Saturday, 16 June 2007

The Sound And The Fury

The Sun carries a two-page 'exclusive interview' with Eggert Magnusson that is ostensibly a verbatim reprint of the statement released by the chairman on the official site late last night. In this respect, the piece by Andrew Dillon is neither an exclusive nor an interview but it does at least put some much needed positive quotes from our club into the national press. Magnusson admits that he was left frustrated by the collapse of Darren Bent's proposed signing this week, but insists he has already moved on and is busy working on other plans to strengthen Alan Curbishley's squad this summer.

"The whole situation has left me very frustrated," says Mr Magnusson. "We were so close to signing Darren and thought everything was in place to conclude what would have been the biggest transfer in West Ham United's history for a player. I was really looking forward to making an announcement to our fans as we continue with our plans to take this club forward and to challenge the best teams in England. The deal we put in place seemed to work for everybody concerned. Throughout the negotiations all the signs were positive. Therefore I was surprised when I learned that Darren had decided not to join us. I feel let down and disappointed. But it is time to move on. In the aftermath of this I have been encouraged by the reaction of our supporters." Dillon extrapolates from this that Magnusson is a reader of certain internet chat sites, which is a nice thought. If he is, then it is little surprise that the feedback he received revealed a general consensus among the fans that Bent was grossly over-priced. "They appreciate the efforts we made and some of the feedback suggests they are less disappointed than I thought they might be. The view seems to be that perhaps this wasn't the best deal we could do at this stage. I'd like to think the experience will eventually stand us in good stead and there's no doubt about it, lessons have been learned."

Magnusson, 60, is eager to put behind him one of his most challenging periods at the helm of the Hammers and continue with his mission. "Our interest in Darren Bent is over," he admits. "It is time for West Ham to move on. We have been considering other options and will be looking at those over the next few weeks. This summer period is an important one for the club. Working very closely with Alan Curbishley, the board of directors want to get the best possible squad for next season. We ended last season in great form and want to build on that. I’m very excited about the potential at this club." Boss Alan Curbishley hoped England rookies Bent, 23, and Hammers striker Dean Ashton, 23, would spearhead his front line next season. But now the search moves on to new targets, with Chelsea winger Shaun Wright-Phillips once again linked with a move across London. Magnusson has successfully rubber-stamped the signing of seven players by West Ham at a cost of around £25million and says he is fiercely committed to transforming West Ham into a team capable of sustaining a serious challenge for the Champions League. At the same time, he has also expressed his dismay at some of the media speculation surrounding player wages, and has moved to reassure supporters that all transfer negotiations are carried out with the best interests of West Ham United at heart.

"West Ham United is very much in the spotlight at the moment," he says. "I totally accept that as chairman of a Club with ambition and drive. However, I am disappointed that there is a widespread belief that the Club has a bottomless pit of money to spend on transfer fees and player wages. This is a great football Club which will be run on sensible business lines to build a secure, long-term future. That includes our policy on players wages, set at a ceiling of £55,000 a week. Despite figures being circulated in the game, no player at West Ham United earns more than that at present. Of course, as an ambitious club we will react to the marketplace, in common with most other football clubs. If the right player comes along at the right price, then we will look at that, but we want players who want to play for West Ham United."

Alan Curbishley has until the first Premiership match of the season at home to Manchester City on August 11 to get his plans in place. According to Dillon, there are ambitious long-term plans to move to a new stadium at a defunct ParcelForce site in Canning Town, West Ham’s original home in the East End. The club are also considering moving their training ground lock, stock and barrel to a new hi-tech sports complex in Barking. Curbishley even took a tour of Ford United’s old ground as a possible location. What is apparent, is ingredients on the pitch must be right to complement those off it. After beating relegation on the last day of last season, drama is never far away. With Bent thought to have been lured by a move to either Liverpool or Tottenham, there is also continuing uncertainty over midfielder Yossi Benayoun’s future after Liverpool lodged a £3m bid, which was rebuffed. Magnusson added: "I believe we are bringing together a team on and off the pitch which will bring success to West Ham United. It’s been a tough week but you don’t get involved with a Premier League football club in order to have a quiet life."

The Shaun Wright-Phillips story is featured in greatar detail elsewhere in the paper. In a separate article, it is claimed the player has been told he can leave the club this summer as part of Chelsea's cost-cutting plans. It is said West Ham agreed a fee of £10.8million for Wright-Phillips in January and that we remain
one of the only clubs who can match his salary and allow him to stay in London. On the Benayoun front, The Guardian state the Israel midfielder has indicated to the West Ham that he wishes to leave the club, having been unsettled by confirmation that Liverpool have made a bid of around £3million for him. Rafael Benítez hopes to add Benayoun, whom he has tracked since his days at Racing Santander, to his ranks as he seeks further midfield options with Liverpool's chief executive, Rick Parry, confirming that a formal approach was made to West Ham last week. That offer was immediately rejected, claims the paper, as the Londoners value the 27-year-old at nearer £5m. It has also been mentioned in certain circles that a swap deal involving troubled striker Craig Bellamy has been mooted.

Finally, the Mail are sustaining their rabid ant-West Ham stance by featuring a sycophantic interview with 'Honest' Dave Whelan in which he professes: "Football needs justice, it must change or die." To paraphrase Macbeth, it is a piece (like most journalism in this paper) that walks like a shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing. I'm not going to give it any more space than it deserves on this blog but it is there if you want it.

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