Gianfranco Zola's claret-and- blue-print is coming to fruition.
Shortly after he took over the manager's job in September, the Italian vowed to trim West Ham's squad, focus on developing young players and get the team passing the ball, or as Zola put it after Saturday's home-grown victory, "keep it on the carpet". All three criteria were met against a poor Sunderland. Injuries limited Zola's choices but his side recovered from a shaky start to produce some eye-catching football, capped by match-winning contributions from another pair of graduates from the club's academy.
The midfielder Junior Stanislas, 19, opened the scoring on his full debut with a simple tap-in from Luis Boa Morte's pinpoint cross in the first half and centre-half James Tomkins, just turned 20, scored his first for the club eight minutes after the restart with a thumping header from Mark Noble's corner. There could have been more, with Noble, Diego Tristan and David Di Michele pulling the strings, but Phil Bardsley cleared a Stanislas effort off the line and Craig Gordon produced fingertip saves to keep out Matthew Upson and Tomkins after the break.
The assured Tomkins came through last season, but Zola decided to pick Stanislas based on his maturity in a recent game against Chelsea reserves, when he scored a hat-trick. "Chelsea had five senior players in the team and he scored three goals but it wasn't the goals it was the personality and the quality he took on the pitch that convinced me I was going to play him," Zola said.
Stanislas said: "I had some butterflies in my stomach but not any nerves. I've been dreaming about it for years now. I was singing 'Bubbles' [the West Ham anthem] as I waited in the tunnel."
Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia's bubble has long burst. Two points from their last six is relegation form. Asked if it had been wise to take over from Roy Keane, he said: "The players are still good, I am still getting their all."
Goals: Stanislas (42) 1-0; Tomkins (53) 2-0.
West Ham United (4-1-4-1): Green; Spector (J Collins, 73), Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga; Neill; Boa Morte, Noble, Di Michele (Dyer, 81), Stanislas (Lopez, 90); Tristan. Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), Savio, Sears, Payne.
Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Gordon; Bardsley, Ferdinand, D Collins, Ben Haim; Malbranque (Edwards, 75), Leadbitter, Whitehead, Murphy (Jones, 54); Richardson; Cissé. Substitutes not used: Fulop (gk), Nosworthy, Reid, Healy, McShane.
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).
Booked: West Ham Ilunga; Sunderland Whitehead.
Man of the match: Di Michele.
Attendance: 34,761.Reuse content