Thursday, 31 May 2007

Don't Believe The Hype

A rap burgler, false media
We don't need it do we?
It's fake that's what it be to 'ya, dig me?
Don't believe the hype...
The Premier League AGM starts today in London and Paul Kelso believes it will be the liveliest in the organisation's history. With Wigan's chairman Dave Whelan absent on holiday and an arbitration panel set to hear Sheffield United's objections to the failure to deduct points from West Ham in a fortnight, anger over the Tevez affair may not be raised directly, but the issues it threw up will be on the agenda. Writing in his Guardian column, Kelso states that clubs will be asked to approve the inclusion of the controversial rule banning third-party influence in players' contracts to avoid confusion in future, and the chief executive, Richard Scudamore, will canvas views on the anomaly in the loan system that many felt was abused in the case of Tim Howard. A new distribution system for television money will also be discussed. The enhanced TV deal kicks in next season, and with Setanta and Sky competing for the best games there are concerns that less popular clubs will miss out on the 25% share distributed in facility fees for appearing on TV. A compromise will see clubs guaranteed a minimum of 10 "facility fees" - around £5m.

The League require a minimum of 14 votes to change or amend any of their regulations and will seek to make Rule U18 more transparent and so avoid any repeat of the Tevez controversy. Scudamore believes Rule U18 should be made clearer, leaving clubs in no doubt that 'side contracts' regarding the future sale of players owned by third parties should be declared at the time of signing. A Premier League spokesman said: "We are aware of the increasing phenomenon of more South American players being involved with clubs on loan agreements so we will be seeking to make this particular rule more explicit."

The Daily Mail believe Scudamore could be challenged to a live television debate on the Carlos Tevez affair when the meeting convenes. Wigan, Sheffield United, Charlton and Fulham are still threatening legal action against the Premier League in the row over the eligibility of the Argentine striker to play for West Ham, and the so-called 'Gang of Four' are considering the stunt to put pressure on the chief executive. The proposal would have to be tabled by either Wigan or Fulham as neither of the other two aggrieved parties will be invited to the AGM. Sheffield United, who are still refusing to relinquish their 'share' in the Premier League, are expected to turn up for the meeting but in all likelihood will be denied entry and told to request a separate hearing.

Elsewhere, Alan Curbishley has told fans to ignore the heightening transfer speculation in the press. The club has been linked to a series of high-priced targets including Eidur Gudjohnsen, Craig Bellamy, Darren Bent, Tal Ben-Haim and Ecuadorian Carlos Tenorio, with up to a dozen players speculated to be leaving the Hammers in the summer in what has been quoted as a £40m squad overhaul. Curbishley said: "People are assuming and just writing what they want. Of course there will be some changes, there are at every club in the summer. But you have to be sensible and a lot of what is written is just speculation. I am sitting down with the chairman almost everyday and we will do the right thing for this club. As I have said in the past, you will know who's coming in when they're here sitting beside me. That's how I do business."

With than in mind, I probably shouldn't bother mentioning that most of the country's media have gone to town on Scott Parker related stories this morning. The Times say the club are at the head of the queue for the Newcastle skipper, with a £8million fee having been offered. Tottenham are also thought to be interested but have baulked at the player's high wages. The article also states West Ham have told Anton Ferdinand and Bobby Zamora that they will not be allowed to leave. Ferdinand, the defender, has not always seen eye-to-eye with Alan Curbishley and is wanted by Tottenham and Newcastle. But Ferdinand’s blossoming partnership with James Collins persuaded his manager that he has a future at Upton Park. The Daily Mail insist the price for Parker is actually £7million and that the player is set to meet with West Ham officials today after the two clubs agreed a fee. It also reports that chief executive Scott Duxbury was involved in late-night talks with Parker's representatives after Tottenham had declared their interest in the Newcastle captain. The Sun push the price up to £8.5million and suggest that while Parker is heading to Upton Park, another target in Mark Viduka will not be following suit. The Mirror agree with The Sun over the size of the fee and add that Parker's arrival will hasten the departure of Hayden Mullins, with Alan Pardew showing an interest in the player who was his first signing as West Ham boss.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Fun Boy Three's European Tour

Sky Sports are reporting that West Ham have officially tabled a bid of £8.5million for Newcastle United captain Scott Parker. Alan Curbishley is keen to sign Parker as he is a big fan of the England international from their time together at Charlton, while Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce is believed to be willing to let Parker move on as he looks to raise money for his own transfer plans. Those plans are rumoured to include a move for Manchester City misfit Joey Barton, a player who is also another Curbishley target according to a report on KUMB. Barton is believed to favour a move to the capital and would also cost in the region of £8million. Other players on the West Ham shopping list are said to include Darren Bent, for who we have already made a player plus cash offer, Reading left back Nicky Shorey, Middlesbrough striker Mark Viduka and Monaco's Yaya Toure.

Elsewhere, an article in today's Newham Recorder claims Nigel Reo-Coker is resisting the overtures of Tottenham and playing a waiting game in the hope of a move to Manchester United (yeah, right!) or Arsenal this summer. According to Neil Trainis, Spurs are believed to have earmarked the 23-year-old as a potential transfer target but the player's adviser Tony Finnigan says his client, who spent last season embroiled in a relegation tussle, is keen on playing for a club in the Champions League. The article claims West Ham are looking for a fee in the region of £9million for a player who has been rumoured to be unsettled for quite some time. Reo-Coker was thought to have been frustrated with the decision of West Ham officials and previous manager Alan Pardew to deny him a move to Arsenal or Old Trafford on transfer deadline day last year and there have been rumours of the player's unrest ever since. In the subsequent months, Reo-Coker was targeted by a section of the Upton Park faithful, who held him responsible for the club's slump down the Premiership table which culminated in Pardew's sacking. A string of below-par displays were perceived by some to be lethargy on the part of Reo-Coker and he was on the end of vitriolic criticism from former Hammer Julian Dicks who, following the 6-0 New Year's Day Premiership defeat at Reading, insisted he had "spat his dummy out" in the wake of the Hammers' decision not to grant him a transfer.

Nigel Reo-Coker, Anton Ferdinand and Mark Noble have all been included in the England Under-21 squad for the European Championship finals in Holland, which start on June 10. It is especially good news for Noble who makes the squad for the first time, having survived the cull from an initial party of 30 players called up by Stuart Pearce. The official site claims the youngster will be hoping to make his debut in a friendly match against Slovakia, at Norwich City's Carrow Road ground next Tuesday, before England face their opening fixture of the championships against the Czech Republic in Arnhem on Monday 11 June.
The squad in full: Alnwick (Tottenham), Carson (Liverpool), Hart (Man City); Baines (Wigan), Cahill (Aston Villa), Ferdinand (West Ham), Hoyte (Arsenal), Onuoha (Man City), Rosenior (Fulham), Taylor (Newcastle), Whittingham (Cardiff); Bentley (Blackburn), Huddlestone (Tottenham), Milner (Newcastle), Noble (West Ham), Reo-Coker (West Ham), Richardson (Man Utd), Routledge (Tottenham); Derbyshire (Blackburn), Lita (Reading), Nugent (Preston), Vaughan (Everton), Young (Aston Villa).

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Midfield Merry-Go-Round

West Ham boss Alan Curbishley is expected to trigger a midfield merry-go-round by tabling a £7m bid for Newcastle captain Scott Parker according to a report in the Mail. The former Charlton and Chelsea player is believed to want to return to the south, and it is reported Nigel Reo-Coker, who handed in a transfer request at Upton Park on Saturday, could be used as a makeweight in any deal. Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce is thought to prefer Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton, who is also attracting interest from Middlesbrough. In the same paper, Aston Villa have also shown an interest in Reo-Coker. Martin O'Neill will make the first move for the Irons skipper but will not initially meet the West Ham asking price of £8million. Tottenham, Newcastle, Arsenal and Everton are all thought to be monitoring the situation. The Daily Mirror agree, claiming O'Neill will be the first with an official approach and that Reo-Coker would be prepared to discuss to terms with the Midlands club. That would be news to the good people over at The Guardian, who claim Reo-Coker will rebuff all advances in the hope of securing a move to one of the 'Big Four'.

Elsewhere, Alex McLeish has sent out an SOS to Christian Dailly after a call-off crisis left Scotland stripped to the bare bones for the vital Euro 2008 qualifier in the Faroe Islands. Football Genius will meet up with the national squad tomorrow to face Austria in a friendly in Vienna. Dailly revealed he had to rush from a holiday in the Algarve to answer the call of his country. He told the official site: "I was in the Algarve for half-term when I got the call and flew from Faro to Stansted to make it here. By now, everyone will know what it means to me to play for my country. All my stuff was in a locker at West Ham so I had to ask our liaison officer, Richard Simpson, to get some boots for me which he bought in a sports shop in town and I'll have to cope. I was gutted to say the least when I was left out. I now have a game to look forward to and that's all I wanted. I've played in the reserves every week and played in the testimonial against Northampton. I was chilling out on a beach but my mind is right and I'm ready to play. I was annoyed to be left out but I made a vow to myself that I would get back in and I have." He might not be the greatest player in the world but his attitude is, and always been, exemplary. Shame a few of the others players in the current West Ham squad do not follow his example.

Monday, 28 May 2007

It's Good To Talk

A story by John Cross in the Mirror claims Yossi Benayoun thought he was on his way out of the club before signing his fat new five-year contract. In what has been a bad couple of days for Alan Curbishley, Benayoun joined Carlos Tevez in the condemnation of our manager's inter-personal communication skills. "I really wanted to go away from West Ham because I was upset that the manager did not talk to me," said Benayoun, 27. "But that's all finished now. He has told me he wants me to stay in the team and be an important player next season." Even if a massive £50,000 a week contract will go along way to soothing over even the deepest of personal differences, someone really needs to tell Alan that it is good to talk.

Tottenham and Arsenal are ready to renew North London hostilities over the signing of West Ham midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker. A story in the Mail claims there will be a scramble for the England Under-21 international who will be allowed to leave if any club matches the Hammers' £8million valuation on him.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Strained Relations

Carlos Tevez is keen to leave the club because of differences with manager Alan Curbishley, that's according to an exclusive in today's Observer. Jamie Jackson quotes a club insider as saying: "Tevez likes the club and wants to stay, but he won't while Alan Curbishley is the manager. He hasn't forgotten how he was treated when Curbishley first took over from Alan Pardew. He told Tevez he didn't know what his best position was, treated him indifferently in training, and refused to play him at first." Curbishley did leave the 23-year-old on the bench for his first game in charge, a 1-0 win over Manchester United in December, and it was a further month before he named Tevez in a starting line-up in the Premiership. "If there was a change of manager maybe it would be different," the source added, "but Tevez does not think Curbishley knows what he is doing and that he's a bad manager. He wants to play for someone who can further develop his game. Curbishley recognises now that Tevez saved our season, but it's too late." Tevez, who has won 25 caps for Argentina and played for them in last year's World Cup finals, was the subject of a £31million bid from Inter Milan while at Brazilian club Corinthians in 2005, and it is believed that a similar figure will be demanded for him this summer.

There is, as usual, a liberal smattering of West Ham related stories in the Sunday tabloids. The Star and News of the World both claim that Bobby Zamora's future at the club has been assured by the manager. Zamora had feared he would be part of the summer clear out at West Ham but has been told he is still a part of the club's plans. The News of the World insist that Luke Young will join West Ham this summer, a year after a £5 million move to the club was wrecked by a failed medical. Young will be allowed to leave Charlton for £4 million. The People say that Birmingham have had a £2 million offer for Paul Konchesky turned down, with West Ham holding out for almost double that figure. The Star mention the now familiar story that Derby County are interested in Callum Davenport.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Reo Can Go

It is a relatively quiet morning on the West Ham front with most of the newspaper choosing to put a little flesh on the bones of two stories from yesterday. David Bond in The Telegraph confirms Sheffield United are refusing to hand back their 'share' in the Premier League- effectively a membership card- until after the arbitration hearing into the Carlos Tevez controversy. It is claimed the Blades will not relent until they know the outcome of the League's arbitration hearing into the case, which we now know will be held on June 18 and 19, three weeks after next week's annual general meeting. A statement from Sheffield United said: "SUFC today confirmed that it has refused a request by the Premier League to deliver up its share. All Premier League clubs are entitled to a share in the League itself, and Sheffield United's position is that until the arbitration looking into the Tevez matter is resolved, it remains a Premiership club. The club believes if it gives up its share the Premier League cannot be guaranteed to fulfil its promise to return the share should the arbitration reinstate Sheffield United to the Premier League." A league source said yesterday that Sheffield United's share in the league would be unilaterally taken away from them if they refused to hand it over next week. Today, Premier League officials reiterated their stance. "If Sheffield United do not return the share, Premier League rules mean that it will be unilaterally transferred to a promoted club and this will happen at our AGM this coming Thursday," said a spokesman.

The other main story concerns our rumoured interest in Liverpool's Craig Bellamy. The Daily Mail believe West Ham have now joined Aston Villa and Blackburn in the race to sign the player, even though Liverpool have slapped a £12million price tag on the unsettled striker. The Sun go one further and suggest we would have the upper hand in any negotiations
if Bellamy could be used as a makeweight should Liverpool firm up their interest in Hammers hitman Carlos Tevez. The same article also claims Nigel Reo-Coker has been told he has no future at the club. Alan Curbishley is leading his clearout by axeing the team captain in a show of strength; the player being granted a move as long as any buyer meets the £8million asking price. Unsurprisingly, Reo-Coker has a slightly different take on things. The midfielder's advisor Tony Finnigan insisted his client had handed in a transfer request and expressed his surprise that West Ham were willing to let the player leave Upton Park. "I can confirm that Nigel Reo-Coker has officially handed in a transfer request with West Ham United football club," Finnigan told Sky Sports News. "Nigel hopes his future will be resolved in the next few weeks. I am surprised that a 22-year-old Londoner who is captain of his club is being allowed to leave. As I said on Sky Sports in January, Nigel would get his head down and work to keep West Ham in the Premiership. And that is exactly what he did with 100 per cent commitment. At the end of the day he never felt wanted but I am sure he will have a bright future elsewhere." Roy Carroll (believed to be a target for Cardiff City), Paul Konchesky and John Pantsil are other players who have been been told they can go and another player, Hayden Mullins, is one of several targets for Premiership rivals Reading. Rob Green, who has three years left on his current contract, is set to be offered a lucrative new deal.

Finally, there is an interesting interview with West Ham skipper-in-waiting Lucas Neill in the Sunday Telegraph, Australia. He has issued a plea to Mark Viduka to join the West Ham revolution and in the process reveals the club have formally tabled a lucrative offer for the striker's services. The defender landed in Sydney last night ahead of Australia's World Cup qualification rematch against Uruguay and was speaking after a short break in Las Vegas. "I haven't spoken to 'Dukes' yet,'' Neill said last night. "I've tried to ring him a couple of times but I've been on holiday and with the time difference it's been difficult. I'd love him (to come to West Ham). I know him inside and out but defenders hate him. I hope he doesn't stay at Boro but he's a man in demand. I'll help him make that decision but I can't force it. This is probably his last playing contract, so he's deciding where he'll finish his career. One thing you know you're going to get with Australians is a good work ethic and a lot of heart and passion, which the crowd and the chairman love,'' he said. "But you can throw in a bit of skill. We're not mugs any more. We can play on the biggest stage, as all of us have proved. We're talking to Dukes, who's got a great track record in the Premiership, but it doesn't stop there. Its not unimaginable that players like Roberto Carlos end up at West Ham because of his (the chairman's) resources. But it's not about the money. It's about building a star team and not a team of stars. He's not going to throw endless amounts of money around willy-nilly. He wants a team that will gel, so he wants to buy leaders with strong character.''

Friday, 25 May 2007

Animosity Grows

The animosity surrounding the Carlos Tevez affair escalated last night with Fulham signalling their willingness to support Sheffield United formally when the arbitration panel convenes. Fulham director Stuart Benson has written to the Premier League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, outlining his backing for the Blades and his queries about the decision not to deduct points from the east London club for their rule breach. In a fresh twist, Fulham are now threatening further action by informing the Premier League that they intend to "revisit" with leading counsel an application for judicial review in light of the outcome of the arbitration and what appears to be a continuing refusal by the Premier League to conduct a "further investigation as requested in the letter of May 4 from ourselves, Wigan, Sheffield United and Charlton". Benson says that legal experts have been advised of flaws in the independent commission's reasoning process.

According to a report in The Telegraph, the 'hard-hitting letter', poses a series of searching new questions that include:

  • Whether Fulham could join Sheffield as a party in the arbitration.
  • Whether the commission's reasoning was "flawed" because it took into account what Fulham consider to be "irrelevant factors" but ignored what they believe to be "relevant factors".
  • Whether it offered advice about what the appropriate penalty should be, for a transcript of the hearing, and whether penalties imposed for similar breaches were considered.
Fulham also want to know if the arbitration will take place before the AGM of the Premier League next Thursday. Benson wrote: "If the Premier League are seeking to exclude either of these clubs [West Ham and Sheffield United], on what basis will it do so in light that a deduction of points from West Ham or differently constituted commission might result in that club being relegated rather than Sheffield?" Wigan have also written to Scudamore pledging their support for Sheffield United. A letter to Scudamore from the Wigan secretary, Stuart Hayton, said: "We are still not satisfied with the explanations you have supplied in this respect."

Sheffield United are themselves refusing to hand over their membership 'card' to a newly promoted club. Relegated teams have to pass on a certificate of membership at the league's annual meeting, but the Blades are planning to hold onto it until the arbitration process over West Ham's record £5.5million fine for breaking regulations over Tevez's registration is completed. Sheffield United officially lose their Premier League status when they give up the "share", but believe they would be within their rights were they to hold onto it at the meeting scheduled for Thursday. No club has taken this form of action before and the refusal to hand over the share would stop the Premier League issuing fixtures for next season.

As if things were not complicated enough, a story in The Argos claims Brighton have written to the FA seeking clarification over the eligibility of Carlos Tevez for their FA Cup defeat at West Ham in January. The Seagulls are trying to establish whether they have a case for compensation as an investigation into the details of the Tevez transfer to Upton Park continues. Martin Perry, Albion's chief executive, said: "We have written to the FA but we haven't had a response yet. The issue revolves around whether or not he was eligible, it isn't an issue about ownership as far as we are concerned. The fact is the Premier League are insisting he was eligible. In that case we haven't got anywhere to go."

Benayoun Pens New Deal

The club has announced this afternoon that 'much-sought-after' midfielder Yossi Benayoun has agreed a new five-year deal to keep him at Upton Park until 2012. Benayoun, who has made 55 Premiership starts for the Irons since moving from Racing Santander for £2.5 million in 2005, was rumoured to be a target for a host of clubs, including both Tottenham and Arsenal. "I'm very pleased to have agreed this new deal," said the Israel international. "From the first moment I arrived at West Ham, the Club felt like home to me. We have the best supporters in England. The natural thing for me was to sign a new deal and I'm very happy because I want to stay at this Club. I'm sure we'll have a better season next season because we have players with a lot of quality. We will also have new players coming in to make us stronger and better. I'm very pleased because it is the best place for me. The Chairman is very ambitious and I want to thank him because the negotiations were very quick. He and the manager showed me they wanted me to stay immediately. Hopefully I will pay them back on the pitch and I will do everything in my power to match their ambition." Eggert Magnusson stated: "We are very ambitious and Yossi is a big part of our plans. I'm very pleased to have agreed terms to keep him at the Club for five more years. We are looking forward to bringing in exciting new signings but we must also make sure we keep hold of the hugely talented players we already have."

One of those 'exciting new signings' could be Reading defender Nicky Shorey. The Daily Mail claim Alan Curbishley wants the player as the first piece in his extensive rebuilding programme. The 26-year-old Shorey has been one of the foundations behind the Royals' successful first season in the top flight, starting 37 of 38 league games and narrowly missing out on a place in the PFA team of the year. Romford-born Shorey is a known West Ham fan with family connections to the club, yet it could take a bid in excess of £5million to land the England B international.

Finally, The Cub today also confirmed that Hammers goalkeeper Roy Carroll has asked to leave Upton Park so that he can play regular first team football and has been granted a free transfer. Paul Konchesky and John Pantsil have also stated their desire for first team action and will be allowed to leave when an appropriate transfer offer is made that is acceptable to the Club

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Investing In The Future

Hammers invest in the future of the club's talent
By Tess McDermott

West Ham United has been known as The Academy of Football since the 1960s when Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters burst onto the England scene. Sales of recent graduates such as Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole have reaped more than £50million for the club in the last decade and the financial backing of new chairman Eggert Magnusson could herald further advancements for the already impressive youth development set-up.

Academy director since 1973 Tony Carr said: "When I first started we used to train at Upton Park in the evenings in the winter and use bin lids as goals. We played on the forecourt and someone might have left their car there overnight and we used to play round the cars. He added: "In the modern Academy system, the players are somewhat pampered. Every department has been analysed and has its own specialists. We've got fitness staff and a sports science department. There are people looking at how to warm up, how to warm down and at the science behind strength building and stamina. But that's progress. There's always ways you can improve and you must keep doing that as a club. You may have the best facilities today, but five years down the line if you don't improve, perhaps some people overtake you."

Carr has never been given a budget for the Academy but believes the costs run to about £1.5million a year. He said: "In effect whatever we've asked for, as long as I can convince them it's justified they've said OK. If you say player sales have brought in a minimum of £50m over the last ten years, we're talking £5m per year. So that leaves £3m profit on average over a year. We're not really about that, but if we're talking figures, you can easily justify the outlay. The challenge is to keep doing it. The conveyor belt never stops."

Seeing players step up to the West Ham first team is a source of massive pride for Carr and his army of staff. He said: "Not only does it keep the Academy ticking over in terms of that's another one to tick off, but you know it's the culmination of maybe ten years work. When a boy gets to the first-team at 18-19 years of age, he's probably come into the system at eight or nine years of age. People don't realise all the work before a boy actually steps onto the pitch. It's ten years of will he, won't he, is he good enough, is he going to grow, is he going to develop, is he going to take that talent on? It's fraught with danger. Your best players are always being scouted by other clubs. We lost Kieran Richardson and John Terry like that."

The West Ham Academy has had more than it's fair share of successes however with Anton Ferdinand and Mark Noble the youngsters most recently making their mark in the Premiership. "The names roll of the tongue," said Carr. "Unfortunately for West Ham most of them are playing for other clubs." Carr added: "But that's the nature of the beast. It's disappointing for me, but I understand the reasons. It's freedom of contract. The club was relegated at that time so there was a need for funding and the only assets West Ham had were really the young players that had come through the Academy. They had to be sold, but hopefully that's in the past and any young players we're recruiting and producing now we'll be able to keep, or keep a bit longer at least."

Discussions with Magnusson about the Academy have been positive, although limited, with the chairman keen to invest for the future. Carr said: "I would like to see the Academy and first team together for training. I think the manager and board also see that as the long term plan. A new training ground that would put us all together and knit the players and youth closer. Better quality of pitches, more irrigation, a sprinkler system - these are all the things that that we've added here in the last couple of years to help promote the type of football we want to play. We're always looking for ways to improve. When I spoke to Eggert he was very positive about the Academy and said that even with all the success we had he still wanted to invest further. That can only be good."

One thing Carr does not want to see is the Academy full of young foreign players. He said: "It's not me with my head in the sand. I do realise that the game is now more global and I've just come back from the United States where we're looking to expand our brand. If there was a player or two from there or anywhere else in the world who were going to enhance our system and push on to be quality first team players I'd never say no, but I wouldn't like to see it en masse. I wouldn't want our culture changed. You're never going to win them all, but you just hope to get your fair share of success and we've certainly done that in the past."

How the Academy system works:

We start recruiting from age six. We have guys whose job it is to identify the local talent bearing in mind we can only recruit from within an hour's travelling time of our Little Heath training ground. Whenever we register a player that might be near that mark, the Football Association run an AA mileage check on it. If the AA said it was an hour and 20 minutes, they'd refuse the registration. It can be an anomaly but it's to safeguard the children so they're not travelling long distances on school nights.

Then our teams start at U9s. We have a part-time coach, or more than one, for every team. So, there is an army of part-time guys that come in the evenings from 5pm through to 9pm and on Saturday and Sunday mornings when the Academy sides play their football.

The U18s, our full-time scholars, and the U16s - the boys in their last year at school - play on Saturdays. Then, the way the club is structured is that myself and the Academy will have a great input into what is going on at reserve team level.

And the final step is to first team level and I'm in close contact with the manager who is always asking about the up-and-coming young players and then sees them for himself in the reserve team. Players can't sign professional contracts before 17 and those that sign that young are an exception, but if and when they eventually do, it's quite a seemless transition now. I don't suppose it's rocket science, but it works for us and our record suggests we get it right most of the time.

Taken from the Citizen

As suggested in the article, West Ham have made a concerted effort to break into the US market in an attempt to find the best young talent. The club's newly formed Football Academy USA website is the first step in seeking clubs with which to form partnership programmes. The aim is to develop players capable of one day playing for the Hammers in the Premier League. The programme represents the club's first major foray into North America, a huge untapped market where football is likely to explode in the next few years.

Tony Carr and several members of his coaching team spent some time in Georgia
last month giving lectures to local coaches and clubs. Topics on the agenda included 'Player Development - the West Ham way' and 'Fixing Common Team and Player problems'. The Hammers are seeking two clubs, schools and colleges from each area with which to partner with. Meanwhile the first product of the new scheme visited England last month to get a taste of life in East London. 14-year-old Cobb FC striker Jack McInerney, a member of the USA under-15 national squad from Alpharetta, Georgia spent a week with Carr and his staff gaining vital experience at Chadwell Heath.

Statement Of Intent

Most of the papers this morning have picked up on the 'Chairman's Statement' as delivered by Eggert Magnusson on the official site yesterday. The Times say Magnusson is intent on keeping Carlos Tevez and the Daily Mail suggest significant funds will be made available to Alan Curbishley. The statement in full reads:
"There is bound to be a lot of speculation over the summer about our playing squad. It is normal in a transfer window - who is going, who we want to bring in. We are ambitious for this club and what we can achieve next season. We want to strengthen the squad and to build on the positives of the 2006/07 season. I'm proud of what the club has achieved and now we can move forward. We will work hard over the summer to prepare for next season and that includes keeping our best players who want to play for us. There will be a particular focus on Carlos Tevez and I want him to stay. I suspect a lot will be written about his future but the starting point is that he is a West Ham player, registered with and contracted to the club with three years remaining on a 4 year contract. Whatever happens next we will act to protect the best interests of West Ham United FC".
An article in The Independent states the Premier League is to press ahead with preparations for next season's fixture list despite agreeing to set up an arbitration tribunal to rule on relegated Sheffield United's complaints over the Carlos Tevez affair. The three-man panel is due to be appointed tomorrow, but any final decision is not likely before the end of next month. The League is preparing to publish the fixtures for the new season on 21 June on the basis that the Blades have been relegated and West Ham remain in the top flight. It is claimed League officials are confident that the arbitration tribunal will find they acted according to their regulations in both the disciplinary case against West Ham and with regard to the registration of Tevez. Interestingly, it is thought likely that even if the Blades should persuade the arbitration panel of their case, they would be awarded a compensation payment rather than having the commission's decision overturned. The Sheffield United plc chairman, Kevin McCabe, said he believed the club's stand would be justified. "I'm here to protect Sheffield United's position against what I firmly believe was an irrational decision," McCabe said. "I genuinely believe that the arbitration proceedings will reverse decisions. Whether that means they are able to reverse decisions and deduct points rather than [impose] fines I do not know," he added.

The only other item of news is a piece in the Daily Mail in which James Collins expresses his desire to see Carlos Tevez remain at the club. Although busy preparing for a return to international duty with Wales, Collins clearly has the little Argentine firmly in his thoughts. "None of the players ever thought about the situation with Carlos," he said. "The funny thing is no-one was talking about how Carlos came to the club when he was not playing or scoring goals. As soon as he started scoring, people started having an opinion about him. We were just happy to have him in our team as he is a world class player and a fantastic professional. It would be great for West Ham and English football if he is still in the Premiership next season. I am sure we will do our best to keep hold of him."

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Last Night At The Forum

Last night saw the first Fans Forum of the Magnusson era with Deputy CEO Scott Duxberry and Finance Director Nick Igoe attending an exclusive meeting with 18 fortunate fans. Several topics were openly addressed and what follows is a potted break-down of all the details in the order of items discussed.

  • Carlos Tevez is under contract for 3 more years and was effectively signed on a Bosman. If he wants to stay then he will and in this sense he is no different to any other player. West Ham management will meet with Tevez within the next 14 days. We have first refusal on the player and hope and wish to keep him. It was admitted, however, that this could be difficult if a team of Champions League stature came in for him.
  • Scott Duxberry met with Yossi Benayoun on Monday and there should be an announcement next week. It was intimated that he would be staying. At the moment Duxberry has many players and agents knocking on the door looking for new deals or the exit.
  • There will be a meeting with Nigel Reo-Coker and his agent very soon. If he wants to stay then great and if not then he can go. The inference is that Alan Curbishley will not be going out of his way to keep him. It was said that, despite the rumours, no offer was made for Reo-Coker in August and none of the 'big four' clubs have ever lodged a bid for the player.
  • It was confirmed that Teddy Sheringham, Shaun Newton and Tyrone Mears have all left or are in the process of leaving the club. A number of other players will follow. Overall, we can expect more players out than in and that certain players will leave before we add to the squad. The board were keen to stress that this is simply the way the deals are going to work and that it will not represent a fire-sale. There have been no official bids for any of our players as yet. It was also stated that we never made a move for Chelsea-bound Steve Sidwell.
  • As far as season tickets are concerned there will no longer be a student band but rather U21s U16s, U10s, OAP and normal. There will be an increase but it will not be as high as speculated in the media. Season ticket renewal packs will be sent out next week and have to be done by 29th June. They have been delayed due to the uncertainty of which league we would be playing in.
  • The club has a defined business plan with the intention of competing in the Champions League within three years. Magnusson, Duxberry and Curbishley will meet tomorrow to discuss signings for the new season. We can hopefully expect two or three "world class" players who are more than likely already playing in the Premiership. Having said that, the possibility of looking abroad is not completely ruled out. It is intended that the club will evolve rather than drastically change overnight.
  • It was confirmed that there will be no re-development of the East Stand. The club intend to move to a new 60,000 all-seater stadium within three years. The Parcel Force site on the land around Stephenson Street looks like the favoured destination. The board feel the move is a basic requirement if we want Champions League football. The issue of atmosphere at the new ground was raised and the club plan to learn from other clubs mistakes on this matter. The board do feel that our fans would make an atmosphere anywhere and that its our fans who will give us the edge as opposed to other clubs like Arsenal where the atmosphere has always been quieter. The board also stated that there are no plans to price out the "traditional fan" as without us they would not fill a 60,000 all-seater stadium. They plan to use both traditional and corporate fans alongside each other to drive the club forward. Duxberry also said that the club's corporate hospitality had a record year and record profits.
  • The average salary of a Hammers fan is actually £53k and not £60k as Eggert Magnusson famously claimed. Nick Igoe said the figures are taken from a Premier League survey carried out in December.
  • Dean Ashton has had a one week holiday and is already back at the club and continuing his rehabilitation. He is nearing full training and will be fully fit for next season. It was also stated that had we got relegated Ashton would have stayed.
  • The club shop now has a new Retail Director so we can expect a massive overhaul of the commercial side of the shops with better online facilities as well as new items to buy.
  • The stadium will be completely non-smoking from July 1st onwards, as is the legal requirement. It is the same stance over the issue of standing, with club policy being dictated by law.
  • There has been much internal consternation over the entire Carlos Tevez affair. Duxberry felt the press had been on a witch hunt and had blown everything out of proportion. The club believes that Sheffield United going to arbitration is completely misguided and that there is absolutely no fear that points will be deducted based on all the legal advice they have received. The club has kept quiet due to the political climate and they believe it is impossible to get the truth heard because of the media spin. It was claimed that Dave Whelan is ignorant of all the facts and that Tevez was and always has been signed and registered since Aug 31st. Amusingly, Duxberry said he had never heard of rule U18 because it is filed under miscellaneous in the handbook next to the rule that you have to have a advert in the programme for the Football Foundation - that is how obscure it is! Nobody would comment on whether legal action would be taken against Brown and Aldridge- with the clear implication that it might. The club is totally confident that the verdict of the Independent Commission will be upheld.
  • The Hammerettes will not be returning.
  • The new kit will be supplied by Umbro and the sponsor will be XL airlines. The deal is a massive nine times bigger than the previous deal and will be launched in June. The new away kit is to be launched on the Aug 4th friendly date- which will probably be against a highly rated Spanish Team. The new kit will only have a one year shelf life as we intend to keep the stock fresh. We can also expect to see more improved leisure gear in stock as well as other items as the whole club shop and online side is improved. The examples of Manchester City and Everton was sited, as both raise £5million a year from their stores and merchandise. We currently make £3million. The target is to exceed these other clubs as quickly as possible.
  • There will be two new screens to replace the old ones at the ground. It is also hoped that WHUTV and the official website will be overhauled and improved.
  • Historically there has been no real business plan. Now the club is focussed on the commercial side and have split this and the playing side to increase revenue from a commercial aspect. Arsenal have a £2million turnover per game and ours is £900k. It is a priority that this is improved.
  • The museum is to be shut and its items placed elsewhere in the ground.
  • We almost signed a right winger in January, believed to be Ashley Young, but then due to injuries to defenders we scrapped this deal and signed Davenport instead. Whoever the player was, a deal had been agreed and it was the club who pulled the plug.
  • Alan Pardew did not play Mascherano for whatever reasons and Alan Curbishley did not think the player was fit enough. There were no financial or contractual reasons for not picking the player.
  • The club purchase by the current owners is not secured on the club's assets. Magnusson hates losing and loves the transfer window as he aims to bring in world class players to take us to the next level.
  • This pre=season we are going to Austria and will use the same training camp as Bolton. It is thought that the last pre season was poor and that we lost our edge and fitness. It is hoped we will regain our sharpness finish strongly in games as we did the previous season.
  • On the subject of the January signings, Lucas Neill is seen as a crucial figure in driving the club forward. There is potential to tour Australia next year because the popularity of the player has led to considerable press coverage over there. Luis Boa Morte was also talked about in glowing terms and it was stated he has been both injured and ill since he arrived at the club and things will improve for him next season. The club are looking forward to the return of Matthew Upson but the future of Davenport at the club is less clear. There was no mention of Nigel Quashie.
  • We have also launched some new academies in the USA.
  • The board will carry out surveys in the summer over the fans perception off the club and what we hope to see. One thing raised was the size and content of the programme which seems to be under review. The programme will not increase in price this season.
  • Nick Igoe stated that there would be more forums in the future, including ones with Eggert Magnusson and possibly Alan Curbishley. There will also be more open days at the ground and also training days, which again will be at the ground and open to the fans.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Upping The Antti

The Premier League have agreed to set up an arbitration tribunal to rule on Sheffield United's complaints over the Carlos Tevez affair. The League have conceded that the club do have the right to call for an arbitration panel, but have told the relegated side they are wasting their time and money. The Blades though are to insist on pursuing their claim that the independent commission should have deducted points from West Ham and that the League should have cancelled Tevez's registration. A source close to Sheffield United said: "We received a letter from the Premier League today telling us they do not think we have any grounds to request arbitration - but they accept it is our right to do so. They have said they will not appoint anyone until Friday to give us the opportunity to withdraw the request - basically they are saying we are wasting everybody's time. We still believe these matters need to be resolved so we will press ahead and ask for arbitration and we hope that this process can be concluded before the end of June." The Premier League say they are satisfied West Ham ended those agreements as soon as they were ordered to do so, and that the independent commission's decision cannot be appealed against by anyone except West Ham. Both parties will nominate one member each of the tribunal and these two members would then choose a chairman. The tribunal would effectively have the powers of a court and the parties would agree in advance to abide by any decision reached. The club is also challenging the Premier League's "failure to conduct an adequate investigation into the continued fielding of Tevez after the 27 April decision, despite serious questions over his eligibility".

On the transfer front, the Daily Mail claim Antti Niemi's sterling goalkeeping displays for Fulham have alerted West Ham. The article suggests
Alan Curbishley is determined to perform a dramatic overhaul at Upton Park during the close season and regards Niemi as one of the best keepers in the business. Despite Robert Green's heroic displays towards the end of the season there remains a suspicion that his relationship with Curbishley is less than easy. Even so, this is a strange story considering Fulham were rumoured to be looking at Robert Green in the January transfer window to improve their own goalkeeping situation. The Rumour Mill also has us interested in Middlesbrough's former Derby County central defender Chris Riggott. In the same paper there is the story that Yossi Benayoun looks set to perform an about turn by pledging his future to West Ham. The Israeli midfielder was widely expected to hand in a transfer request this summer, with the likes of Tottenham, Portsmouth and Newcastle linked to the player. But the combination of West Ham's Premiership survival and (mainly) the offer of vastly improved terms at Upton Park appear to have prompted the change of heart- a weekly wage increase from £23,000 to £38,500 over five years the going rate for loyalty. In the Independent there is a story suggesting we have offered £40,000 a week to Bolton's out-of-contract central defender Tal Ben Haim. The 25-year-old is said to be holding out for an offer from Chelsea before making his final decision, with Portsmouth also in the hunt for his signature. West Ham, who tried to sign Ben Haim in January, hope Ben Haim's friendship with Yossi Benayoun may help their cause.

Scudamore's Letter

In response to several requests here is a copy of the letter (in full) as sent out by Richard Scudamore to all 20 Premiership clubs. Having read it through carefully several times I am genuinely mystified as to why Sheffield United would want to take this case any further.

Dear Chairman / Chief Executive

Independent Disciplinary Commission Decision relating to West Ham United

We write as promised yesterday in order to lay out what we believe to be the most pertinent facts in this matter, primarily to ensure that all Clubs have more clarity around what is clearly a complex matter.

The Charges
West Ham United were charged under Rule B13 which requires each Club to behave towards each other Club and the League with the utmost good faith and also with a breach of Rule U18 reproduced here in full: “No Club shall enter into a contract which enables any other party to that contract to acquire the ability materially to influence its policies or the performance of its teams in League Matches or in any of the competitions set out in Rule E10.”

At no point were West Ham United charged with playing an ineligible player – both Tevez and Mascherano were registered on 31 August. All the required documentation was received by the Premier League and the usual confirmations received and sent – a process you are all very familiar with. Registration is definitive as to the status of the player. At no time has Mr Tevez’s registration been revoked or terminated and at all times he has been eligible to play for West Ham.

This was the first time that Rule U18 had ever been applied and tested in this way. The arguments around the intention and application of the Rule as it relates to players’ contracts are, at the least, complex and contentious. The Board acted on its objective interpretation of both the Rules and the potential breach.

The Case
Central to the case are the “third party contracts” entered into by West Ham United and MSI/JSI. These did not come to light until West Ham sent them to the Premier League on 24 January 2007.

It is only at that point that the Board had prima facie evidence that a breach of rules had taken place. Even having submitted them West Ham United continued to argue that these agreements did not influence its policies or performance of the team and therefore were not in breach of Rule U18. The timing of subsequent events was then driven by procedures as laid down in our Rule book – giving all parties reasonable time to respond – a practice that all Clubs will be familiar with.

Much speculation exists as to why the Board did not identify these breaches in September 2006. We made all reasonable attempts to establish if any such agreements existed and the facts have now been established that we were deceived. The League can only function if good faith exists between Clubs and again all of you who have regular dealings with the League will recognise and agree that this is the way it works. More detail is provided in the Independent Commission’s judgement which is attached for your reference in a clearer, more legible form. (Attachment 1)

The Independent Commission
This was appointed from the Panel and convened strictly in accordance with the Rules as agreed by all Member Clubs.

Its chair, Simon Bourne-Arton QC, acted very promptly and properly, laying out directions for the hearing in the shortest possible timescale. This involved, amongst other things, an exchange of witness statements and skeleton arguments from both sides.

The Board insisted on the earliest possible hearing date, conscious that time must be available to hear any appeal prior to the 31 May AGM when the 2007/8 League officially forms. The dates for the hearing set by the Independent Commission Chairman were fixed at the only possible time allowing for all these considerations.

The fixture list (as it sometimes can) conspired to match Wigan v West Ham United on the day after – clearly not ideal but unavoidable. For the above reasons, neither the hearing nor the judgement was nor should have been delayed for any artificial reasons.

The Hearing
On the morning of the hearing West Ham United pleaded guilty to both charges. They then entered a plea in mitigation. The Premier League’s counsel in response to the matter of sanction told the Commission that it considered it to be a most serious offence, reminding them that it had the full range of sanctions available to it under the Rules (Section R).

The Judgement
We are sure you have all read this document and in the light of subsequent events we would ask that you do so again. Whilst those aggrieved by it have concentrated on certain phrases and elements, it contains or generates some very relevant facts:

• The Commission considered it no part of their remit to determine whether third party contracts are in the interests of football generally.
• However, they did lay out some rationale as to why they saw force in the arguments that such agreements could be construed as to be in breach of Rule U18 – in summary, because certain clauses in them were inconsistent with clauses in the Standard Players Contract. In any event, West Ham United had admitted they were in breach.
• The judgement also made comments about the Commission’s view of the enforceability of the third party contracts in question. West Ham United argued that they were not enforceable, the Commission was minded to agree, but West Ham United could not use this as a defence as they had acted as if they were enforceable in the first place.

The Sanction
You will all have formed a view about the sanction. The terms of the judgement made it clear that the Independent Commission considered very seriously the possibility of points deduction. You are well aware by now that our Rules provide no tariff of sanctions for particular offences. In the end, having had the benefit of reading all the witness statements and skeleton arguments; having listened to the plea in mitigation and the Premier League counsel’s response on sanction, they – and only they – decided on fines: £2.5m for breach of Rule U18, £3m for breach of Rule B13.

The media, and of course those aggrieved by the decision, have analysed the seven reasons given by the Independent Commission for not deducting points and concentrated on those that to them seem the least convincing. However, there are others that have a less convenient truth, particularly the one that says “had the Club in time made disclosure of the third party contracts to the FAPL, then, in all probability, contracts could have been entered into which would not have offended the rules”. We will refer back to this statement later.

In summary, the Independent Commission carried its work out fully in accordance with our Rules, having adopted practices entirely consistent with formal judicial proceedings. In reaching their decision the Independent Commission clearly considered the matter very carefully and did not deliver an irrational or extreme judgement and delivered the sanction that only they (having considered the matter fully and in light of copious evidence) deemed to be proportionate and appropriate.

West Ham United as Respondents were the only party entitled to appeal. This is a deliberate construct of our Rules. Any Club that has faced a properly convened Independent Commission having had “their day in court” cannot be “re-tried” by the Board or group of aggrieved Clubs.

This has to be right as otherwise the Board could be subject to intense lobbying from some. Also, the League could not function if other Clubs could effectively intervene in an attempt to overturn decisions not to their liking – not those of the Board – those of an Independent Commission convened in strict accordance with the Rules previously agreed by all Clubs.

We also attach advice on the matter of appeal received from our own Legal Working Party. (Attachment 2)

Actions of the Board since 26 April 2007
We sense that this is where much of the concern even amongst a wider group of Clubs exists and so we will expand upon our actions since the hearing.

The Independent Commission declared that the registration of Carlos Tevez could be terminated by the FAPL.

The FAPL Board convened later that day to consider this matter. The Board minutes from this meeting are attached for your reference. (Attachment 3)

The Board was fully aware of the need to proceed very carefully and precisely, seeking constant advice from DLA Piper (our external lawyers) at all times.

It must be restated that this registration had been in place in full accordance with the requirements of our Rules relating to player registrations since 31 August 2006.

Having reached its decision the Board conveyed this to officials of West Ham United As contained in our note to you all of 8 May, the Premier League made it very clear to West Ham that unless it could be satisfied that all trace of any third party ability to influence West Ham's policies or the performance of its team was removed, Mr Tevez's registration would be terminated.

We would not normally disclose – and neither would you want us to – confidential information contained in Club contracts. However, we sense the need to reassure Clubs and so have gone further than we might in these unusual circumstances.

Prior to the deadline set of noon on 28 April, the Premier League Board received the following documents:

i) A letter from West Ham United sent to Carlos Tevez, MSI and JSI terminating the private agreement between them dated 30 August 2006 and notifying those parties that the private agreement shall cease to have any further force or effect.
ii) A letter from the legal representatives of MSI and JSI acknowledging receipt of the above letter.
iii) A letter confirming that the above letter had been served on Carlos Tevez personally.

The Board was fully conscious that it had to ensure that West Ham United could not continue to, or repeat a, breach of Rule U18.

In order to protect the League and all Clubs the Board sought additional undertakings from West Ham United. Again, these were in writing and commit West Ham United to the following:
1. copy the Premier League in on all correspondence (including any proceedings served) between the Club and any of Tevez, MSI and JSI (or any of their respective representatives or advisers) in relation to Tevez;
2. continue to contend that the Private Agreement is invalid and unenforceable and, from the Club’s perspective, terminated, and the Club will not perform in accordance with it; and
3. not act in a manner which is inconsistent with the confirmation given at paragraph 2 above and, for the avoidance of doubt, no settlement or resolution (or discussions or negotiations leading up to any such settlement or resolution) will include any concession by West Ham that the Private Agreement was valid and enforceable.

In summary, West Ham United, having considered all the alternatives, chose to terminate the offending third party agreement. The Board only regulates West Ham United – not third parties – and it has secured written undertakings that West Ham United can only act in a way that is consistent with its having terminated the offending agreement.

It is only because of these written undertakings that Tevez’s registration was not terminated. If the Board suspects or has evidence that these undertakings are false or have been breached, then it will take all necessary steps to enforce Premier League Rules.

In making these undertakings to the Premier League it could be that West Ham United has exposed itself to further legal challenge from third parties who may contest the legality of that termination. That is a matter for them and them alone as, again, we have no jurisdiction over third parties.

Given the complexities around this, we would ask you to step back from the detail and consider the matter in more general terms:
1. Tevez has been properly registered to play for West Ham United since 31 August 2006. The Board, under our Rules, is charged with the authority to determine this.
2. He continues to be registered with West Ham United.
3. This is a case without precedent and certainly cannot be compared with Clubs who have played unregistered players or players ineligible through suspension.
4. On 26 April West Ham United admitted to breaches of Rules B13 and U18 – for which they have been fined in accordance with our Rules.
5. The offending third party agreement has been terminated by West Ham United and therefore they are not continuing to be in breach.

On a wider basis:
1. Under cross-examination (though the hearing did not proceed) the Premier League witnesses would have had to state that in all probability had West Ham United submitted the third party agreement in August 2006, the Premier League would have highlighted the offending clauses and worked with the Club in an attempt to shape the agreement into compliance with the Rules. This is a common occurrence all Clubs are aware of as the League seeks generally to help Clubs register players not prevent them. This has happened in all previous known cases of this nature.
2. Third party agreements exist in many varied forms throughout football – banking or finance agreements, players’ commercial arrangements, agency or representative agreements – many of which do not fall under the Premier League’s jurisdiction and do not contravene our Rules. The Premier League applies the same objective tests to any agreements – an interpretation of U18 as determined by the Board acting in the utmost good faith at all times.
3. We are the only league to our knowledge that has such a Rule – neither the Football League, FA nor FIFA have one.

Ultimately the proper functioning of this League only operates with trust between Member Clubs, the Board and officials. This case demonstrates the difficulties we run into if this is not adhered to. We can absolutely assure you that the Board has acted in good faith at all times – implementing Premier League Rules using judgement, impartiality and consistency.

We believe we were right to bring the charges (even though we know some Clubs do not actually agree that these third party agreements breach Rule U18).

We believe the Independent Commission was properly convened, its judgement was rational and the sanction was one that it was entitled to make within its powers (even though some clearly do not agree with it).

We also consider Tevez was at all times registered to play for West Ham United and that they are bound to act in a manner that is consistent with them having terminated the offensive third party agreement.

These three elements are within our jurisdiction and we have acted in accordance with the Rules operating for the purposes of the 2006/7 season. We have no wider remit – and neither should we.

As you are well aware, we will have the chance to debate the wider implications of this at our Summer Meeting in two weeks’ time. The Board will be giving careful consideration – as we are sure all Clubs will – to how we might learn lessons from this situation to protect the future interests of the League and all its Member Clubs. Any resulting changes to the Rules will be approved by Clubs in the usual manner.

To reassure you further, we attach a letter from our legal advisers confirming that the contents of this letter are entirely consistent with the advice they have been giving the League throughout this matter. (Attachment 4)

As always, we appreciate your consideration and support and will be pleased to answer any follow-up questions you may have.

We really do look forward to seeing Member Clubs at the Summer Meeting.

Kind regards,

Richard Scudamore Sir David Richards
Chief Executive Chairman

Monday, 21 May 2007

Scandalous And Derogatory

Mervyn Day believes the West Ham players and staff have not received enough praise for the impressive run of results that ultimately saved their season. Speaking on the official site, Day stated: "I feel sorry for the players for the fact that they haven't been given the credit for what was arguably an even better escape than Portsmouth managed to pull off last season." No arguably about it Merv. Statistically it was the greatest escape act in English football history; a fact that seems to have been lost in all the negative publicity of the last few weeks. "We were very mindful about things that were being said about us as a Club, not so much about us as individuals, but about what had gone on behind the scenes before we came and you can't influence that," exclaimed the exasperated Hammers assistant. "I think what has happened since we beat Man United in the final game has been nothing short of scandalous and derogatory. The players have not been given enough credit for the achievement of winning seven out of nine games. Most people seem to have failed to grasp the fact that Tevez's registration was always correct, that wasn't the issue."

Speaking of Tevez, The Independent claim Chelsea have entered the bidding to sign the striker although they are facing strong competition from Real Madrid. The two clubs are the only ones to have made serious inquiries about the 23-year-old Argentine, although West Ham are hoping he will stay at Upton Park for at least one more season. Tevez's representative Kia Joorabchian has yet to inform West Ham of his intentions - or what transfer fee he wants for the player - although it is hoped that a meeting may take place as early as this week with Eggert Magnusson. The article suggests it could be that if neither Chelsea nor Real meet the asking price - which sources claim could be anywhere between £20m and £40m - that a deal may be structured to keep Tevez at Upton Park. Despite the problems caused by his arrival, West Ham have made it clear they want Tevez to stay and believe it may be in his interests to do so. He has settled and, having avoided relegation, there are ambitions plans in place to push for Europe next season.

There are two further pieces of transfer news, both emanating from sources abroad. Firstly there is a report in the Israeli press that Yossi Benayoun has received a very lucrative contract offer that would run until 2012 and he is very close to agreeing terms. The story quotes Benayoun's agents as saying: "West Ham made it clear to us that they very much want Yossi and have therefore offered him a much improved long term contract. They stated that they want to build a team around him and therefore he received an offer never matched by any Israeli player previously. In any case, we have not yet decided and will not talk to any other club until we have concluded with West Ham. A decision will be made by the end of the week." The other story comes from the Icelandic media where it is claimed we are considering making a move for young midfielder Teddy Bjarnason. The Icelandic youngster made his impressive debut for Celtic yesterday but is yet to decide on a new contract offer. In perhaps a sign of things to come, Bjarnason is the second such talent to be linked with club following our earlier reported interest in striking sensation Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Going Too Far

Sheffield United have won a small but potentially significant victory in the Carlos Tevez affair with the Premier League agreeing to set up an arbitration panel to rule on the case that has left English football teetering on the brink of chaos. According to an exclusive in the Mail on Sunday, the League will facilitate the appointment of a three-man panel in the next few days even though it still may not be enough to appease United and the other clubs who want a new hearing following the original commission's decision not to deduct points from West Ham United. The League are insisting that any arbitration can only look at whether the original commission was conducted properly, but if the panel considered the process was faulty then they could send the affair back to the commission to review the punishment handed out to the Hammers. The article quotes a Premier League insider as saying: "It can't be about the decision, only the process. The only way the decision can be overturned is if arbitration decides it was a flawed process or an unrealistic judgment and they send it back to the original commission to review the punishment. It will be hard for anyone to prove that this was an irrational judgement."

It is the narrow terms of reference that may not be enough to satisfy Sheffield United, or even the other clubs who have come out publicly to support their stance. Indeed, Blades chairman Kevin McCabe remains willing to take legal action. "I have meetings with a QC on Monday," he said. "We are ready to get our team together within 24 hours to put our witness statement together. We will not rest until Sheffield United's position is protected from this unjust decision. We are not being unreasonable but we do have very strong feelings on this. The Premier League should be working to accommodate one of their member clubs, who have been wronged. This was a bizarre decision-making process. The decision not to deduct points and to cancel the registration of Tevez is totally flawed and illegal. You can't have regard for the players and fans of one club without having regard for all the fans and players at other clubs. Tevez and Mascherano were registered because the West Ham chief executive either misled or lied to the Premier League - and those are the words from the hearing - otherwise they would not have been registered. For the Premier League not to carry out the order of the hearing to cancel the registration is barely credible. Two wrongs make a further wrong."

This latest development will only serve to increase tensions when the Premier League convokes its annual general meeting on Thursday week. Steve Tongue, writing in the Independent on Sunday, suggests it is certain to be a frosty occasion, especially when the representatives of West Ham United and Wigan Athletic take their seats next to each other. Wigan's chairman, Dave Whelan, has been the most vociferous critic of the Premier League's decisions to fine West Ham rather than deducting points, and while Eggert Magnusson has been reluctant to discuss the issue publicly, he admitted today: "Some people have gone too far. I've been disappointed at how some people have been allowed to speak about my club after the judgement of the commission. I find it very strange, other clubs commenting [like that] about their fellow clubs. For me, it's over. I don't want to say any more at the moment, but I might do later in the summer."

In the same piece, Magnusson also shares his thoughts on the future of Carlos Tevez. "I hope he stays," he said. "He is a terrific player and a good guy. He knows the club and fans love him, and that will stick in his mind while he is on holiday." Tevez left Heathrow Airport with 18 suitcases last week, having apparently cleared out his Canary Wharf flat, and it has been assumed by many that he will not be returning to Upton Park. If Rafa Benitez has his way then that will certainly be the case. According to a story in the Sunday Express the Liverpool boss intends to spend a large chunk of his club's Champions League money on the Argentine striker. Benitez believes he holds a powerful bargaining tool with Javier Mascherano already at Anfield and will step up his discreet moves to land him after Wednesday night’s final in Athens against AC Milan.

The Sunday Mirror do not agree and insist Tevez will say farewell to West Ham today and open talks to seal his £25million transfer to Real Madrid. The article also claims Chelsea tabled a bid in excess of £20m for the 23-year-old Argentina international last Thursday but the player prefers to move to a Spanish-speaking country. They say West Ham did open talks with Tevez about a new contract which would have seen him become the highest paid player in the club's history but they are now resigned to his summer departure. Also in the paper is the story that Alan Curbishley will axe 12 of his underachieving West Ham squad this this summer in a £40million shake-up. It is claimed that The West Ham manager met senior officials at Upton Park last week and made it clear a major rebuilding programme was required. He has highlighted fundamental shortcomings in the Hammers' playing staff and also admitted that during his brief reign at the club he had made telling mistakes in recruitment. Two of the players he drafted in during the January transfer window, Nigel Quashie and Calum Davenport, are included on the long list of players being put up for sale. Among the biggest departures will be captain Nigel Reo-Coker, Matthew Etherington, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand and strikers Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora. Etherington and Konchesky have already drawn £3million bids from Wigan and Birmingham respectively, while Charlton's Darren Bent and Liverpool's Craig Bellamy remain top of Curbishley's shopping list.

Also in the tabloids the News of the World claim the Hammers are willing to beat the £45,000 a week salary Steve Sidwell has been offered to switch to Stamford Bridge. Sidwell is a free agent and his expected move to Chelsea is due to be finalised this week. Curbishley has warned Sidwell- a West Ham fan from boyhood- that he could be a bit part player in west London whereas he would be a essential figure at Upton Park. Meanwhile we will also move for striker Andy Johnson and midfielders Tim Cahill and Scott Parker. The same paper also has the club in a tug-of-war with Blackburn Rovers over the signature of Derby County's highly rated Giles Barnes, 18 year old son of former Hammers winger Bobby. Billy Davies wants around £4million for the young talent. The Star has Tevez signing for Liverpool, but this time for around £15million, and Konchesky moving to Everton for £1million. They also claim West Ham are leading the chase for highly rated Wolves striker Michael Kightly. The Essex-born youngster was previously a target for Manchester United. Finally, the Sunday People insist we are at the front of the queue, with Portsmouth, for Watford striker Hameur Bouazza.


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