Italian shapes up to be new West Ham cult hero

HE CAN T speak a word of English, he has played less than half an hour in claret and blue, but for many West Ham fans, new boy Alessandro Diamanti is already a firm favourite. He just looks the part. The 26-year-old former Livorno striker, whose fee could

HE CAN'T speak a word of English, he has played less than half an hour in claret and blue, but for many West Ham fans, new boy Alessandro Diamanti is already a firm favourite.

He just looks the part. The 26-year-old former Livorno striker, whose fee could rise to as much as �6million, is already starting to pay some of that money back after he lit up the DW Stadium stage on Saturday, becoming the 800th player to play for West Ham at the same time.

His hair looks as if he has placed his finger in an electric socket, but it was the Wigan defence that were shocked by the efforts of West Ham's little 'Diamond' almost from the moment he came on in the 63rd minute.

Diamanti had already shown his credentials last Tuesday in West Ham's reserve team clash against Birmingham City at Upton Park.

The Italian scored two stunning free kicks in a 6-0 rout of the hapless Midlanders and many fans were expecting him to go straight into the side for Saturday's trip.

Manager Gianfranco Zola however, was more cautious with his new acquisition.

Most Read

"I was tempted to start him, but I thought he could have a better impact coming off the bench, so he could have a look at what he was going to face today, and it nearly worked," said the boss.

It nearly did. First Diamanti hit a superb free kick over the wall to leave Chris Kirkland motionless in the Wigan goal, as the ball slipped inches past his left-hand post.

Then he showed his audacity as he collected the ball on the left, close to the corner flag, looked up and curled a shot past Kirkland which crashed into the far post.

Just as significant was a clever pass that almost allowed Scott Parker to equalise, while at one moment the Italian was flattened by a Hendry Thomas challenge.

However, while some foreign stars may well have been left writhing on the ground in supposed agony, Diamanti was back on his feet in a matter of seconds and looking to regain possession.

"He has got some qualities which are very important to the team," emphasised Zola. "He went very close, first with the free kick and then with that shot.

"He has got quality and he will be a good asset for us. He just needs some time to get used to the Premier League pace which is very much different to the one in Italy."

Maybe he does, but after two splendid performances in claret and blue, the temptation for Zola to throw him in from the start against Liverpool on Saturday may be too much to resist.

The need for the team to get a result against Liverpool may well be the deciding factor though and that should mean a first start for West Ham's little 'Diamond'.

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