Why Benni’s West Ham move could be a big step in the di­rec­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODHANGOUTS -

SO Benni McCarthy has fi­nally ar­rived in the promised land. Lon­don, Eng­land, the cap­i­tal of the world, home to the bright lights and big smoke.

Af­ter years of try­ing to find a job with a lead­ing foot­ball club in the city, he finds him­self at West Ham United, in east Lon­don.

It’s not Chelsea, who he so pub­licly courted, es­pe­cially in the days when Jose Mour­inho was the man­ager.

The Spe­cial One, of course, was the boss at Porto when McCarthy played in Por­tu­gal, so the pre­sump­tion was that when Mour­inho landed in Lon­don he’d take all of his old stal­warts with him.

He took a few, Ri­cardo Car­valho, Paolo Fer­reira and Deco in­cluded, but left McCarthy be­hind.

McCarthy is now 32-years-old and West Ham is most cer­tainly his last hur­rah at a top club.

He won’t be fazed by the sting­ing send-off de­liv­ered by Sam Al­lardyce, the Black­burn Rovers boss, who left no one in any doubt as to what he thought of the trans­fer in the days be­fore the Jan­uary win­dow closes.

On face value McCarthy’s move makes sense – he claims to want more reg­u­lar game time and not be rel­e­gated to the bench, al­though he started four of the last seven Rovers matches – be­cause he wants to be lean, mean and hun­gry when the 2010 World Cup comes along.

How­ever, “Big Sam,” a tough-as-teak north­erner, typ­i­cally pulled no punches in his as­sess­ment.

He reck­oned “some­one had got in Benni’s ear” and that the move had noth­ing to do with foot­balling rea­sons, but ev­ery­thing with money.

The trans­fer it­self was said to be just over the £2-mil­lion mark, which is a stag­ger­ing amount for a 32-year-old striker whose at­ti­tude and fit­ness – both at club and in­ter­na­tional level – has of­ten been called into ques­tion.

McCarthy has gone from a club in 11th po­si­tion on the English Premier­ship ta­ble to one ly­ing 16th, and only out of the drop zone on goal dif­fer­ence.

There are three Lon­don clubs in the top four, while Ful­ham are ninth which makes the Ham­mers com­fort­ably the cap­i­tal’s Premier­ship strug­glers.

That’s go­ing to heap the pres­sure on the Bafana Bafana striker and he’s go­ing to find that while the man­ager, Gian­franco Zola, might have the out­ward de­meanour of a laid-back jester, in­side him there is a fire that rages.

Zola, it must be re­mem­bered from his dis­tin­guished Chelsea ca­reer, was one of the hard­est-work­ing, fittest play­ers around, and as a man­ager he now de­mands that from his play­ers.

If he is able to get McCarthy into shape – and let’s be frank, the South African has been car­ry­ing ex­cess bag­gage for some time now – that can only be to Bafana Bafana’s ben­e­fit at the World Cup, be­cause the hosts are go­ing to need their most ex­pe­ri­enced striker to be at the peak of his pow­ers. The Lon­don fac­tor wor­ries me how­ever. McCarthy has played and lived in South Africa, Hol­land, Spain, Por­tu­gal and Eng­land, but there is no place quite like Lon­don. The bright lights are a mag­net for the rich and fa­mous – and McCarthy is just that.

It’s go­ing to re­quire huge dis­ci­pline from him to stay on the straight and nar­row, es­pe­cially af­ter the ini­tial “nov­elty” of the move wears off.

Then there’s the small mat­ter of try­ing to score the goals that help West Ham re­tain their Premier­ship sta­tus at the end of the sea­son. McCarthy, un­der­stand­ably, will be de­lighted by the trans­fer, but Ham­mers man­ager Zola ob­vi­ously has a big task on his hands get­ting the best out of the player, where many oth­ers – Sam Al­lardyce be­ing the lat­est – have failed.

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