Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Spanish Inquisition

The dispute over the future of Carlos Tevez has been scheduled for the High Court on 22 August. The court date was set at the preliminary hearing this morning and it would mean the 23-year-old missing the first three games of the season but should ensure he can still join United before the transfer window shuts on 31 August. Joorabchian's lawyers have applied to the court for an interim injunction in a bid to speed up the legal process. Barrister Charles Hollander QC stressed the need to hear the injunction element of the case before the transfer window closes on 31 August. He said: "The end of the transfer window is looming and Manchester United may be starting to look in other directions." Should they win, the ruling would allow Tevez to move to Old Trafford with the financial elements of the dispute sorted out at a later trial. West Ham oppose the injunction, claiming their third-party agreement with Joorabchian is legally "invalid and unenforceable", but the club made no attempt to block the fast-track process.

A High Court judge will now deliberate on the arguments at the three-day injunction hearing when Tevez, along with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and West Ham director Scott Duxbury, are expected to be cross-examined. "Does Mr Tevez speak English?" Justice Blackburne asked at today's hearing; having clearly not seen the player's post-match interview at Ewood Park. "Not much," exaggerated Joorabchian's barrister, Charles Hollander QC, before the judge suggested employing a translator. Defending West Ham, Michael Bowsher QC revealed the club intend to challenge the "authenticity" of a key document relating to the third-party agreement signed by Joorabchian, Tevez and Duxbury. It was suggested in court that handwriting experts may even be called upon to support their argument over the validity of the contract. Bowsher said: "The signatures of these individuals other than those signatures from West Ham were not made on the date purported to be made on and that is relevant."

Though a hearing date has been set, West Ham and the Premier League are still hopeful of an out-of-court settlement. "We have taken the steps in case this matter is to go through the courts - this does not preclude an out-of-court settlement. But it is no more or less likely now," said a West Ham spokesman. A statement on the official site reads: "West Ham United will continue to work on achieving an out-of-court settlement on the issues relating to Carlos Tevez. However, if a settlement, to be agreed by all parties, is not possible then the Club will present a very robust legal case to the High Court if the matter comes before the court on August 22nd."

The Subpoena

Kia Joorabchian, who fronts the two companies that hold Carlos Tevéz’s “economic rights”, Media Sports Investments (MSI) and Just Sports Inc (JSI), will turn up the pressure on West Ham United today when he serves the particulars of claim documents at the High Court, detailing allegations about how the club breached their contract. The companies issued a writ against the club last week, seeking the court’s intervention to compel West Ham to release the registration of Tevéz in accordance with a contract that was agreed last summer when he and Mascherano arrived at Upton Park. Those deals were deemed to be in breach of Premier League rules by a commission that fined West Ham £5.5 million in April. MSI and JSI will ask the court for a quick hearing, arguing that the extensive delay is causing hardship to Tevéz and preventing him from playing football and earning a living.

According to The Times, West Ham United have offered the companies £5 million in exchange for the release of the registration of the player. However, MSI and JSI are likely to reject that proposal because the contract between the parties said that they would pay West Ham £100,000 should Tevéz leave this summer. Matt Scott, writing in The Guardian, states that while the prospect of an out-of-court settlement remains on the table, the fact MSI-JSI are defending their interests so staunchly makes its hard to see how this will materialise. By the same token, the Premier League is concerned with protecting its reputation and it is worried that if West Ham do not receive adequate money from the transfer, it will appear that the third-party agreement between the club and Joorabchian for Tevéz was not ripped up.

If MSI-JSI pursue their legal action against West Ham then Richard Scudamore may face a grilling in the high court. The Premier League chief executive is likely to be subpoenaed to explain the role of the organisation in an increasingly complex legal battle over the ownership of the Argentina forward. Lawyers for the companies are believed to want to know why the League gave West Ham the option of ripping up the contract with Tévez’s owners to allow him to play in the final three games of the season, helping the club to avoid relegation. The League also gave West Ham the option of amending the contracts, which may have meant Tevéz missing at least one match while the paperwork was ratified. The third option was of not playing the forward. The companies’ lawyers will also want to know what communication took place between the League and West Ham in the past year since the League queried how the club had managed to secure the services of Tevéz and Javier Mascherano, Tevéz’s Argentina teammate, so cheaply and whether there were any documents that Scudamore had not seen. In addition, MSI-JSI want to know if any previously undisclosed circumstances prompted the switch of the Hammers' plea from not guilty to guilty at the April disciplinary hearing.

Meanwhile, Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted his protracted pursuit of Carlos Tevez is proving slightly frustrating. "I am not worried because I am confident the player will eventually arrive," he said. "But it has been dragging on and it has become a bit frustrating. At the moment it is going to the High Court. I am sure we will get a final decision on the matter there. But if something happens before that, it is something we would welcome. The deadline is coming up at the end of August, so we do have to think about alternative plans that way. I just want the matter settled, the sooner the better as far as everyone is concerned. I am sure even West Ham think that way. They have their own plans and they have done a lot of buying and selling, so they will want some kind of conclusion in terms of how their team is shaping up."

Monday, 30 July 2007

The Compromise

The Carlos Tevez saga could edge closer to a conclusion today with the Premier League's chairman, Sir Dave Richards, apparently having indicated a softer line from his organisation. Central to the recent progress is what should be perceived as the market value of Tevez, which would nominally be upwards of £20million. But meetings took place last week between West Ham United and Richards, in which the Hammers argued that there are several mitigating factors which reduce his value to them; namely the threat of court action and the fact that the player has already declared his desire to leave. Matt Scott, writing in The Guardian, states Richards has indicated a readiness to relinquish the demand that, having torn up the contracts with Media Sports Investment and Just Sports Inc that governed Tevez's career, the club should treat him as their own asset and demand a market-rate fee for him to move to Manchester United.

The Mail suggest West Ham will instead demand £6million compensation from Kia Joorabchian to give up Carlos Tevez's registration and allow him to become a United player. The solution proposed by West Ham would see Joorabchian, through his companies MSI and Just Sports Inc, pay the club money to cover the remaining three years of Tevez's contract. That figure would also cover the fine imposed by the Premier League for a breach of regulations regarding third-party ownership. The article states the Iran-born businessman is currently only willing to pay £100,000 as stipulated in the original deal and that there would appear to be some hard bargaining to be done over the next 36 hours. According to The Sun, there remains little room for negotiation. Mark Irwin insists the £6million fee is not an arbitrary sum but rather the minimum
the Premier League will allow Hammers to be paid for Tevez’s registration to avoid further disciplinary charges.

The Mirror's Martin Lipton believes that while League bosses are likely to agree with West Ham's proposal that would see the East End club given a £5.5million compensation fee to release Tevez's playing registration, their intransigence over the figure will almost certainly collapse the deal. It is his understanding that the proposed offer has already been dismissed out-of-hand by Kia Joorabchian, who is now convinced that the League would be so embarrassed by the outcome of a High Court hearing that they will do anything to avoid the matter going that far. The likely result is an impasse that seems certain in guaranteeing the case will go all the way - and leave Tevez in limbo and with no club to play for until January.

The Times have a different take on things and claim at the end of last week West Ham’s lawyers proposed a settlement which would see the club paid as little as £1 million, stopping the legal action brought by Joorabchian for terminating the controversial third-party agreements setting out his economic rights over the player in April. While Kia Joorabchian and United believe it is wrong that West Ham should receive any fee for a player they do not legally own, they know that it may be the only way to ensure his move to Old Trafford goes through in this transfer window. Graham Shear, the lawyer acting on behalf of Joorabchian, confirmed yesterday that he would consider a settlement which allows the player to start the new Premiership season with United.

The Guardian reiterate that the Premier League would have to be satisfied that West Ham have received 'adequate' compensation to head off any further litigation by Sheffield United. The league's board - Richards, the chief executive, Richard Scudamore, and the general secretary, Mike Foster - will meet today to discuss any new proposal. It is envisaged that the offshore companies would then be permitted to receive a transfer fee from Manchester United, with whom terms have been agreed on the prospective move, which could be closer to his market value. Any deal will be approved only if Richards can persuade Scudamore - who handed over responsibility for the talks to his chairman before flying to Hong Kong for the Asia Trophy last week - and Foster of its effectiveness.

If all parties cannot agree a fee then a date in the High Court beckons on Wednesday after Joorabchian, who has insisted that he still holds the economic rights to the Argentine striker, issued a writ in an effort to force the Hammers to give up the player's registration. If court action is forced, states The Guardian, Tevez could spend the first five months of the season on the sidelines while lawyers debate who owns him. Should the courts decide after the start of the season that the contract that prevails is held by MSI-JSI and not that registration document held by West Ham, then in principle there is nothing to prevent his move to Old Trafford with the companies taking the money. However, should they find in favour of West Ham, he would not be able to move until the January transfer window when West Ham would be the sole beneficiary of any fee.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

KUMB Q&A: Alan Curbishley (part two)

Here is the second part of an exclusive interview given by Alan Curbishley on the recent pre-season tour of Austria. It is taken from KUMB and credit goes to Gary Jones and Colin Wells for their excellent work in making this happen...

KUMB.com: On transfers Alan – do you work out a list of targets with Eggert?

Alan Curbishley: Yeah. I have nothing to do with the finances - Scott Duxbury deals with transfers and [when signing a player] if we get him, we get him. If he’s too expensive, or if they think it’s getting out of hand then they’ll call me into it and we’ll have a discussion. It’s totally different to what I did at Charlton – there I did the lot, and I don’t feel that that’s my brief at the moment. So much goes into a transfer – it doesn’t happen in a day, it can take weeks - Bellamy took two weeks, and it goes on …

KUMB: And why is that – because of the player’s agent, or different circumstances?

AC: They don’t need to haggle over a price because we pose the price first. When the club are saying ‘no’ then it becomes difficult as transfers are protracted now.

KUMB: Why do you think that is?

AC: Because it’s so hard to get a player. You know, you let a player go and you’ve got to get that cover in straight away or …

KUMB: Is it because of the transfer windows?

AC: No. It’s so difficult to get a player - a lot of clubs are just saying ‘no’ and they don’t want a deal. Not just to us but to everybody; there’s not been a lot of transfers at all [this summer].

KUMB: Do you find that at the moment that the same clubs are going for the same type of players?

AC: Yeah, but that’s always the same. The newly promoted clubs will go for players that have just been relegated or players that have done well at other teams in the lower end of it because they can attract them and they can pay the fees and wages. It’s all relative. There are a lot of people, as I said last week, that would like us not just to walk before we could crawl but run before we can crawl - and there’s a big difference in expectation levels. If you look at it our biggest fee has been £7.5million - we’ve took more in. Other clubs have paid more in fees and wages to players than we could so it isn’t an OK Corale, it isn’t like …

KUMB: … the Leeds situation?

AC: No. We’re not irresponsible, during this window we’ve taken as much as we’ve spent. Obviously Christmas was different - we were in trouble and if you care to look at the players we brought in I’m looking at the right age, I’m looking at the right experience, and the right characters for us. At the moment we’ve just replaced people, but there’s still another five weeks to go to see if we can bring someone else in.

KUMB: The expectation levels are high - my son has gone through a number of threads on KUMB and it’s a common theme. What’s a realistic aim for next year Alan?

AC: Top ten. I think that mid-table for us is where we should be - not forgetting what happened to us last year. But we’ve got players that are good enough for us to have a solid season. If we have a solid season that makes us a little bit more attractive for next year and people start to know about us. We’ve got to get that. There’s a lot of negativity around us, there was a lot of negativity all last year and most of the press was negative. We’ve got to spin that around by what we do on the pitch and hopefully we’ll do that this year. That’s not being negative, top ten’s a decent position …

KUMB: I’d be well pleased with that.

AC: I think a lot of people will look at that and go ‘ooh, that’s negative’ – but it’s not, it’s a proper expectation level for us and if we do a little bit better then fine, if we do a little bit worse than that, that’s disappointing. You know, if you finish mid-table and turn three draws into three wins you’re around Europe. From being in Europe to being in the relegation battle is only 12 points [or so].

KUMB: Yeah, it’s a fine line.

AC: You know, if we end up having the season where we gather six to eight points more than we did last year, and instead of finishing fifth from bottom we finish mid-table ... But I asked Eggert for assurance that if it goes belly up he would be backing it - and he assured me he was, and he assured all the staff at Upton Park through that run that he was in a big meeting. He announced [his plans], and they’re not short term.

KUMB: Has he got a good business plan?

AC: Yeah. I think he’s a little bit misunderstood, he needs to get out around the supporter’s clubs. I think he needs to get out and express himself a bit more but he’s not here for the quick fix - he wants to build a club.

KUMB: He’s a football man as well …

AC: He’s got more football knowledge than most people give him credit for, and he’s been around football all his life.

KUMB: He was on UEFA’s Executive Committee, of course.

AC: Yeah, and he knows players and he’s got a lot of contacts. You know, I asked him two things – ‘if it goes wrong are you going to back it?’ and ‘is it a long term plan with solid foundations?’ I reminded him that West Ham have yo-yo’d the last ten years …

KUMB: Yeah we know that!

AC: They’ve yo-yo’d, you know. Charlton were like that but every year we just got a little bit stronger. We’re not talking about Tottenham but in the last four to five years you can see what they’ve managed to do - they’ve stabilised themselves and then they’ve gone for the best young talent. They’ve bought well and that’s gradually improved them. West Ham have been too much like that. Someone told me recently how they got two tickets for the Cup Final for a friend. They came to the game and they said it was the best day, even though they lost. They said, ‘I can say I was there’, because it was a celebration, you know. When you think of West Ham it is highs and lows - and when they get a high they do get high! The story I got was that there were so many limousines and whatever turning up at the Millennium that you couldn’t believe it - it was just unbelievable. They were making a day of it and they enjoyed themselves. When West Ham fans enjoy themselves they enjoy themselves - and when there are down, they’re down.

I had some Charlton fans come in for the run-in and they’ve not heard a noise. They said the noise and the atmosphere at Upton Park for the Everton and Bolton games was unbelievable. All I’ve said to the players - especially the ones coming in – is that if you give the fans something to get behind they’ll get behind it and if you’re not giving them anything then they’ll let you know. I don’t see a problem with that and I did say that when I was getting heavily criticised. It’s when [the media] were criticising things that happen every day on the training ground and when they were fabricating, sensationalising things - that was when it was getting out of hand. But you know, I had no problem with the criticism I was getting.

KUMB: But on that point Alan, and as you know, at the Charlton game there were a lot of West Ham fans singing ‘there’s only one Alan Pardew’. Did that bother you?

AC: Well, no - it was a lot of friction between fans.

KUMB: We found it very disrespectful, you know. What are your thoughts on that?

AC: It’s difficult to say because I done fifteen years at Charlton and I think the Charlton fans wanted to give me a good reception, but they couldn’t because the game was so important.

KUMB: Well, it was a big game …

AC: Well, we got walloped and the obvious thing is to do that. As I said earlier in the interview Alan Pardew done great for West Ham, he turned it around. You know, the signings he had to make, he had to sell big and buy small if you like.

KUMB: He got a good core of young players in from other clubs.

AC: Yeah, but sometimes that’s easier to work. When you can only shop at a certain supermarket it’s easier than perhaps when you’re being given some money to spend and your market may be different areas. But that’s what I said after the Bolton game; I didn’t think that anything was going to happen at West Ham. I don’t think the fans did and I don’t think Pards did but these things happen, you know. It’s difficult, but it was obvious things were going on that I had no control of and I just felt ‘well I can't do anything about this.’

KUMB: What is it like working in a situation where money is no object compared to your previous managerial role at Charlton?

AC: Well, I think that’s wrong because if you look at what we’ve done, as I said, Bellamy is the biggest price at £7.5million, which [is less than we received] for Nigel Reo-Coker. There’s lots of talk about what we’re supposed to have done and what we’re supposed to be doing. As for the wages people are purporting that we’re paying – well, if we were paying those wages we would have had whoever we wanted coming in to the club.

KUMB: Does that include people like Darren Bent?

AC: Yeah, we would have had whoever. It’s just that they’ve latched onto something - I’ve read somewhere that we were offering someone £85,000 a week, but we hadn’t even spoke to Everton about anything. You know, it’s just something to write. But it is different to Charlton.

KUMB: Because of the status of West Ham United?

AC: I think because Eggert’s come in and because we’ve got big backers and lots of money. But once again, Bellamy is the biggest fee £7.5million, Parker’s the next one at £7 million; Faubert and Upson at £6million. At Christmas, when we obviously had to do things to change it around, the fees we were paying then we thought would be normal this year because of the extra money coming in - and we’ve been proved right. But we’re happy with what we’ve done. We’ve lost out on players because other clubs have paid them more, so if it was a question of money then we would have won it. But I think we’re being sensible, we know what we’re trying to do.

KUMB: On those signings – Craig Bellamy?

I think Bellamy’s got a lot to prove. I’ve said it to him, ‘you’ve got a reputation which I think is not quite right but the only way you’ll turn that around is by becoming a hero at Upton Park so they talk about you about your football as opposed to anything else’. If you care to look at him, I think there was only one bust-up and that was at Newcastle. If you look at his record, it’s quite clear. Norwich, young up-and-coming player, they sold him; Coventry got relegated so they had to sell him; Newcastle, Bobby Robson bought him and with another manager it didn’t work out. He then goes to Celtic and does fantastic at Blackburn. Liverpool activated the get out clause, he then goes to Liverpool, has a year and there are no rows there. He’s had no fights there, no discrepancies or anything. I’ve done my background into it. They’ve changed, they’ve gone and bought different players - and he’s left.

I said, ‘if you come to us the West Ham fans will love you if you do what you do. They don’t want to hear anything else, they just want you to do what’s right’. So he comes I think a little bit angry and hungry. Parker does too because he played for England eight months ago. I’m saying to him, ‘you’ve got to get back to what you were doing at Charlton. You played like two men to get away, now you’ve got to play like two men to get back in the England squad’. He is a different character completely.

KUMB: The ultimate professional?

AC: Totally, he sets the tempo in training.

KUMB: They looked good in training, I mean, all of them are up for it.

AC: I think Faubert has every ingredient you want from a wide player. It’s unfortunate what has happened to him. But I count Upson as a massive new signing, I think in the 30 minutes he played you could see he was a player, Ashton’s like a new signing - when he gets himself 100% right - and Gabbidon too. My first game was Man U and we had fitness tests for Ferdinand and Collins the day before. They both said they were fit. Next game Collins was out and Christian Dailly went in with Ferdinand. Then we brought Gabbidon back, he lasted a couple of games and then him and Collins were both injured in the same game against Fulham. We lost Tevez that game as well so things were going on which people completely forgot about - but we were getting smashed in every which way.

KUMB: Was there a fitness issue with the players?

AC: I can only talk about what is happening now, and I think that they’ve attacked the pre-season. We got to the summer and I thought it was the right time to have a change around. Pardew wanted some of these people, I wanted some of mine and I felt that the summer was the only time to do it. The six months I had working with other people’s staff and other people’s players wasn’t a bed of roses, I must admit - but I got on with it. I just felt that we had to get through it and then when we got to the summer it would sort itself out. So there’s been a bit of a turnaround now.

KUMB: So this is your team now?

AC: It’s my backroom staff - and I feel all the players here today want to be here.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Captain Neill

Lucas Neill says he is honoured to become the captain of West Ham United and hopes it will finally silence his detractors. Neill was heavily criticised last January after he rejected a move to Liverpool and opted for a move to east London, although West Ham were facing a relegation battle at the time. Doubters suggested the Australian international chose Upton Park because of the salary he was reportedly offered but Neill demonstrated his commitment by fighting his way back from injury to help keep the club in the Premier League. "I think my decision has been vindicated to some extent," he said. "I don’t need to prove anything to anybody and being announced as the captain shows I was always going to be part of this team. It wasn't ever promised, but I was told I would be important. If I was only joining for money, I would have sat on the sidelines and just picked up my wages. I didn't do that. I got in the trenches and helped dig us out. Now I’m hoping the gamble comes good because chairman Eggert Magnusson is ambitious and the manager is hungry. We want to achieve much bigger and better things this season."

Neill, who returned to pre-season training at Upton Park yesterday following international duty with Australia in the Asia Cup, insists he just wants to pay West Ham back for the desire they showed to sign him. "I’ll lead on the training ground and not take second best," he declared. "Not in a ranting, raving way, just give people constructive criticism . . . I’ll just be an Aussie! Being captain is a massive honour for me. Some huge names have led this club. To be on that list is phenomenal. Bobby Moore was obviously one of the most famous captains in the history of the game and I know I’m nowhere near his level, but to be given this honour is truly something special. It’s an opportunity you never usually dream of getting."

The 28-year-old Australian defender, who is also captain of his national team, was always seen by many as the natural successor to Nigel Reo-Coker, who recently joined Aston Villa.
He got the nod ahead of fellow national captains Freddie Ljungberg of Sweden and Craig Bellamy of Wales as well as new signing Scott Parker, who was Newcastle skipper. The Aussie says expects his team-mates to give him a kick up the backside if he is not doing the business; dangerous words I would have thought given the reputations of some of those he will be leading. "It’s fine if people kick me up the bum because I’m not always going to be perfect all the time," stated Neill. "I’m going to have some bad games but as long as we stick together we’ll be okay. That’s the message I want to get across — we have to stick together in the dressing-room. If people step out of line, then we’re open to each other’s criticism and to push each other to greater heights. The more leaders we’ve got, the more people know how to win games. I’ve been captain a few times before so like to think managers like my attitude and the way I try to play the game with a bit of passion. There are a few leaders in this team so I’m sure we’ll be relying on a few of us rather than just one. I prefer a noisy dressing room to a quiet one, as long as it’s a constructive and positive noise. I can’t see it being overly aggressive or too much feuding but I think behind the scenes the mood will be determined with a lot of winners."

Alan Curbishley
explained his decision on the official site: "I'm pleased to confirm Lucas as the new team captain of West Ham United. He has all the qualities needed to captain a Club of this stature. He understands the role, has been used to it with Blackburn Rovers and Australia, and I'm sure it is an appointment that everybody at the Club is happy with."

Further reading: Turmoil tearing at Neill; Civil war splits Socceroos;

Friday, 27 July 2007

KUMB Q&A: Alan Curbishley (part one)

Here is the first part of an exclusive interview given by Alan Curbishley on the recent pre-season tour of Austria. It is taken from KUMB and credit goes to Gary Jones and Colin Wells for their excellent work in making this happen...

Alan Curbishley took time out during the recent pre-season tour of Austria to talk to Gary Jones and Colin Wells. In the first of a three-part interview, Curbs talks about the 'Great Escape', Raymond Domenech and a certain job offer in 2001 ...

KUMB.com: Alan – thanks for agreeing to talk to us. We're going to ask you some questions about the circumstances of you becoming manager, pre-season, the run-in last season and expectations for next year.

Alan Curbishley: Yeah, fine.

KUMB: The first question we’ve got came from one of the supporters - when the West Ham job came up, did you apply personally for it or did the chairman come calling?

AC: I was actually doing a Bolton v West Ham game live for Sky, and obviously West Ham got beat 4-0. That was a Saturday night. I went out to dinner that night with my elder brother, who was over in London, and got back late in the early hours of Sunday morning. As we left the restaurant, “God”, he said, “West Ham are having a bit of a hard time - if anything happens there you might get a phone call!” We just laughed about it, you know, didn’t think too much of it. Then, about half past ten on Monday morning, I had a phone call - and it was Scott Duxbury.

I knew Paul Aldridge and I knew Terry Brown, but I didn’t know Scott Duxbury. I never returned the call and he phoned again and said “I’m Scott Duxbury, Chief Executive for West Ham and I want to talk to you.” And then the news broke; I think it was about 11 o’clock, Monday morning. So I phoned him back and he said “we’re looking for a manager, Alan Pardew has left the club, would you be interested?” And it went from there. So it was about Monday morning when I first heard about it, after the Bolton game. We got together Monday night and it proceeded from there.

There had been previous contact [with West Ham] when Harry [Redknapp] left, which was a big surprise to everybody - least of all me, because I knew he was on the verge of signing a new four year contract. I was at Charlton at the time and also on the verge of signing a new contract; in the end I decided to stay at Charlton. There was a bit of talk that perhaps West Ham would be interested but I think Steve McLaren came into the picture a little bit and I felt that, you know, I had a bit more to do at Charlton really and decided that I was going to honour the contract that I had agreed. I hadn’t signed it, by the way, but I agreed it in the end and stayed at Charlton.

I met Scott and Eggert on that Monday evening and it was like going on a blind date - I had never met Scott before and obviously I had never met Eggert before.

KUMB: So what were your initial thoughts after you got the phone call? When did you think ‘yep, this is it?’

AC: Well, my initial thought was that I’d let it go once - and I wasn’t going to let it go again. That was the first thing. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was another year off, you know, I’d done six months and in all fairness I couldn’t see anything coming up that would have been attractive. I know West Ham were going through a bad time but I didn’t think anything would happen there, bearing in mind what had happened in previous seasons. I didn’t think that there’d be a change so it was a surprise when it happened. But when they contacted me and said that there was a vacancy, that’s when I decided to talk to them.

KUMB: Did you receive any other job offers?

AC: Yes I did, yeah. I had opportunities to talk to two Premiership clubs.

KUMB: Can you name them?

AC: Not really! But obviously there were vacancies in the summer. That summer it was quite strange, there were four vacancies I think - Charlton, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. There were four clubs that didn’t have a manager which was a big percentage of the Premiership, if you like. It doesn’t normally happen like that but I wanted to take the break, I wanted to have at least six months off so I felt …

KUMB: Well, it was the best part of 15 years with Charlton wasn’t it, more than that …

AC: 16 years - one as a player/coach and the other fifteen as a manager. I just felt I’d reached a situation where I needed to leave and they needed to move on. It was amicable when I left . But as I say, I didn’t see anything happening - even though West Ham were having a bad time, I still didn’t see anything happening there. I looked at other clubs that might be attractive but thought I’d be going into Christmas having my first Christmas at home.

KUMB: I think that was the general consensus from all of us. Although we were on a bad run we didn’t feel there was going to be a change - we didn’t see it coming.

AC: No. You know, when you find yourself in the bottom three, you have to get out round about Christmas because if you don’t then it’s a struggle. Once you’re in for that half a season then it’s difficult to get out. You know, you can win a couple of games and then lose a couple and you go straight back in it again. It’s very difficult to get out of it.

I never really asked the reasons why there was a vacancy. I signed Alan Pardew as a player; he was one of my first ever signings at Charlton and he was with me for four years. Over the years he had done a bit of scouting for us and we’d been together on Charlton vet football matches etc. - and we were close. So I didn’t think anything was going to happen there - but these things do happen.

KUMB: Following on from that, as a lifelong Hammer, you must have been delighted about the job?

AC: Yeah. I mean, I did look at it coldly and just on a pure football thing - forget anything else …

KUMB: Was it hard to do a job like that?

AC: No - I divorced myself from it because I know how difficult it is when you are in the bottom three. West Ham had played 17 games and had 14 points, so they needed to get to 40 points - 26 points from 21 games, which sounds easy enough but it’s not. I looked at the fixtures and I looked at the squad. I hadn’t seen West Ham play live that year but I’d seen games on TV and knew that there was enough there to stay up. That was my first thought, that there was enough there to stay up. The one thing I didn’t take into consideration was the responsibility of the job...

KUMB: Yeah, I can remember you saying that …

AC: As a player, and as an opposing player, and as an opposing manager I know what West Ham’s all about. But I didn’t realise until I actually got inside how much it means, and the responsibility of being the manager. It wasn’t a shock, but I quickly realised that this was a different set of rules I was working under.

KUMB: Did you ever think ‘what have I done?’ at any point after you arrived? Did you ever consider quitting?

AC: No. I think the Charlton game was my lowest point on that run. Not because it was Charlton - that was secondary - but because of the performance against a team that was in trouble with us. It was a massive game - when you are in the bottom three or four the games against teams around you are massive. We lost to Watford and Charlton on the spin - and that was my lowest point …

KUMB: I think it was for us as well …

AC: But I never, ever thought anything other than that we were going to get out of it. It was tough, I must admit - but I never thought that there was any other way to go about it. My biggest problem was that I was learning about the players in the first team. Nothing we tried seemed to work; we brought players in and they got injured straight away. The whole thing was never settled. If you look at it, the only time it was settled was from the Tottenham game onwards. There were only two changes to the team thereafter -Yossi Benayoun and Matthew Etherington. The rest stayed the same for the [last] ten games which made a big difference.

From the first game it was constantly changing and we were getting inconsistent team performances, inconsistent team selections and inconsistent results. But the one thing that was consistent - and I’m not saying this to butter anyone up - was the fans. It was quite easy to turn off but they still turned up in numbers home and away. So for me the lowest point, for sure, was the Charlton game. But funnily enough the turning point was the Tottenham game, the next game up.

KUMB: So not the result at Blackburn?

AC: No - I saw more in the Tottenham game than I had seen before. I was really pleased with the Man United and Fulham performances as I thought we had lift off. We had two home games coming up, Portsmouth and Man City and I thought ‘we’ve got a chance here, if we can just nick a win it will get us out of the bottom three’. But we lost both of them, then we went to Reading …

But no, it was the Tottenham game where Tevez got his first goal. There were lots of good performances; Noble coming into the team, Lucas Neill coming back, Upson played - and went out again. We had a bit about us, you know, and didn’t deserve to lose. It was the first time I could go to the next game without making loads of changes. I think if you look at the side that played in the run-in, it’s seven changes. No disrespect to those who played but it was seven changes to the Charlton team, and it was the first time in that run in that I could keep a settled side. Along with that came better performances. But it was the Tottenham game. I know we got done in the last five minutes, and I think a lot of people thought that was it; you know, a lot of people around me …

KUMB: A point wasn’t good enough - is that why you went for it?

AC: The players went for it, I didn’t go for it. But if you look at it, in the last minute we had a corner and everyone went up for it - and we got done on the break. But you know, that was the turning point because I was driving home from that game thinking they’ve shown me some of the things that everyone’s been saying about them.

We had had no luck up until the Blackburn game - no luck whatsoever. We had beaten Fulham with ten men in the 95th minute, we were beating Newcastle 2-0 then had the Scotty Parker offside decision - everything what could go wrong was going wrong. But that’s the first time I came out of a game with some positives.

KUMB: I would like to say a big sincere thanks from at least one supporter for saving our skins last season. I think you said that you know players didn’t get enough credit because of the media etc and therefore we’d like to thank you …

AC: Well, I don’t look back on it as a triumph. I mean, I’ve got two really good friends who are mad West Ham fans and I was sort of left alone when I was the Charlton manager - but we go out regular and I could see what it meant to everybody. But I couldn’t take too much out of it because my finger was on a lot of it - do you understand what I’m saying? I had 21 games to get those points so I couldn’t take pleasure from it. I wouldn’t say it was a miracle, but to win seven out of nine was just incredible …

KUMB: Champion League’s form?

AC: Yeah. Obviously we had some tough games where we tactically deserved to win, but I thought we started making our own luck a little bit - and that is what happens when you start playing regular and results start going for you. You seem to get a bit of luck; when it’s going poorly for you, you get no luck. In that run-in we got a bit of luck but we got the consistency in team selection and once we had found something … I mean, I don’t think any of us could forget Wigan - the players will never forget Wigan …

KUMB: I don’t think Eddie will either, we saw him afterwards …

AC: Yeah, I heard about that! But for me it started with the Alan Ball thing. I don’t think the Wigan fans knew what was happening - there were 6 or 7,000 West Ham fans and they started singing ‘Alan Ball’.

But you can call it whatever you want - the great escape, a miracle … all I think is that it happened and it’s resigned to history. We came fifth from bottom or whatever it was, we’re a Premiership club and whatever went on before is gone. The interesting thing for me is that apart from Lucas Neill it was the same players in most of those games in the run-in. It just showed you perhaps not all West Ham fans were thinking, you know, how are we in this mess when we’ve got these players?

KUMB: Yeah, the same ones that got us to a Cup Final …

AC: The same ones.

In the play-off years I came and watched a few games. In the Championship they were pressurised games, especially playing at Upton Park where you are expected to win every week. It wasn’t going so well, but they got to the play-off final and lost it - then won it the following year. Then they had a great season and got to an FA Cup Final. So big games weren’t a problem for these players. What was a problem was those in for a spin - because we’d never lost four on a spin. In the last four years, two seasons in the old first division, if you like, and two years in the Premiership, they never went four games on the spin without a win - because you don’t do that in the first division.

But in the Premiership you do, and it’s hard to get out of it. I don’t think the players had the know-how to get out of it. Before I came I think they went eight games on the spin and didn’t score a goal. When I look at the players now I think they’ve been through it a bit, and I’m hoping it’s going to hold them in good stead. I don’t expect seven [wins] out of nine to start with next year but the players have been through the mill and they’re still young. If you look at Lucas he‘s one of the oldest in the squad; the rest of them are young and that’s what I’ve been saying all along - that I wanted players in between the young talent just to bring them through – players like Collinson.

KUMB: Collinson played the other day?

AC: Yeah, and we’ve got some good kids coming through. I was on holiday when West Ham got beat in the Cup Final. But I knew the next year was going to be different.

KUMB: Second year syndrome …

AC: Well, Wigan had it; when I was with Charlton we went up with Ipswich, Charlton finished ninth and Ipswich finished fifth - the next season Charlton finished ninth and Ipswich went down …

KUMB: That’s right …

AC: That second year is difficult - you’re not an unknown quantity. In the first year you know the players who you are playing against but they don’t know who they’re playing against. It’s a little bit different in the second year.

When Keith Peacock came over to join Pards I had a brief conversation with him and I said ‘ you have got to realise that last year was last year’. I think a lot of people left their thoughts at the Millennium, and when they came to pre-season they were still thinking of Cup Finals when they should have been thinking about Charlton first game. It was a learning curve for everybody and I think that we’ve got some ardent players now. The Ferdinands of this world have been through the mill in the last three or four years - hopefully it will hold them in good stead.

KUMB: Whose idea was it to come to Austria?

AC: I always go away for a week somewhere pre-season. I’m big on pre-season, I like to train hard and over the years I’ve not lost too many players in pre-season. If I have lost a player it’s been in circumstances that you can't control. If we had lost someone with a groin, thigh or hamstring I could probably say we pushed them too hard - but Faubert’s Achilles …

KUMB: Do you know how long he’ll be out for?

AC: Christmas. Someone did text me saying ‘well what else can go wrong?’ You sign a player to then lose him for six months. Quashie is still out after he got injured against Spurs, Davenport had five weeks out … it happens, you know, but you’ve just got to get on with it. [Faubert] made a big impression on everybody in the two weeks [before his injury] because of his aggression and his fitness levels.

KUMB: We saw him at Dagenham, he looked quick and strong.

AC: I’d say he was a cross between Trevor Sinclair and Steve Stone. He’s an attacking midfield player, and he’s played a lot at right-back so he understands the game. It’s a big hit for us but we’ve just got to move on and hopefully he will recover.

KUMB: What did you make of the comment by the French national manager about Faubert being stupid to sign?

AC: He had a couple of clubs he could have gone to – Rangers, and Roma I think. But he chose West Ham. We were delighted with that - but these things happen, don’t they …

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Anelka Next?

Reports in two papers this morning name Nicolas Anelka as the the latest striker set for a big money move to West Ham United. The Mail claim the Hammers have already bid a club-record £12million for the Bolton forward as they seek the attacking spearhead to lead their ambitious assault on the top six. Meanwhile, Sam Wallace, writing in The Independent, believes Anelka will be offered the club's biggest pay deal to move to Upton Park but is under the impression that a bid of £6million will be enough to tempt Bolton into selling. In both cases, it is thought the France international will command wages of £90,000 a week as the Premier League's new television deal takes effect.

The West Ham chairman has already missed out on signing Andy Johnson and Darren Bent this summer, says Wallace, but the club believe they have a real chance with Anelka, 28, who has been told by Bolton Wanderers that he can leave at the right price. Sammy Lee said at the weekend that he would allow Anelka to go as long as the club he was joining was playing in the Champions League, although Bolton are understood to be flexible on that count. "He told me he wants Champions League football," Lee said. "But if a Champions League club showed an interest, it would be wrong to stand in his way. I'm not in the business of getting rid of our best players, but I have to be fair to everybody. If the deal was fair to all parties, I would not stop him." There is a slightly different tune being sung in The Sun, with Lee insisting Bolton have no intention of cashing in on their prize asset, but I'll leave that to one side for the moment.

West Ham would be Anelka's eighth major European club - he has had two spells at Paris St-Germain - and his fifth in English football. Despite his constant restlessness, he has always proved himself a reliable goalscorer, if not the life and soul of the clubs he has played for. The France striker was also top scorer at the Reebok last season with 12 goals from 38 games after signing from Fenerbahce for a club record £8million. When Arsene Wenger was looking for Thierry Henry's replacement this summer it is thought he seriously considered a move for Anelka. The Mail claim the player was also on Manchester United's wish-list earlier in the summer and Newcastle, under former Bolton boss Sam Allardyce, have monitored his progress, too. While some of those suitors have since looked elsewhere, there remains strong interest from from Lyons and Werder Bremen but neither the French or German club would be able to pay anything like the salaries Anelka would command in the Premiership.

The steadily increasing wages paid by even clubs outside of the top four in the Premiership have been powered by the new, three-year, £2.1bn television deal which starts this season. According to The Independent, Eggert Magnusson was prepared to offer Andy Johnson £90,000 a week when they failed with an inquiry for the Everton player last month, and Scott Parker is understood to have signed £72,000-a-week contract at West Ham. The east London club have also matched Freddie Ljungberg's salary of around £60,000 a week at Arsenal when he signed for them this week and were prepared to offer a similar amount to Darren Bent - roughly twice what he eventually settled for when he joined Tottenham. Anelka would certainly command higher wages than all of those, claims Wallace, but West Ham believe he fits the bill if they are to mount a credible challenge to qualify for European football. The Mail quote a club insider as saying: "When was the last time West Ham could offer big salaries and lure players from Liverpool and Arsenal — as well as someone with Anelka's pedigree? The answer is never."

Elsewhere, Alan Curbishley has refused to rule the club out of a move for Newcastle midfielder Kieron Dyer. An article in the Express states Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce admitted today that the 28-year-old could be ending his eight-year stay on Tyneside due to "family problems" - and West Ham have been heavily linked with the England man. Speaking after yesterday's 3-2 friendly defeat at Coca-Cola League Two side MK Dons, Curbishley said: "I'm looking in all areas, and it's not very often that a club says that a player is available. You normally phone up and get told that people are not available, so it's very difficult. But anything can still happen. The situation is that Kieron wants to leave the club, as I understand it, but I don't know anything else. We get linked with a lot of players at the minute, and he's one of them. We are actively looking to strengthen the squad and we have to replace those who have left. I have one eye on everything until that window closes - so we'll have to see."

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

The Endgame

West Ham United were last night facing a multimillion-pound lawsuit in the battle over the future of Carlos Tévez after the player’s agents issued a writ against the club. Legal proceedings began after Fifa refused to rule on the player’s potential transfer to Manchester United, referring the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne. The Premier League had hoped that Fifa would mediate to resolve the situation, but football’s world governing body backed away from making a ruling that it feared could be challenged in a court of law. "It is not a matter of refusing to arbitrate but a recommendation in the interest of all parties involved in the complicated affair," a Fifa spokesman simpered. Instead, lawyers for Media Sports Investments and Just Sports Inc - the companies who held the economic rights relating to Tevez when he moved to Upton Park last August - have lodged a breach-of-contract claim with the courts.

So the Carlos Tevez chess match marches resolutely towards the endgame now that one side has deviated from the well-thumbed book that had been channelling the dispute along more conventional lines. The Guardian claim West Ham, who say they are "happy" to go to CAS, are puzzled as to why Tevez's camp would head for protracted route of the civil courts. Mathieu Reeb, secretary general of CAS, believes the case could have been heard before August 15, with a verdict from the arbitration panel likely to be returned before the closure of the transfer window; a High Court case could take months to be heard. Yet sources close to Joorabchian said the businessman believed an "open and fair" process in the High Court would be the swiftest way of deciding whether the likely £30million transfer fee from United should go to him or the Hammers. Whatever the time scale, The Sun think this latest development in 'soccer’s longest-running row' is a major setback to United’s hopes of signing Tevez. They insist their best hope of landing the Argentine striker before the transfer window closes on August 31 is to now agree a transfer fee with West Ham. Then it would be down to the High Court to rule how much compensation the Hammers would have to pay Joorabchian’s company MSI. An Old Trafford spokesman last night said: "We are hopeful that there will be an early resolution. We are happy with our case and confident he will be our player at the end of the transfer window." The Guardian state Joorabchian is willing to take the risk of a less swift process if he can guarantee an open and public hearing, such as is the case in the High Court. CAS - where decisions are binding and which may be appealed only on procedural grounds - would announce only its verdict, without providing details of its reasons.

The Mail insist that the Iranian is unwilling for the evidence to be heard behind closed doors as he is keen to prove he has
nothing to hide. By playing the 'Joorabchian Variation', Tevez's representatives are adopting a high risk strategy with the battle lines now clearly drawn. "The companies seek the court's intervention to compel West Ham to release the registration of Carlos Tevez in accordance with contracts entered into between the parties," said Graham Shear, a solicitor for MSI-JSI. They are ready, suggest the Guardian, to highlight Tevez's eviction from his home - a flat in Canary Wharf that had been organised for him by West Ham - while he was away on Copa América duty with Argentina this summer. They will claim this is proof that the Hammers have not been consistent in asserting their rights over the player. Under pressure from the Premier League to stick by their decision to pull out of the agreements with MSI-JSI, West Ham will rely on Tevez's three-year playing contract and the registration document they hold as evidence that he is their own asset. The Hammers would also draw in their defence on the belief expressed by two QCs in a Premier League disciplinary hearing in April that the third-party contracts held with MSI-JSI are legally unenforceable.

Last night a source close to MSI threatened that in the course of the hearings, the infamous 'damaging documents' will be exposed that in all probability
have not been seen by the Premier League. An incendiary piece in the Express states that throughout the saga, the Hammers and the Premier League have both claimed all the relevant paperwork regarding Tevez has been reviewed. Should this be found not to be the case then West Ham could face a points deduction for the start of the season – or even relegation which would see Sheffield United reinstated. Tevez is no longer challenging his ownership, but is instead contesting West Ham’s claim he is contracted to the club until 2010. The original third-party agreement Joorabchian held with the Hammers contained clauses allowing the striker to move at his or his owner’s will in any transfer window. They believe it should still be possible to exploit the clauses because they did not consent to the termination of the agreement. Under the same clauses, MSI would receive all the transfer cash, barring a £100,000 ‘thank you’ to the Hammers.

Yesterday's development was the realisation of a threat that has been outstanding since April. Joorabchian claims that West Ham unilaterally ripped up the contract that was agreed last summer when Tévez and Javier Mascherano, his Argentina teammate, arrived at Upton Park. Those deals were deemed to be in breach of Premier League rules by a commission that fined West Ham £5.5 million in April. As part of the punishment, the club were forced to extricate themselves from the contract with MSI and JSI, a move that allowed Tévez to play in the final three games of the season, helping them to avoid relegation. Richard Scudamore, the Premier League’s chief executive, said that West Ham would have to abide by the decision the club made in April, which allowed them to play Tévez. "They were given three options,” Scudamore said. “The one they chose has made it difficult for them, but we will see that that choice is upheld. They could have gone a different way." Had West Ham chosen to maintain the contract with Tévez’s agents, the forward would not have been allowed to play for the club again. MSI and JSI argue that they did not agree to the contract being terminated. West Ham claim that they are only one year into a four-year deal with the striker. Last night, the club were consulting their lawyers.

Leyton Orient 1 West Ham United 1

Dean Ashton scored his first goal for West Ham in almost a year as the Hammers claimed a 1-1 draw in yesterday's pre-season friendly against Leyton Orient at The Matchroom Stadium. The England striker hit an unstoppable shot from 30 yards after quarter of an hour, the ball swerving past Glenn Morris in goal. The Orient keeper was subsequently replaced after suffering a head injury following an aerial collision with Callum Davenport, and in a very competitive first half, Adam Boyd fired narrowly wide for the Coca-Cola League One club before scoring a stunning equaliser after 20 minutes. The 25-year-old, a new signing from Luton, sent a 25-yard volley dipping over England goalkeeper Robert Green to mark his debut for the east London club in style.

In the second half Kyel Reid sent a fierce shot over the bar for the visitors, before Ashton failed to claim his second of the game when he contrived to miss a glaring opportunity when he headed over from four yards following Matthew Etherington's cut-back. Etherington then provided a cross for Lee Bowyer, whose header was kept out by substitute goalkeeper Stuart Nelson - before Ashton's left-footed shot went just wide of the goal in the final minute.

Alan Curbishley had made the decision earlier in the week to split his first team squad between this week's two friendly matches, this testimonial match for O's manager Martin Ling and against MK Dons tonight. The plan is to ensure that the majority of senior players get through their first 90 minutes of the pre-season build-up, with just three more friendly matches to play before the new Premier League campaign kicks off against Manchester City on August 11. As a result, the travelling support got a lengthy look at several of the players hopeful of making an impression this coming season. Anton Ferdinand joined Davenport in central defence and was an assured performer all night as his partner suffered several lapses. Indeed, Davenport and was fortunate not to concede a penalty for a clear shirt-pull when he got turned on the edge of the penalty area. John Pantsil gave another energetic performance and linked up well with Reid down the right-hand side, as he did in the opening friendly against Dagenham & Redbridge. On the opposite flank, George McCartney put in a very solid display and supported Matthew Etherington effectively. Hayden Mullins shared central midfield duties with Bowyer and both players put in neat, if uninspired, performances. Up front a weary looking Ashton showed some good touches but an overall lack of sharpness, while Carlton Cole was largely anonymous save for a blistering 12-yard shot which went just over the bar in the early stages.

Etherington was easily West Ham's best performer on the night and he admits that the hard work Hammers have put in during the first three weeks of the pre-season build-up has benefited his overall sharpness. "I felt good against Orient," he said. "The legs were a bit heavy towards the end, but it was very tough in Austria last week and I think the lads were feeling that a bit. We worked very hard out there in hot, humid conditions, but I think the lads will benefit from it in time. I felt sharper at the start tonight and hopefully I'll be up to full speed in a couple of weeks. I think the worst of the hard work is behind us now, we're on to the ball-work and short, sharp stuff, so I'm sure the performances will start to improve as we get used to that. I'm raring to go now, ready to fight for my place and looking forward to the new season."

Alan Curbishley seemed content with the general display but clearly had other things on his mind. Speaking after the game the West Ham manager insisted on discussing Craig Bellamy and how he is convinced the player will do his talking on the pitch this season. "It's about time, for all sorts of reasons, that Craig Bellamy let his football do the talking because he's an excellent talent. We've already seen that in the two weeks he has been at the club. He's a good player and I'm sure the West Ham fans are going to see him perform. He has got pace, aggression and is a good finisher."

West Ham United: Green, Pantsil, Ferdinand, Davenport, McCartney, Reid (Stokes), Bowyer, Mullins, Etherington, Cole and Ashton.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

The Writ Is Served

Kia Joorabchian tonight confirmed that he has instigated court proceedings against West Ham United over the Carlos Tevez transfer affair. The player's representative has decided to take his fight to the High Court despite Fifa's recommendation that the dispute be settled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). It is believed a writ was served this afternoon on the club's solicitors by lawyers acting on behalf of Joorabchian's companies MSI and Just Sports Inc. Solicitor Graham Shear of lawyers Teacher Stern Selby said in a statement: "I can confirm the companies (MSI and Just Sports Inc) have today begun High Court proceedings against West Ham. This afternoon a High Court writ was served on the football club's solicitors. The companies seek the court's intervention to compel West Ham to release the registration of Carlos Tevez in accordance with contracts entered into between the parties. We are asking the court to intervene so that Carlos Tevez can be registered to play with Manchester United as soon as possible." Shear added: "We will be making no further statement at this time."

With Joorabchian deciding to pursue this course of action there would be no need for CAS to adjudicate, even though the Hammers say they are happy to abide by Fifa's recommendation as are the Football Association and the Premier League. Manchester United are not involved in the process. The Iranian businessman is now forcing the issue in the belief that by bringing the matter to the High Court a clearer picture will emerge surrounding the furore, and that it will ultimately lead to a firmer and speedier conclusion than might be achieved through CAS.

An official club statement was posted on the site this evening. It states: "West Ham United is led to believe that MSI and Just Sports Inc. have issued a writ against the Club this evening, although we are yet to receive this officially. We will liaise with our lawyers and a further statement will be made when appropriate.

Passing The Buck

Fifa have recommended that the Carlos Tevez dispute should go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The world football's governing body came to their decision following a high level meeting with FA and Premier League officials in Zurich yesterday, and believe their decision is in the best interests of all concerned. Fifa spokesman Andreas Herren said: "The recommendation from Fifa to the FA and the Premier League is to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Under the circumstances it was felt it would be in the best interest of all parties to take this course. It looks like being the fastest way of resolving this matter. It is not a refusal by Fifa to get involved, quite the contrary. It is a recommendation by Fifa to opt for this way."

The legal team considered the case overnight before recommending CAS rule on the matter and Fifa's senior legal counsel has already been in touch with the Football Association and the Premier League to advise them of their decision. The recommendation to go to CAS applies to West Ham and Carlos Tevez but not Manchester United, who are not regarded as directly involved in the dispute. The Premier League welcomed the decision. A spokesman said: "The Premier League and FA are grateful to Fifa for considering this issue. We are supportive of the recommendation that if all parties are in agreement the matter should be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport."

West Ham were eager for Fifa to get involved in what has become a stalemate in recent weeks, with the club refusing to sanction Tevez's proposed move to Manchester United. Joorabchian claims he owns the player's economic rights and is therefore entitled to his transfer fee. The Premier League, however, says the Hammers own the player and therefore must receive any such fee. Manchester United chief executive David Gill had said last week that he was confident Fifa would reach a decision on the issue. "What you find in these situations, though, is that Fifa and the necessary bodies try to make sure that the player can play, whether it's for Manchester United or for West Ham."

The Telegraph believe this latest turn of events represents a passing of the buck by Fifa, who have done little to address the ongoing wrangle over the player. Despite an official statement that insisted the decision was deemed to be the best approach, in the interest of all parties and the fastest way to solve this impasse, CAS is yet to even comment on whether it will deign to hear the case. That decision, when it comes, could become an irrelevance as any proposed arbitration hearing would require the agreement of both parties. While West Ham have already indicated they are happy for CAS to rule on the issue, BBC Sport is claiming that Kia Joorabchian is now considering taking the matter straight to the High Court. They suggest his motivation behind this is a desire to push through a deal before the transfer window closes on 31 August, and has absolutely nothing to do with the fact, he has already recently suffered a damaging loss in a separate high-profile case within the confines of CAS.

Head Between Legs

If a man isn't willing to take some risk for his opinions, either his opinions are no good or he's no good~ Ezra Pound
Did he jump or was he pushed? Whatever the motivation behind Freddie Ljungberg's move across the capital- and there are many theories- the one thing that all parties seem to agree on is that the timing was right. The midfielder has signed on a three-year deal (with an option for an extra year) for an undisclosed fee - although it is thought it could rise to £3million - and anticipates a European challenge from his new club this season, but admitted it wouldn't be easy. "We need experience as the Premiership is the most difficult league in Europe. We need a good calm start," he said, referring to the controversial transfers of Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez that disrupted the Upton Park club last season. Alan Curbishley said that he believes Ljungberg can help transform the club this season and that his experience will be crucial in helping them challenge for a top-10 finish. "Whenever he got the ball at Arsenal, he used to scare the life out of me. There's a hunger there. He wants to come and push West Ham on and be partly responsible for that," Curbishley said. "He understands the passion of the club and the passion of the fans. We have Lucas Neill [Australia] and Craig Bellamy [Wales], who are both captains of their national team, and now Freddie. They are all leaders and bring experience to the team."

Marc Isaacs, writing in The Telegraph, believes it was a combination of the uncertainty surrounding Wenger's long-term future at Arsenal and Henry's sudden departure to Barcelona that ultimately left the player to question his former club's ambition. "There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to leave Arsenal," admitted Ljungberg. "I spoke to the boss and he wanted me to stay, but when Henry left this summer, it unfortunately felt like the end and time for me to do something different. It made me a bit sad because all the players who had been in the unbeaten side [2003-04] had left the club. I had been there for almost 10 years and it's a big thing for me. I won almost everything there is to win and I look back with great memories." According to The Guardian, there was also a lot of uncertainty left hanging over the club by the departure of the vice-chairman, David Dein, and Ljungberg felt it made it an anxious time for all the players at The Emirates. "Of course it is a big thing in Arsenal and in the last couple of months with David Dein leaving, it's not been easy as a player," he said. "Maybe Arsène Wenger will have to do a lot more work because David Dein has left."

Six transfers from Arsenal to West Ham
  1. Nigel Winterburn- June 2000- free transfer
  2. Davor Suker- June 2000- free transfer
  3. Ian Wright- July 1998- £500,000
  4. John Hartson- February 1997- £3.3 million
  5. Stewart Robson- January 1987- £650,000
  6. John Radford- December1976- £80,000
On Lungberg's departure, Arsène Wenger said: "Freddie’s contribution to Arsenal Football Club was absolutely outstanding. His performances over the past nine seasons have been a major part of the Club’s successes during this time, especially in our 2002 ‘double’ year when he scored and created so many goals from midfield. Freddie is a winner and always gave absolutely everything when he played for this Club. He is an intelligent player and always combined this well with his fantastic fighting spirit. We thank Freddie for his contribution and wish him well for the future." While Wenger was uttering all the right words, Gary Jacob in The Times thinks Arsenal had made the Sweden captain available for transfer for nearly two seasons, after it became clear that a series of injuries had taken their toll on his body. The article states that he has lost some of his pace, and the vision of Dennis Bergkamp, who retired, to match his ability to time a run into the penalty area. He has scored only one league goal in the past two seasons, notes Jacob, compared with ten in the season before, and 12 in 2001-02.

Whatever the truth, Ljungberg’s departure - and the expected sale of José Antonio Reyes - means that there are only four players left from the Arsenal squad that went through the season unbeaten in 2003-2004. As Rob Smyth observed in his Guardian column yesterday: "One of life's greatest frustrations for the sports fan is that great teams never really get the time to bask in the glory they have earned. No sooner has a great team been anointed as, erm, great than fate sizes up the swingers of said team and gives them an unfettered shoeing." Arsenal's Invincibles never started a game together after their final league game in the 2003-04 season and, notes Smyth, perhaps the club's greatest era came to something resembling an official end with the sale to West Ham of 'pants model and increasingly pants footballer Freddie Ljungberg', the longest-serving player at the club and the last one to have played for both the 2002 and 2004 title-winning teams. Wenger's Arsenal will be remembered as aesthetes among philistines in many ways; truly a pleasure to watch, but also a side that ultimately struggled to cope with hardship and lacked mental strength - the final proof of which is that they've all done a runner since the ship started sinking. "I stayed because I wanted to stay loyal to Arsenal. But when [Thierry] Henry left this summer it felt like the end for me unfortunately," mused the Sweden international. It's a beginning for West Ham though, counters Smyth, and Ljungberg says he was impressed by 'crackpot conehead' Eggert Magnusson's vision of the future. "Why I want to join is because of [Spock]," said Ljungberg, modelling his lunchbox at a jaunty 47-degree angle. "He wants to help take the club up and take them to the top in England. It's a big challenge for me." In the words of Dan Quayle- this clearly isn't a man who is leaving with his head between his legs.

Freddie Ljungberg is expected to make his debut either in tonight's friendly at Leyton Orient or at MK Dons tomorrow.

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