West Ham have whittled down their shortlist for the vacant manager’s position to six candidates, with Roberto Mancini and Gianfranco Zola thought to be among those rivalling fans’ favourite Slaven Bilic for the job.
As well as former Inter Milan coach Mancini and ex-Chelsea forward Zola, the Hammers’ ambitious list is believed to include former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier and ex-Italy boss Roberto Donadoni.
Directors hope to interview frontrunners to replace Alan Curbishley as early as the weekend, with an appointment due before the match with West Brom on 13 September.
That task was made slightly easier yesterday when England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce and former Cagliari chief Davide Ballardini were ruled out.
Pearce, a former Hammers defender, pledged to see out his contract with the national set-up, while Palermo moved quickly to hire Ballardini, fearing rival interest.
Croatia coach Slaven Bilic, a popular figure among fans during his playing days at Upton Park, is understood to be interested in a return to the club.
The 39-year-old is believed to have been sounded out about the job in the past but yesterday played down speculation about his future.
“The situation is the same as it was on Sunday,” said Bilic, reiterating his commitment to his national team.
“The stories about West Ham do not disturb me. Nothing has changed.”
Former Hammers striker Paolo di Canio yesterday pressed his claims for the job, but is considered an outsider due to his lack of experience.
West Ham vice-chairman Asgeir Fridgeirsson yesterday dismissed Curbishley’s claim that he resigned because Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney were sold behind his back.
He said: “Alan agreed with the plans, but was reluctant to reach difficult decisions about the squad.”
But McCartney, now at Sunderland, said: “Curbishley’s views were that Anton and I weren’t going anywhere. But the club went behind his back and accepted the fees.”