x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Chris Hughton emerges as favourite to take charge of troubled West Ham

The former Newcastle United manager is tipped to succeed Avram Grant as manager of the relegated Premier League club.

Chris Hughton, the former Newcastle manager, is considered the favourite to return to football management with relegated West Ham.
Chris Hughton, the former Newcastle manager, is considered the favourite to return to football management with relegated West Ham.

LONDON // Chris Hughton, who spent two seasons at West Ham United towards the end of his long playing career, emerged as favourite to succeed Avram Grant as the troubled club's new manager.

Whether Hughton gets the job or it goes to another "British" manager as David Sullivan, the club's co-owner, has implied it will, the new man faces a huge task in restoring the club's pride - as well as the Premier League place West Ham lost on Sunday.

To cap a poor campaign on the field, West Ham's end of season dinner, attended by more than 800 guests in a central London hotel, was marred by a brawl between fans and players and the police being called to the hotel before peace was restored.

Sullivan said British media reports of a mass brawl, which newspapers said was caused by Demba Ba's refusal to sign an autograph, were inaccurate and that the incident had been sparked by a lone fan.

"It was one individual who had too much to drink, sadly a problem in British society," Sullivan said to Sky Sports News. "A player was racially abused by the same drunken supporter, which is not acceptable. Sadly one drunken supporter let the club down.

"The whole incident has been blown out of all proportion".

Grant was sacked within an hour of Sunday's 3-2 defeat at Wigan Athletic which sealed West Ham's relegation.

Dropping into the Championship is little short of calamitous in sporting and financial terms for the club who, despite a trading profit, are still severely in debt following the spending of their previous Icelandic owners.

The current owners, millionaires David Gold and Sullivan, fans since boyhood, bought the controlling interest in West Ham in January last year.

As well as the trauma of their third relegation from the top flight in the last 20 seasons, West Ham's fans are facing the prospect of a not-altogether popular move away from Upton Park, their home for the last 107 years, to the Olympic Stadium after the London Games next year.

Sullivan said that choosing Grant as manager last summer was a "bad selection" by the board.

"Avram is a lovely person but the results sadly speak for themselves that it was a bad selection by the board," Sullivan told The Sun.

The desire to appoint a British manager would rule out a potential return to Upton Park for fans favourite Paolo di Canio, who is Italian.

While di Canio, who achieved cult status during a four year spell with the Hammers from 1999 to 2003 and has a lounge named after him at Upton Park, would certainly be a popular move with supporters, Sullivan believes the 42-year-old Italian's lack of coaching experience would make it difficult to justify ahead of life back in the Championship.

"The problem with Paolo is, although the fans would love it, I am being realistic and he has no experience whatsoever being a manager," Sullivan added.

"If you look at first-season managers the failure rate is enormous.

"If he had done a season anywhere and was, say, top of Serie B in Italy with a team, I would take the chance.

"My heart would say Paolo and the fans would say Paolo - but with someone who's a complete novice as a manager, with no experience, you just can't go with it."

They could well inherit a side without Footballer of the Year Scott Parker, the England goalkeeper Robert Green or the England striker Carlton Cole who are all likely to be sold while West Ham begin to rebuild.