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Yet another rollercoaster of a year!

PUBLISHED: 12:45 02 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:55 05 October 2010

By JONATHAN CLEGG IT was supposed to be a year of stability and consolidation but – as is so often the case at West Ham – 2008 has come to be defined by crisis and calamity. The Hammers began the year in a steady position halfway down the Premier League

By JONATHAN CLEGG

IT was supposed to be a year of stability and consolidation but - as is so often the case at West Ham - 2008 has come to be defined by crisis and calamity.

The Hammers began the year in a steady position halfway down the Premier League table and proceeded to occupy the same 10th place for the final five months of the 2007/08

campaign.

But as they enter January 2009, the club are embroiled in a relegation dogfight with a rookie manager at the helm and financial uncertainty darkening the clouds above Upton Park.

How different it was 12 months ago when Alan Curbishley's side were eyeing a European challenge after Mark Noble's late penalty inspired a memorable home defeat of Liverpool in late January.

The Hammers had lost out in the third round of the FA Cup a fortnight earlier following a 1-0 defeat by Manchester City - City's third victory over West Ham of the season - but European qualification appeared possible on the back of a solid defence and a team capable of grinding out results.

Yet West Ham's rearguard were badly exposed during a miserable three-match spell in March as the club lost three consecutive matches by a 4-0 scoreline, including a dismal derby defeat at White Hart Lane.

In hindsight, that sequence may have been the beginning of the end for Curbishley, who received a vote of confidence from chairman Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson but struggled to retain the faith of the West Ham supporters.

An unforgettable debut by Freddie Sears on March 15, in which the teenage striker wrote his name into West Ham folklore by scoring the winning goal against Blackburn within six minutes of his first-team debut, ensured a measure of goodwill for the remainder of the season.

But the Hammers struggled to perform with any consistency during the final months of the campaign and Curbishley entered the new season firmly on the hotseat following an uninspiring summer in which Freddie Ljungberg, Bobby Zamora and John Pantsil all left the club - with Valon Behrami the only significant addition.

Despite leading West Ham to fourth place at the end of August, the cracks in the relationship between Curbishley and the club became irreparable when Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney were both sold without the manager's approval, prompting Curbishley to resign and kickstarting a chain of unforeseen twists that have rocked the club and the supporters.

Happier days were envisaged when Gianfranco Zola was unveiled as Curbishley's replacement and won his first two matches in charge, yet within weeks of his arrival, the club's sponsor XL had gone bust as the global credit crunch began to creep into football.

Hammers owner Gudmundsson proceeded to suffer a series of significant blows in the economic downturn before the club were shellshocked by the decision of an independent arbitration panel to award Sheffield United up to £30m over the Carlos Tevez affair.

While West Ham became embroiled in legal action in a bid to overturn the verdict, results suffered and the club's slide down the Premier League table compounded a sense of despair among West Ham supporters.

As West Ham enter the new year, Gudmundsson is mulling a sale of the club, rumours of a fire sale of star players persist and Zola struggles to ensure his team stay away from the drop zone.

In short, 2009 looks set to be a year of upheaval at Upton Park. Again.


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