Zola prepares to cut fringe players in bid to keep stars

PUBLISHED: 10:56 08 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:56 05 October 2010

West Ham duo Matthew Etherington and Calum Davenport are poised to leave Upton Park this week as Gianfranco Zola prepares to offload a number of fringe players in a bid to keep his top stars at the club

By Jonathan Clegg

West Ham duo Matthew Etherington and Calum Davenport are poised to leave Upton Park this week as Gianfranco Zola prepares to offload a number of fringe players in a bid to keep his top stars at the club.

The Hammers boss has agreed to sell Etherington to Stoke for £4m while Davenport is on the verge of a £3m move to Bolton, lifting the pressure on the cash-strapped club to raise funds by cashing in on their most valuable players.

Zola's determination to resist offers for his prize assets was underlined this week after West Ham knocked back bids for Craig Bellamy, Scott Parker and Matthew Upson within days of the start of the January transfer window.

Bellamy and Parker were the subject of a joint £15m offer from mega-rich Manchester City, while Aston Villa have been rebuffed after making an enquiry over £11m-rated Upson.

Fears that West Ham would be forced to sell the trio of players - as well as goalkeeper Robert Green - have been calmed by the imminent departures of Etherington and Davenport.

The Hammers are now confident that their most valuable players will remain at Upton Park and help the club in their battle against relegation, although further fringe players could be sold to trim the wage bill and reduce the size of the first-team squad.

Zola is keen to establish a squad of 23 players and assistant manager Steve Clarke this week outlined the benefits of working with a smaller group of players on the training ground.

"Ideally you want 20 outfield players and three goalkeepers and at the moment we are operating with 26 and three keepers, which is a little bit too much," Clarke said.

"You can't have an 11 v 11 match in training - it doesn't work in terms of organising - so it is better to have smaller numbers. You can work better with your team that way."

Midfielders Lee Bowyer, Nigel Quashie and Luis Boa Morte could be sold to achieve that aim, though any further transfer funds are likely to be reinvested in new recruits.

Hammers technical director Gianluca Nani hopes to complete a double-deal for Brescia pair Salomon Bartosz and Savio Nsereko this month, with the highly-rated teenage pair likely to be loaned back to the Italian club until the summer.

"Gianluca Nani knows very well the qualities of Savio," Nsereko's agent Patrick Bastianelli said this week. "We talked about Savio no more than a week ago. In those talks Gianluca confirmed his will, and that of Zola's, to bring the player to West Ham.

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