West Ham United’s supporters didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Craig Bellamy scored his third goal in three games to start the fightback which almost earned his club all three points against ex-employers Newcastle United.
A smartly taken effort, borne out of Bellamy’s pace and quick thinking may have been just the boost the Hammers required before half-time.
However, it was yet another finish bound to increase the resolve of Manchester City manager Mark Hughes as he bids to become reunited with the player whose career he reignited during their time together at Blackburn.
Of course Bellamy was not alone in producing the kind of eye-catching performance sure to impress those clubs with money — and put pressure on a club without any.
Scott Parker, another City target, and the England defender Matthew Upson both showed why they are viewed as prime assets in the Premier League.
If a 2-2 draw was well earned at Newcastle then a valuable point may come at an incredible cost. This time next week Bellamy, Parker and Upson could all be playing for new clubs, leaving the debt-ridden Londoners in crisis.
However, if uncertainty abounds at Upton Park these days then West Ham’s manager, Gianfranco Zola, is glowing in his admiration for those players who could quite easily point to intense transfer speculation as a reason for poor form.
In the cases of Bellamy and Parker the rumors surrounding their immediate futures appear to have had the opposite effect.
“There are three players at the center of transfer speculation right now,” Zola said. “But those individuals have been very focused. Craig Bellamy, for instance, is an example of professionalism and his performance against Newcastle was very, very good. I’m confident I can keep all of my players this month because the club is determined to improve.”
“We don’t know whether there will be more players leaving us this month. But we want to keep this team together and we’re working very hard to do just that,” he said.
The performance at St James’ Park mixing freedom and flair with focus delighted the Hammers’ coach and he added: “It’s all down to the attitude, desire and mentality of the players. “They showed a lot of maturity, confidence and self-belief. It’s a pleasure to see them playing like this and I can tell they’re having fun.”
Whether Newcastle’s players or, more importantly their manager, are having fun is a moot point. This was another opportunity to move away from relegation trouble and another chance missed.
One bright spot was Andy Carroll’s first senior goal for his boyhood heroes.
Carroll scored Newcastle’s equalizer with 12 minutes left after goals from Bellamy and Carlton Cole had enabled West Ham to overcome Michael Owen’s early opener for the home side.