Daring Diamanti adds the sparkle

IT WAS the sort of audacious moment that West Ham fans would associate with Hammers legend Paolo Di Canio, writes DAVE EVANS. With 20 minutes to go, Italian midfielder Alessandro Diamanti collected the ball just inside his own half. A quick pass to releas

IT WAS the sort of audacious moment that West Ham fans would associate with Hammers legend Paolo Di Canio, writes DAVE EVANS.

With 20 minutes to go, Italian midfielder Alessandro Diamanti collected the ball just inside his own half. A quick pass to release Carlton Cole perhaps; a sideways ball to Scott Parker?

No, Diamanti looked up, saw keeper Boaz Myhill off his line and promptly thumped an adventurous shot from 50 yards towards the Hull City goal.

In the end it didn't quite work. It was probably going inches wide and in an case, Myhill got back to tip it behind, but the crowd were off their feet in exaltation over the new cult hero of Upton Park.

"He is the only one crazy enough to do that," said a smiling manager Gianfranco Zola afterwards. "That is the reason why I keep playing him all the time, because I know he can provide something special for us at any moment."

Zola has certainly moulded the 26-year-old Diamanti into a Premier League player since his �5million arrival from Italian side Livorno during the summer.

Most Read

He still sometimes shoots too often and makes the wrong decisions, but that is becoming less frequent now and some of his attacking play against Hull City on Saturday was a wonder to see.

He almost caught goalkeeper Boaz Myhill out with a clever free kick as early as the second minute, while his magnificent run down the left and cross to the head of Valon Behrami would have led to a second, but for a brilliant save from the keeper.

Zola though, is just as happy with another part of the Italian's game.

"What has surprised me about him is that his work-rate has been fantastic," admitted the West Ham boss.

"He is helping the team and he is also playing in a position where he has never played. In Italy he used to play second striker or behind the two strikers in the hole and he didn't work very hard defensively.

"But if you see him now, he works very hard and is massive for the team."

His new work ethic was illustrated early in the second half.

He darted back to dispossess Hull midfielder Craig Fagan, and when the Italian then set off down the left wing, Fagan tugged him back and all but ended the Tigers' hopes by receiving a second yellow card.

Diamanti also went close to scoring on Saturday. Aside from that early free kick, and the 50-yarder, he also volleyed inches wide at the far post in the first half and curled a screamer just over after the break.

"It's important to have a player like that because the other team have to be on their toes at every moment and that is a big thing," said Zola. "Sometimes he does the unpredictable things, but sometimes he makes unpredict-able mistakes.

"He involves the crowd, the team and the manager too!"

Diamanti certainly still has plenty of work to do, especially away from Upton Park. It is on their travels where the West Ham midfielder has struggled to find his feet. It is no coincidence that only one of his seven goals has come away from home and that is something that Zola will work on.

But when Diamanti is in the team, West Ham look dangerous and capable of scoring goals and considering the problems they have had all season, that has to be a good thing.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter