Donadoni and Collins meet West Ham for talks over vacancy

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The Independent Football

West Ham United yesterday held interviews with Roberto Donadoni and John Collins and were scheduling meetings with others on the seven-strong shortlist to become their new manager – including Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Mancini – in the next two days. The club hope to make an announcement on who will succeed Alan Curbishley by the end of next week.

That would appear to rule out Croatia's Slaven Bilic – who features prominently on the list – but despite public statements from the former defender and from the Croatian Football Association, West Ham have had much more positive responses about the 39-year-old's interest in private. He remains on their list.

West Ham have, however, discounted the former Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier, who was on the original shortlist and was extremely keen to be considered, and he may have been replaced by the former Ajax and Denmark coach Morten Olsen. Another Dane, Michael Laudrup, is also on the list and West Ham, who are not considering Paolo Di Canio, Harry Redknapp or Stuart Pearce, were yesterday fielding inquiries from agents representing other coaches.

West Ham's technical director, Gianluca Nani, and their chief executive, Scott Duxbury, yesterday held the first interviews, talking to both Donadoni, the former Italy coach, and Collins at Upton Park, after both immediately accepted the offer to be interviewed. Club sources insisted that they spoke to the pair first because of scheduling reasons and insisted that they should not necessarily be regarded as the favourites.

Both Zola and Mancini, for example, have reacted enthusiastically to being contacted by the club. Representatives acting for Mancini, the former Internazionale coach, moved quickly yesterday to reassure the club that comments purported to come from one of his agents, ruling him out, were incorrect.

After this weekend, West Ham will quickly move to a reduced shortlist of two or three candidates. They might still include Bilic although, as a source pointed out yesterday, while the club understands the sensitivities surrounding him, with Croatia having two vital World Cup qualification games in the next week, they need to have some clarity.

There have been suggestions from the Bilic camp that he may want to wait until after his country's first four qualification games before taking up the post. If that is the case then West Ham will look elsewhere but they insisted yesterday that their private soundings still gave them grounds for hope.

Collins is the only Briton on the list and even he has great experience of European football, having played for Monaco. The list indicates the direction in which the club wants to go with a coach, who will develop the squad, and organisation along Continental lines.

West Ham announced yesterday that they have signed the Uruguayan international left-back Walter Lopez. Because the 22-year-old, who has agreed a one-year deal, is a free agent after leaving the Argentine club River Plate he can move outside the transfer window. However, the club's hopes of securing the Ghanaian midfielder Stephen Appiah, who is also a free agent, appear to be fading.

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