Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Zola Sent Crashing Back Down to Earth; Hammer Blow: Keeper Jan Lastuvka Misses His Punch as He Comes for a Free-Kick before the Ball Hits Hayden Mullins and Rebounds into the Net

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Zola Sent Crashing Back Down to Earth; Hammer Blow: Keeper Jan Lastuvka Misses His Punch as He Comes for a Free-Kick before the Ball Hits Hayden Mullins and Rebounds into the Net

Article excerpt

Byline: Ken Dyer

WATFORD 1 WEST HAM 0

WHEN you face a potential [pounds sterling]30million payout for past misdemeanours, a decent cup run would not go amiss.

After a particularly bad day at the office for Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson and his fellow West Ham directors, what was needed was a decent performance at Watford and a place in the fourth round of the Carling Cup.

At least that would have given the chairman something to line the club's coffers just in case they are ordered by an independent tribunal to pay Sheffield United over the Carlos Tevez affair.

That door was slammed shut, though, as a lacklustre West Ham went down 1-0 at Vicarage Road.

Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd reported that the club were holding an internal investigation to find out who ran over a black cat following a catalogue of injuries and the infamous 'goal that never was' against Reading.

But if Watford thought they had been unlucky, how about West Ham's Icelandic chief and majority owner of Landsbanki? First the credit crunch, then the collapse of travel operator XL, West Ham's main sponsor and largely funded by Gudmundsson and now the expensive mess that is the Tevez affair ? the billionaire banker must have run over not one black cat but a whole dynasty.

As one club official said at Watford last night: "We've just entered the golden age of Gianfranco Zola and up pops Carlos Tevez again. How's your luck?" The West Ham chairman would be well advised to avoid walking anywhere near ladders just at this time.

On Saturday, West Ham had looked rejuvenated for Zola's Premier League managerial debut against Newcastle.

Three days later, though, and a lot of those same players looked wiped out.

Zola said he hadn't heard about the tribunal's findings and, to be realistic, what happens now is out of his control and beyond his jurisdiction.

The tribunal's verdict in favour of Sheffield United could impact, though, upon Zola in a few months' time.

Should the Hammers face a huge damages payout to Sheffield United, they could be forced to recoup some of that revenue by selling several star players during the January transfer window. …

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