Less than 24 hours after being relegated from the Premier League, West Ham have been rocked by the news that striker Jermain Defoe has submitted a written transfer request.

England Under-21 striker Defoe was one of the few bright lights in an otherwise gloomy season, and has beenn linked with a move to Premier League champions Manchester United.

The 20-year-old said: “As much as I love West Ham United I feel that now is the right time for me to move on in my career. “This is very much a career decision.

“I am very ambitious and hungry to achieve at the highest levels of the game for both club and country.

“The club staff and especially the fans are very dear to me and have been unbelievable in the early part of my career.

“It will always be a special place for me to play.”

West Ham fans will fear Defoe’s decision will be the start of an exodus from the club with Joe Cole, Freddie Kanoute and Michael Carrick, all expected to move in the summer.