West Ham United Vs Stoke City, Sat 27 Mar 2010

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Football News

West Ham will be without striker Guillermo Franco (Achilles) and defender James Tomkins (ankle) for the clash with Stoke at Upton Park.

Defender Manuel da Costa returns from a three-match suspension, while Danny Gabbidon and Kieron Dyer are both fit again after missing the midweek home defeat by Wolves.

Herita Ilunga and Jack Collison (both knee) will miss the Barclays Premier League match.

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola maintains the time for talk is over as he looks to guide his side to safety - but believes the public criticism of the team from co-owner David Sullivan could do more "damage" than good.

In an open letter to fans, posted on the club's official website yesterday, Sullivan - who recently completed a takeover at Upton Park along with David Gold - unveiled his anger at the team's 3-1 home defeat to Wolves on Tuesday night, slamming the performance as "shambolic" and "pathetic".

England centre-back Matthew Upson immediately dismissed the comments as "irrelevant" and gave his support to Zola, whose position has come under increasing pressure with the Irons hovering just above the relegation zone.

Zola was less than impressed by the latest turn of events in what has been a rollercoaster season at the Boleyn Ground, but insists his full attention is now on beating Stoke tomorrow.

"The owner is entitled to have his opinion and express it, because he is the owner," said the former Chelsea forward, appointed in September 2008 after Alan Curbishley's departure.

"However, when you use those words, you have to be very careful how you use them because sometimes they can be painful and cause more damage than you can imagine, and that could be the case.

"How will the players be feeling?"

Stoke City

Ryan Shawcross faces a late fitness test ahead of Stoke's trip to London.

Having served a three-match suspension, Shawcross was unable to return to the Potters team for last weekend's match against Tottenham due to a niggling ankle problem which could keep him out once again.

Dean Whitehead will definitely be absent as he serves a one-match ban after being sent off in the Spurs match.

James Beattie and Salif Diao still remain in the treatment room with knee and calf problems respectively.

Stoke midfielder Matthew Etherington believes Zola will keep West Ham up this season and is the right man to take the club forward.

Etherington spent five-and-a-half years there and played briefly under Zola before joining the Potters in January 2009.

The 28-year-old will not be looking to do his former boss any favours when they go head to head but Etherington is confident Zola has what it takes to steer the Hammers away from trouble and on to better things.

"From the three months that I was there with him, I could see that he has a lot of good ideas," Etherington told Press Association Sport.

"He has (assistant) Steve Clarke behind him, who is obviously very experienced from his time with Chelsea, and I think it's the right combination.

"They had a great season last year when they finished ninth and it's been a little bit of a blip this year but I'm sure if they give him the time, then they will be okay and I think they will push on.

"People talk about being too good to go down but I genuinely do feel that West Ham have got enough in their team to stay up."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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