The former England manager Steve McClaren is to be sounded out by West Ham about succeeding the club's embattled manager Gianfranco Zola in the summer.
After a remarkable season in the Netherlands, McClaren is one win away from the Dutch title with FC Twente in his second year at the club. West Ham will require the permission of Twente to speak to their coach because McClaren still has one year left to run on his contract.
McClaren, whose team will qualify for the Champions League should they stay ahead of challengers Ajax, has refused to entertain any offers before the end of the season. He knows that should his team beat NAC Breda away on 2 May – or equal or better Ajax's result against NEC Nijmegen – his achievement is likely to make him in demand all over Europe. He is aware of the interest from West Ham.
The club's new owners David Sullivan and David Gold have looked at a number of different options and have used the football agent Barry Silkman as an adviser. Should West Ham stay in the Premier League there should be no difficulty in beating McClaren's wages of around £1m a year at Twente.
Despite McClaren's success in the Netherlands, English clubs are still nervous about the potential reaction from their own fans to appointing McClaren. However, there has also been reported interest in McClaren, 48, from Hamburg in Germany.
McClaren will have to wait two weeks from Twente's win over Feyenoord on Sunday to the final match of the season when their championship destiny is decided. In the interim Ajax play Feyenoord in the Dutch Cup over two legs – the first time the final has been decided that way in 17 years. He is expected to take a view on his future even though first place will qualify Twente for the Champions League and second will earn a place in the competition's third qualifying round.
In the aftermath of his side's 3-0 drubbing at Anfield, Zola apologised to the West Ham fans, who taunted their own team with chants of, "It's just like watching Brazil", during Monday night's defeat. The Italian coach and his No 2 Steve Clarke are well aware that even if they survive in the Premier League they are unlikely to keep their jobs.
Zola said: "I've told the players that we cannot afford to do that again. We made costly mistakes and didn't play very well. Saturday [against Wigan] is very, very important for us. We will be ready. We have four days to prepare and we will be doing it in the best way possible. None of us are pleased about this performance. We can only react, play better and win on Saturday.
"We owe it to you. We have really good supporters who follow us everywhere and last night you were beyond fantastic. I am sorry that we couldn't offer more than what we did. We will put that right on Saturday."Reuse content