Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Even the Man From Del Monte Said…

News broke this afternoon that both Lauren and Ashley Young had reportedly rejected the opportunity to move to West Ham, the latter after a reputed £9.6m fee was agreed with Watford. It should be noted that the voracity of either report is yet to be substantiated by a source more credible than Sky Sports and the Sun. For what it is worth, everything I have been told would seem to suggest that both deals are still a distant possibility so I am treating these latest developments as just another itch from the month long media rash that is the transfer window guess-fest.

Whatever the truth, it is becoming clear that this January transfer window is destined to be an exercise in partial frustration for all Hammers fans still clinging to the hope that an infusion of new blood will resurrect our anaemic season. With expectations heightened by an ambitious chairman, and an endless procession of high profile transfer targets linked by the media, it is all too easy to avert your eyes from the stark reality of our perilous situation. It is hard, at the best of times, for any football fan to conceive of a situation where a player could find joining his club anything other than desirous. When you are then seduced by the promise of a £50 million transfer kitty, when you allow yourself to believe against all reasoned exposition and past experience that globally renowned superstars will forgo untold glory to participate in a relegation scrap at the Boleyn, it can only ever be disheartening to be faced with the eventual signature of a Nigel Quashie. It is like getting your hands on the Keeley Hazel sex tape only to discover that all you can see for most of it is some bloke’s spotty arris. It’s just deflating. Besides, if I want to see an arse take centre stage then all I have to do is picture one of our current back four trying to defend a corner. But I digress.

Frustration in the transfer market at this time is year is hardly a new experience, especially when the situation is as desperate as ours. During the 1987/88 season, back in a time when I felt these things even more keenly, we had another much publicised struggle against the transfer deadline in which a seemingly endless procession of targets rebuffed our increasingly desperate advances. I was thirteen at the time and just at the age to learn about the true nature of rejection. A few weeks earlier, during a slow dance at the school Christmas disco, I had foolishly attempted to slip my hand under Melanie Woolgar’s blouse and received a swift reactionary knee to the bollocks as my reward. Ashen, dizzy and desperately gasping for air, the experience was still not as painful and humiliating as the one played out across the sports pages that winter. John Lyall, armed with a much publicised £1million war-chest, made very public advances towards a succession of available striking targets. Overtures were made to Mick Harford, then Kerry Dixon, Peter Davenport and a few weeks later Kevin Drinkell. Yes, even fucking Kevin Drinkell. In each case the lure of the claret and blue was evidently, painfully resistible and it hurt a lot more than a swift kick to the knackers. This was a far deeper rejection; of the club I hold dear, of the streets I walked, the air I breathed and the values held sacred by my father and his father before him.

Eventually, mercifully, Leroy Rosenior accepted the calling. He arrived as a £275K stop-gap and gleefully plundered the half dozen goals that lifted the club out of danger. On the day of his home debut there was a banner in the Chicken Run that read ‘Even the Man From Del Monte said no to West Ham.’ In many respects Rosenior was a typical West Ham player. He wasn’t the prettiest, the quickest or the most cultured but he had the one thing we need now more desperately than anything else. He had a heart for the fight and willingness to be here. It’s why most West Ham will flick a defiant finger to any player who rejects this club.

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