Franco’s a cut above last season’s strikers

WEST HAM boss Gianfranco Zola was full of praise for Mexican striker Guillermo Franco after his best game in claret and blue against Hull City on Saturday. The 33-year-old Argentinian-born striker may be nearing the veteran stage of his career, but unlike

WEST HAM boss Gianfranco Zola was full of praise for Mexican striker Guillermo Franco after his best game in claret and blue against Hull City on Saturday.

The 33-year-old Argentinian-born striker may be nearing the veteran stage of his career, but unlike the duo of Diego Tristan and David Di Michele last season, there seems to be a lot more about Franco as Saturday proved.

He headed West Ham in front after just five minutes of Saturday's game, before setting up number two with a superbly floated 30-yard pass on to the head of Jack Collison, who did the rest.

But there was so much more to the game of the Mexican, who has scored six goals in 19 games for his country, as he thrived playing alongside Carlton Cole up front.


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When Cole was out injured, Franco was expected to lead the line for the Hammers, and that is not a job he is really capable of doing.

But with Cole as the focus of the attack, it enables Franco to have more of a roving commission, something he used to great effect against the Tigers on Saturday.

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He dropped deep to pick up the ball, played some excellent flicks to link-up with the likes of Scott Parker and in particular Junior Stanislas on the wing, while he also seems to be the 'fox in the box' that the Hammers have been looking for.

His boss was delighted with his contribution: "Franco was outstanding," he insisted. "Both Danny Gabbidon and him came in and did very well.

"Franco has been very good for me. I was certainly surprised that Villarreal didn't give him a contract, but maybe there was something else there."

Franco left the Spanish side in the summer after scoring 14 goals in 81 games. He toyed with the idea of returning to Argentina, but when Zola called him, he moved to the Premier League and is now establishing himself.

"He's proving to be a very good player for us," said Zola. "He is an excellent guy, he works very hard and, above all, he's a very intelligent player - he does the right things for the team and I'm really impressed with him."

It is that intelligence that is the key. As was the case with players like Teddy Sheringham, the flesh may be ageing, but if the footballing mind is still working then you can still compete at the top level, as Franco will look to do at the World Cup Finals next summer.

At the moment, two goals in six games for the Hammers, puts the striker only one behind the tally mustered by Tristan last season in 17 games and just two behind Di Michele's 34-game total.

West Ham fans who do not travel will not have seen the best of him yet, but he will be looking to impress come Saturday against Burnley and if he can carry on with the start he has made, then he could prove a real bargain for the Hammers.

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