Bonzo: Hammers are down but definitely not out

Hammers may have left Manchester with the blues on Saturday, but Billy Bonds reckons that they still have every chance of getting themselves back in the pink at Palermo on Thursday evening.

"It's not a foregone conclusion that West Ham are out of the UEFA Cup," insists the Upton Park legend, who captained the club during the 1975-76 and 1980-81 European Cup Winners' Cup campaigns.

"Last season they showed us that they've got goals in them and they're certainly in with a shout in Sicily, but they'll have to play a lot better than they did against Manchester City.

"When I was playing in Europe, we lost a few away games but we were able to have a real pop at opponents like Den Haag, Eintracht Frankfurt and Castilla when we got them back to Upton Park. Our home record took us through but this time the situation is in reverse.

"Even if West Ham had got a result at City, though, it still would've been hard out in Palermo because they're trailing from the first leg and Italy is never an easy place to go to.

"But although they're up towards the top of Serie A, Palermo aren't one of Italy's best sides and that one-goal lead is vulnerable."

[QUOTE]"Last season they showed us that they've got goals in them and they're certainly in with a shout in Sicily"[/QUOTE]

Bonzo, pictured above with Ron Greenwood and John Lyall after our 1976 Cup Winners' Cup final defeat against Anderlecht in Brussels, made 15 European appearances to become an ever-present during those two challenges on the continent and, although the swashbuckling skipper never crossed swords with any Italians, he stills knows what Alan Pardew's troops can expect in the deep south.

For not only did he play against Fiorentina in the much-maligned Anglo-Italian Cup in the mid-70s but he also managed Hammers in an ill-tempered, enlarged tournament against four Serie B sides in 1992-93.

"We all know what it's like when you play an Italian team," he continues. "They can spoil the game, break things up and slow things down by conceding niggly fouls.

"And it will be interesting to see Palermo's mentality on Thursday night. Will they just decide to sit on what they've already got? Or will they try to get that second goal and kill the tie?

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"If they just stick with the 1-0 lead, that'll just invite West Ham to come onto them looking to nick an away goal and that could prove dangerous because we've seen this Alan Pardew side at its best and when it's playing well there are definitely players who can hurt the Italians."

Certainly, Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano fit into that category. But following the arrival of Pards's Argentinian amigos, Bonzo clearly empathises with the selection dilemma that one of his successors to the Upton Park hot-seat now faces.

"Those two aren't the finished article yet," he observes. "Right now, everyone's saying that they're world class players but they've also got to remember that they're still only 22-years-old.

"Mascherano keeps it simple, wins his tackles and, yes, he looks a good player. He sits in front of the back four and does what Hayden Mullins was doing for the team last year. I'd say that Mascherano's a Steady Eddie who's done well so far.

"Tevez, on the other hand, is going to need time to settle in because it's always difficult for a flair player. I can remember when Thierry Henry first arrived at Arsenal and was shoved out on the left wing. We all thought: 'He's alright, not bad, but he does miss a lot of chances doesn't he?' It takes time to bed in but just look at Henry now!

"So far, Tevez hasn't had the impact that you'd perhaps expect but I think it's asking a lot of him to come into the Premiership and grab a game by the scruff of the neck. Overall, they're two good additions to the squad and their arrival shouldn't affect the team spirit because all clubs are looking to bring in new players all the time.

"Now Saturday's result at City has got to be parked to one side," concludes Bonzo. "We've just got to hope that the defeat wakes this West Ham side up and that the creative players, who can carve out the goals, perform on Thursday night.

"Alan Pardew knows that he's got a job on his hands but it's certainly not an insurmountable task because West Ham have definitely got enough talent to turn things around out there."