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Pablo Zabaleta has become a cult hero at West Ham United by becoming a crucial player despite his advancing years.

Things are looking up for West Ham under Manuel Pellegrini.

The club are going in the right direction and have their identity back on the pitch.

That means former Manchester City man Zabaleta has seen it all in his short time at West Ham so far.

Before the vast improvement this season, there was a somewhat disastrous move to a new stadium, struggles against relegation and angry supporter protests against the owners.

It has been something of a rollercoaster ride since David Sullivan and David Gold took over the club in 2010.

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Rollercoaster ride under Sullivan and Gold

The duo are adamant they rescued the club from certain administration following the doomed Icelandic ownership.

Many West Ham fans see them as opportunists. Others feel they have done a reasonable job.

There have been more lows than highs in the nine years under their tenure but this is arguably the best shape West Ham have been in since Sullivan and Gold took charge.

Many fans remain divided over the owners, though.

But not Zabaleta, who became the second influential player in a week to speak out in support of the pair in an interview with the club’s official website.

The Argentine fullback agreed with similar sentiments from Andy Carroll last week as he delivered his own verdict on the controversial owners.

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‘The owners have shown so much ambition’

“This season the owners have shown so much ambition by bringing in a successful manager,” Zabaleta told whufc.com.

“Then spending big to add the quality to the team. You can see now that the team is going well.

“I think we need to go step-by-step, and I hope we can continue to play well and make sure we finish the season on a high.

“We need this – we need to try to improve what we have done in the last two seasons, but you can see now when we play against Arsenal, when we play against the big teams, we are still playing in the same way.”

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Credit where it is due?

Credit must be given where it is due and the Hammers have been massively improved under Pellegrini.

It was the kind of ambitious appointment fans wanted to see and they are being rewarded with a distinctive style of play.

A £100 million transfer splurge has helped too.

West Ham have their identity back under Pellegrini and with more astute recruitment look like they could be a real force in years to come.

For that the owners must take some credit. Whether fan favourite Zabaleta will be part of the ride beyond this season remains to be seen.

He has been linked with lucrative coaching roles in the Middle East (Arab News).

One more year, one more year Zabaleta?

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