Grim news for South Africa and West Ham as Premier League gears up for whacky Wednesday
SOUTH AFRICA’S already frail World Cup hopes took an alarming turn for the worse this week with the news that West Ham striker Benni McCarthy’s 31-year-old knee may let him down before the big kick off against Mexico in Johannesburg on June 11.
McCarthy, who completed his controversial £2.5m move from Blackburn days before the January transfer window closed, limped off during his West Ham debut at Burnley on Saturday.
He had a glorious chance saved off the line in a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat - and is unavailable for the Hammers in their crucial Premier League clash against Birmingham tomorrow night.
My Upton Park source tells me: “Benny’s not looking good. That knee is a problem. South Arica may bfe in trouble if they think he’s going to be their major World Cup striker.”
The injury is not believed to be related to the knee injury McCarthy suffered against Fulham in November 2007 or any of the long-running problems which have ruled him out of so many internationals for South Africa in recent years.
But coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is insisting he will only pick a fully-fit McCarthy after his repeated spats with the Bafana Bafana (The Boys, The Boys) management.
When McCarthy left Ewood Park after refusing to train during his final days at Blackburn, former boss Sam Allarydyce insisted: “Benni’s not getting any younger. The legs are not quite as good but the talent is still there.
“When he came to Blackburn he scored 23 goals in his first year and hasn’t quite replicated that since.”
McCarthy’s problems add to Parreira’s woes – his side moved up from 85th to 81st in the FIFA rankings this week after friendly wins over Zimbabwe and Swaziland in Durban last month, but they remain the lowest ranked World Cup hosts in history.
While their cricket team celebrates crushing the world’s best Test nation India at Nagpur by an innings and their rugby Springboks hold the World Cup, the football side faces abject failure as they prepare for the biggest sporting event in the Rainbow Nation’s history.
Parreira is in England this week to encourage the Premier League clubs to release their players for a pre-World Cup camp in Brazil next month. With Kevin Pienaar sent off during Everton’s 1-0 defeat in the Merseyside derby defeat against Liverpool on Saturday, it’s been a tough trip
And things aren’t much better at West Ham, where new owners David Sullivan and David Gold – who were in charge at tomorrow’s opponents Birmingham until their buy-out last November – claim to have taken over a club heading for financial meltdown.
Sullivan said today: “One of the player facilitators, a guy who drives players around, is on £50,000 a year, the car park manager is on £70,000 a year. We’ve had to make redundancies and there are more to come.
“We are asking everyone to take a 25 percent pay cut at the end of the season – and any unhappy players will be sold.”
Boss Zola – who has picked up just six points in 10 games - hit out at the timing of Sullivan’s intervention as the club battles against relegation, but the new owners are unlikely to be deterred.
With the club £110m in debt following the Icelandic banking crisis which brought down the previous owners, Sullivan added: "Gianfranco is highly paid and I think all managers in the Premier League are overpaid. I can't believe the contracts I've inherited.
"The club is in a mess and we all have to pull together. If we go down, I can't even consider the situation. "It'll be Armageddon if we are relegated. It'll be worse than Newcastle."
Tomorrow night also sees huge top-of-the-table clashes in the Premier League with Liverpool travelling to Arsenal in the big battle for third place while Manchester United are at Aston Villa and leaders Chelsea go to Everton. And Portsmouth? The Premier's bottom club play Sunderland tonight knowing the club could be wound up in the morning. And that's not wound up as in "highly motivated" it's wound up as in "financially unviable".