West Ham wobble gives Zola cause for worry

West Ham United 5 Burnley 3
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The Independent Football

Who would be a manager? As Sam Allardyce was beginning his recuperation from a heart complaint last week, academics suggested top-flight coaches will take, on average, 312 weeks to turn grey. "I think the process might be quicker for me," Gianfranco Zola observed, rather mournfully.

Given stadium naming rights are in vogue, perhaps West Ham should play at the Just For Men Arena. As if their well-documented financial problems were not enough, the team also has a habit of making young managers grow old. Having seen two-goal leads twice frittered away in the past four weeks, here they somehow provoked jitters despite opening a five-goal advantage.

The brittle confidence of West Ham's youngsters was exposed in the final 20 minutes, when Steven Fletcher, twice, and Chris Eagles scored for Burnley, despite Steven Caldwell's late dismissal for a professional foul on Zavon Hines. "As a squad we have lost Lucas Neill and James Collins – senior players who know what the Premier League is about," midfielder Scott Parker said. "There are players here who have to step up and take responsibility."

At least there are an abundance of raw materials in east London. Collison is developing into a midfielder of pedigree; Junior Stanislas was confident enough to net from an improbable angle in the 33rd minute; and Giullermo Franco, who headed the fourth, has the kind of silken touch which even Zola would applaud.

Carlton Cole, who converted a 43rd-minute penalty after Robbie Blake sent Jonathan Spector sprawling, is also a force to be reckoned with, although whether he features for West Ham in the coming weeks is questionable. He failed to re-emerge for the second half after sustaining a knee injury, which will be assessed today, allowing Luis Jimenez to assume spot-kick duties when he was brought down by Brian Jensen.

Zola might fear his silver fox era is imminent but Owen Coyle has already beaten him to it, and no wonder. The Irishman has seen Burnley leak 31 goals this term and their commendable commitment to attack is making them a soft touch away.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Spector, Da Costa, Gabbidon, Ilunga; Collison (Faubert, 77), Kovac, Parker, Stanislas; Franco (Jiminez, 59), Cole (Hines, 46). Substitutes not used: Kurucz (gk), Noble, Nouble, Tomkins.

Burnley (4-2-3-1): Jensen; Mears, Caldwell, Carlisle, Jordan (Kalvenes, 55); Alexander (McDonald, 70), Bikey; Eagles, Elliott, Blake (Nugent, 55); Fletcher. Substitutes not used: Penny (gk), Duff, Gudjonsson, Thompson.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: West Ham Ilunga, Kovac; Burnley Jensen.

Sent off: Caldwell (90).

Man of the match: Franco.

Attendance: 34,003.