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Premier League

Upson reacts to Sullivan comments

West Ham captain Matthew Upson has dismissed criticism from the club's co-owner David Sullivan as "irrelevant".

In an open letter to fans, posted on the club's official website earlier today, Sullivan unveiled his anger at Tuesday's 3-1 home defeat to Wolves.

Sullivan slammed West Ham's performance as "shambolic" and demanded the team showed its quality against Stoke at the weekend.

The defeat left West Ham deep in trouble at the foot of the table but while Upson admitted Sullivan "is entitled to his beliefs" he said the players would work out the problems with coaches and manager Gianfranco Zola.

"We're doing that and everything else is pretty irrelevant," Upson told BBC Radio Five Live.

"If David Sullivan wants to air his views on the club's website or in public then he does so - he's the chairman.

"I wouldn't say, from a player's point of view, that it helps. But we only concentrate on what we feel is wrong and how the coaches and manager assess the game, what they want us to do.

"And that's what we'll do, because they're in charge of the situation. They're the people we want to listen to."

Zola's West Ham side remain three points clear of the relegation zone following defeat by Wolves but they face another testing home game against Stoke on Saturday.

Upson, 30, made 113 appearances for Birmingham while they were owned by Sullivan and his business partner David Gold, a spell which included relegation from the Barclays Premier League in 2006. The pair have been in charge of West Ham since January and although they have backed Zola, his future after the end of the season remains unclear.

But the players are backing the Italian to come through the latest crisis.

"It's testing times and it tests character, but that's something I think the manager has," said Upson. "It's a big test for him at the moment but I'm sure we'll come out of it."

Many of the club's fans walked out when Wolves went 3-0 up on Tuesday but Sullivan begged for their forgiveness and urged them to get behind the team on Saturday.

"I had no sleep last night, having watched the shambolic performance by the team against Wolves," Sullivan declared.

"I was as angry and upset as every supporter in the stadium at the disorganised way we played, allowing Wolves too much space so that they looked more like Manchester United. This was the culmination of five defeats in a row,

including an appalling performance against Bolton.

"We have a few very talented players in our team, but it is a very unbalanced squad. Individually we have some very good players, but this is not being converted into a good team performance. Nobody at the club should delude

themselves that we are a good team. The table at this stage of the season does not lie.

"However, with some of the outstanding players we have, we can and must do better as a team. I apologise to every supporter for the pathetic showing on Tuesday night but I fully expect a dramatic improvement as we have so much

individual talent.

"I accept that the club is in deep relegation trouble. However, we are a long way from being relegated. With your help we can get out of this and regroup in the summer.

"This is a difficult time. It has been a week to regret but Saturday's result can change that. We need a win, we need you to support us, to forgive us the result against Wolves and to remember what this great club is about.

"The history and tradition of West Ham United, the heritage and the prestige demands we are a Barclays Premier League club. But we have no right to that. We have to earn it. The Academy of Football? Now we have to show that. The manager knows, I know, the players know.

"When I first started supporting West Ham, we had a tradition for playing the game 'the right way'. I will settle for any way right now, as long as it is the winning way!"

Sullivan's co-owner, David Gold, insisted yesterday that coach Zola still has their support as they look to preserve their Barclays Premier League status.