoted sides, with QPR the type of club where he might just pitch up next.
Mark Noble is one of the club's most bankable assets but with Parker set to depart, the best chance of an immediate return to the Premier League would be to build a side around the Londoner. A firm favourite with the club's supporters, Noble - along with the likes of James Tomkins, Junior Stanislas, Jordan Spence and Zavon Hines - could be the nucleus of a bright young team that exorcises the memory of the over priced, over paid under performers of recent years.
Danny Gabbidon and Jonathan Spector are both out of contract and the early indications are that the pair will be on the move. Either, indeed both, could do decent jobs in the Championship but it looks as though pastures new await the Wales and USA internationals respectively.
Loan trio Robbie Keane, Wayne Bridge and Victor Obinna will return to their parent clubs after varying degrees of success, while Pablo Barrera will likely look to move on after making just 14 appearances since joining in the summer from UNAM following a bright World Cup showing.
Who should West Ham look to keep? Who should they ship out? Which Premier League clubs will pick the Hammers carcass for cheap signings now relegation has been confirmed? Have your say by filling in the feedback form below...