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Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

David Sullivan issues plea to West Ham fans

Gianfranco Zola
Zola guided the Hammers to ninth in the Premier League last season

West Ham co-owner David Sullivan has made an emotional plea for Hammers fans to get behind their relegation-haunted team when they face Stoke on Saturday.

Gianfranco Zola's side remain only three points off the drop zone after a 3-1 loss at home to Wolves on Tuesday.

In a letter to fans, Sullivan said: "We need you to support us, to forgive us the result against Wolves and to remember what this great club is about.

"With your help we can get out of this and regroup in the summer."

However, in the midst of his rallying call, Sullivan's statement on the club's website also contained numerous stinging criticisms of Zola's team in the wake of the defeat by Wolves.

"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," the statement read.

"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."

In what was expected to be a much tighter encounter at Upton Park on Tuesday, Wolves, also battling the drop, outplayed a lifeless West Ham side as goals from Kevin Doyle, Ronald Zubar and Matthew Jarvis put Mick McCarthy's team 3-0 up after barely an hour.

David Sullivan
Sullivan was in the stands at Upton Park for the Wolves loss

Guillermo Franco notched a late consolation for the home team, but by then thousands of home fans had headed for the exit, while others vented their fury at Zola with chants of "You're getting sacked in the morning".

Sullivan, though, insists that he and fellow co-owner David Gold will resist the temptation to install a new manager, as fellow strugglers Hull have done in replacing Phil Brown with Iain Dowie.

"I don't think bringing in an Iain Dowie mark II will make us a better team," said former Birmingham owner Sullivan before Thursday's statement.

Instead, Sullivan hopes that a sense of unity amongst the Hammers' faithful can have a positive effect on Zola's beleaguered charges.

"Saturday may be tense, on Saturday you will feel anxious and, at times, unsettled. I ask that we try not to transmit that on to the field, that we get behind the team and provide them with a platform. The rest is up to them," his statement continued.

The impassioned plea also attempted to invoke the club's history with references to past Upton Park favourites such as Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst, Sir Trevor Brooking and Frank McAvennie.

"Now we need this team to show their quality. Now we need this team to show their talent, their desire, their passion, their dare," it read. "Now we need new heroes."

Former Chelsea star Zola was appointed as Alan Curbishley's successor in September 2008 and signed a new contract to keep him at the club until 2013, seven months later before leading the club to a ninth place league finish.

Failure to beat the drop could, of course, see Zola exit the east London club but Sullivan has refused to speculate on what may happen beyond the end of this campaign.

Asked whether Zola would leave at the end of the season, he replied: "I wouldn't like to comment on that. Who knows?


"He could look like a hero or a dunce. If he wins the next seven games he looks like the best manager of all time. If he loses the next seven games he's the worst manager of all time.

"Three of the five defeats we've just suffered were expected. But to lose at home to Bolton and Wolverhampton in consecutive home games is appalling. I think we all accept that.

"But we will see what he is made of in the next few games."

Sullivan's plea to the fans and challenge to Zola and his players failed to find favour all supporters, including former prospective West Ham owner Tony Fernandes.

The AirAsia tycoon and Lotus F1 team boss said on his Twitter site: "Don't understand the new owners of West Ham. Saw a letter they sent the fans. They should stay out and let the manager manage."

After the visit of Stoke at the weekend, the Hammers travel to in-form Europa League qualification hopefuls Everton the following weekend.

They entertain Sunderland on 10 April before they go back to Merseyside to play Liverpool.

West Ham's last three games are at home to Wigan, away to Fulham and, finally, against Manchester City at Upton Park on 9 May.

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see also
Upson dismisses Sullivan comments
25 Mar 10 |  West Ham
Hammers can avoid drop - Sullivan
24 Mar 10 |  Premier League
West Ham 1-3 Wolves
23 Mar 10 |  Premier League
Tuesday football as it happened
23 Mar 10 |  Football

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