Football: West Ham owners confident of keeping Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke as Icelandic court hearing approaches

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• Owner Gudmundsson facing pressure from creditors in Iceland• Club believe management duo will stay despite uncertaintyWest Ham are confident that their management team of Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke are at ease with the uncertainty over the club's long-term future as it seeks a buyer of which there are said to be five or more interested parties, though none is at any advanced stage.On Friday Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, West Ham's Icelandic owner, hopes a Reykjavik court will grant a further three-month extension to the moratorium on his holding company, Hansa, which will prevent creditors - in the form of banks in his homeland - from seizing its assets and forcing the club's sale.Since replacing Alan Curbishley as manager in September Zola has gradually impressed with his ability to produce results - West Ham are now seventh in the Premier League - and his on-field vision for the club. While Clarke's responsibilities centre on the team's defence and overall strategy, Zola has made an impact with his leadership and his keenness to develop the younger players, with the 20-year-old midfielder Jack Collison, the defender James Tomkins and striker Freddie Sears, both 19, tasting regular first-team action."We are confident that the extension will be given," an executive at Upton Park told the Guardian of the Reykjavik hearing, which could last up to seven days."The club has stability of results, Zola and Clarke leading it, and has shown that the investment in players often results in a profit when they leave." Craig Bellamy, George McCartney and John Pantsil are among those all moved on for a greater price. "The court, hopefully, will recognise all this. Also, the best chance of realising the maximum return on any sale of West Ham is to grant a further moratorium."If a three-month extension is granted, it is understood that this will be the final one, which suggests Gudmundsson will hope to sell the club by the first week of June.Zola and Clarke have also attracted speculation that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich might ask them to rejoin the club where they were firm favourites as players in the summer, if Guus Hiddink does not become the permanent head coach. But West Ham are convinced the pair are content in east London."They understand that structures are in place, and that best interests of the club are being taken care of," the executive added.West Ham UnitedPremier Leagueguardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
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