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Crucial time for Hammers

David Gold

Chairman David Gold believes West Ham are entering one of the most crucial periods of their 116-year history.

The Hammers tackle Nottingham Forest in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday but then turn their attentions back to a fierce relegation dogfight. West Ham are bottom of the table and have just 14 games in which to preserve their top-flight status, a vital achievement given the club's debts and their plans to move into the Olympic Stadium.

"The next 14 games will be as important a 14 games as there have been in the history of the football club," Gold said.

"Avram Grant's job is to keep West Ham in the Premier League. That is what his whole life and endeavours will be focused on achieving.

"Nobody can leave. You can see our situation. We would fight off any club pursuing our players. Robbie Keane is a player we greatly admire. He is clearly available and quality players rarely are.

"We see him as potential acquisition. We are looking at all players that are available from top-quality clubs."

Gold insisted he never considered sacking Grant, whose position as manager has been under intense scrutiny since Christmas.

Reports suggested that West Ham had lined up Martin O'Neill to replace Grant, only for the former Aston Villa boss to turn down the job. Speculation was rife that Grant would be sacked following a board meeting on January 12. The following Tuesday the board issued a vote of confidence in the manager.

"There are people out there who are mischief making and that is all very sad. I can tell you now that we have a board that is fully behind Avram," Gold said.

"There was all that furore over Avram when we had that board meeting. I can promise you, Avram's name did not even come up in the board room. We have a major board meeting every two or three months and Avram's name did not come up in the meeting. I think that speaks volumes. He's our man."