West Ham's disastrous search for a new manager ended yesterday with the club issuing a public show of support for Avram Grant – for the time being – after Martin O'Neill and Sam Allardyce both signalled they were not interested in taking over the Premier League's bottom-placed club.
After four days in which Grant had seemed fatally undermined, especially when he appeared to be a lame duck during his side's defeat to Arsenal on Saturday, the club issued a brief statement in support of their manager. "The club are committed to retaining Avram Grant as manager and have identified potential transfer targets to give us the best possible chance of retaining Premier League status."
In the meantime, the club's owners also raised their efforts to offload Benni McCarthy, the club's most embarrassing signing of the last 12 months, to Queen's Park Rangers. The South African, who unaccountably was given a two-and-a-half-year contract last January and is yet to score a goal for West Ham, played yesterday for QPR reserves against their Spurs counterparts at Tottenham's Chigwell training ground.
The club also said that they intended to take legal action over allegations vice-chairman Karren Brady had tried to encourage players to undermine Grant. Brady has in the past made no secret of the fact that it was not her choice to appoint Grant but neither she nor the club's co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan have been able to find a viable alternative.
As the club now contemplate fighting for their survival in the Premier League, they are expected to make efforts to bring players in before the end of the month. The deal for Steven Sidwell was abandoned when it looked like O'Neill was to replace Grant, and the midfielder has since joined Fulham, but West Ham are again in the market for players.
Among those being looked at is the Paris St-Germain striker Peguy Luyindula, who is available but comes with the dubious record of having failed to score for his club in 18 league games this season. Luyindula, 31, said that he was amenable to a move. "They [West Ham] should discuss it with PSG. I could shoot my mouth off and create a showdown, but this is not my state of mind."
The club are hopeful that McCarthy will join Championship leaders QPR on loan to the end of the season, which will ease some of the burden on their wage bill. The reports of McCarthy's performance yesterday was that the 33-year-old looked trimmer than he has done in some time.
It fell to Sullivan to claim that Grant had the board's backing and that it was not simply a case of there being no viable alternative. Sullivan said: "The entire board is 100 per cent behind Avram. He is a really decent person who deserves our support.
"West Ham United is a club that does the right thing and the right thing at this time is to support the manager. We will do all we can to bring in players over the next 12 days and, once we have achieved that, we hope it will keep us up. I urge all supporters to rally behind the club at this difficult time."
Having been offered a short-term deal until the end of the season, O'Neill began having reservations about taking the West Ham job on Saturday when it became public knowledge that he was on the brink of succeeding Grant. Since then he has backed away from the offer. As for Allardyce, he regarded it as a non-starter and will wait until the summer to assess his options.