It seemed that desperate times were calling for desperate remedies at West Ham's Chadwell Heath training ground yesterday. As the players who have now lost eight matches on the spin completed their training for tomorrow's crucial home game against Blackburn they were presented with the sight of three men in England's 1966 World Cup-winning kit, each with a white number 10 on the back of his red shirt.
One had to presume that the unexplained appearances were part of some newspaper stunt. But the prospect of deploying three Geoff Hursts at the peak of their game is not something that the club's beleaguered manager, Alan Pardew, would turn down right now as he contemplates a game which, even by his own estimation, carries that ominous tag of "must win".
The sign which greets West Ham's personnel as they troop towards the showers reads "Scrape boots here please!", but "boots" might as well be replaced by "points" at this parlous stage of the season as Pardew's profoundly unsettled players seek to erase the memory of Tuesday's ignominious Carling Cup defeat at Chesterfield.
The admirable Pardew faced the press once more and said pretty much all a man could say in his position, given that the most probable cause of West Ham's malaise, a protracted process involving a possible takeover, is not something he can directly affect.
"You can't take away from the fact that it's been a big factor, but I've said before that you can't use those sort of things as an excuse," he said. "If there's anything to be changed, you'd rather it was sooner than later. But it's out of my control."
Pardew said he was able to draw encouragement from the way both he and his players had overcome previous trials of nerve, notably when they regained their Premiership status by succeeding in the play-off final where they had failed the year before. The manager, who is the bookies' favourite to be next Premiership casualty, added that he had received numerous messages of support from figures in the game, including some words from his counterpart tomorrow, Blackburn's Mark Hughes. "In his early years there was some criticism but he came through that," Hughes said. "He will be stronger because of that and he will be able to deal with that I'm sure."
Pardew is not the only man to be looking anxiously over his shoulder at the moment given the feverish atmosphere of speculation which is currently enveloping at least three other managers - all of whom, coincidentally, have West Ham connections.
Stuart Pearce, who ended his playing career at Upton Park, is under increasing pressure this week after comments made by his chairman at Manchester City, John Wardle, who has warned that last season's placing of 15th would not be good enough this season.
Meanwhile, the former West Ham forward Iain Dowie and Pardew's predecessor at Upton Park, Glenn Roeder, face each other as they seek to halt the slump in fortunes of Charlton Athletic - who have lost seven of their last nine games - and Newcastle United respectively. Roeder, whose team have taken just seven from the last 27 Premiership points, reflected yesterday upon the intensifying nature of a manager's job. "That's the world of football we live in now," he said. "The hype grows from season to season and we accept that."
Roeder might accept it, but Sir Alex Ferguson, who has guided Manchester United's fortunes for two decades, does not. After receiving an award from the League Managers' Association, Ferguson went on to the offensive yesterday in support of his fellow managers - 42 of whom have parted company with their clubs since last season.
"There is no evidence that sacking a manager gives you success," Ferguson said. "But there is good evidence that sticking with your manager works. There are good examples such as Brian Clough, Arsène Wenger and myself. There is less patience than even five years ago. Managers are under pressure after just half-a-dozen games and that can't be good for the morale of a football club. Some clubs are run by very successful businessmen but they can't apply their own business methods to football - it is such an emotional game."Reuse content