Sunday, 27 January 2008

Wage Rows And Expensive Rounds

The Sunday paper round-up of lies, speculation and half-truths is as unedifying as always. The News of the World claim Dean Ashton is heading for a major showdown with the club after being left behind in the salary stakes. It is reported that Ashton wants to double his current £23,000- a-week wage following the arrival of Freddie Ljungberg, Craig Bellamy and Kieron Dyer whose wages dwarf the striker's. Now, with Arsenal and Newcastle United supposedly showing interest in him, Ashton wants to renegotiate his contract.

In addition, Upton Park captain Lucas Neill will not be far behind Ashton when it comes to knocking on the door over money. The article states both are upset that they are now way down the club's pay scale following the influx of big names during the summer. Ljungberg, 30, arrived from Arsenal on a free transfer and his deal and image rights is worth a staggering £80,000 a week. Bellamy, Dyer and Scott Parker are not that far behind and that has created simmering tensions in the dressing room. Icelandic owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson is said to blame fellow countryman Eggert Magnusson for the problem and it was one of the main reasons he ousted him as chairman. The feeling was that Magnusson had allowed the club's salary structure to spiral out of control, and despite a solid season after avoiding relegation and overcoming a whole range of internal issues last year, Hammers manager Alan Curbishley is now having to confront the consequences of magnusson's lavish spending policy.

Ashton was sigined for £7.5million from Norwich City two years ago. At the time he was West Ham United's record signing and instantly became one of the club's top earners but he is now way down the pecking order. Even Lucas Neill, who joined the club during last January's transfer window from Blackburn Rovers, is on £55,000 a week and a long way behind Ljungberg. Both Ashton and Neil still have two years to run on their contracts and they want significantly improved terms otherwise they will both seek to move on in the summer. The paper insists the situation is a massive headache for Alan Curbishley after he succeessfully stabilised the team on and off the pitch. While the Hammers boss ideally wants to keep both players he understands that owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson is determined to tighten belts as he draws up plans to move to a new stadium. That is why there has been no activity during the current transfer window even though Alan Curbishley would like to add Darren Bent in a cut price £12million deal.

The message has been sent out by Gudmundsson that he will not let players dictate terms to the club as Magnusson allowed. In Ashton's case the West Ham United board believe the player still has to prove himself having spent a year out of action with injury. While Lucas Neill has been told that for a 29 year old full back he is on bigger money than he could reasonably command at any other club in the country. In an unrelated piece, it is also reported that Neill strolled into the Aussie owned Walkabout pub in London's West End yesterday and bought a drink for every person to celebrate Australia Day. He said: ""I'm a proud Australian and I wanted to do something for all the backpackers over here. It's an emotional day for me and I know some of them don't arrive here with a lot of cash, just like I did when I was starting out, so it was my way of giving them a bit of a lift."

The Sunday Star think West Ham United are ready to battle it out with Newcastle United for the services of Derby winger Giles Barnes before the window closes. Alan Curbishley has so far had a quiet transfer window but that could all be about to change before the transfer deadline passes on Thursday. Barnes has been a long-term target for the Hammers and, following speculation linking Newcastle with a move for the winger, Curbishley may be forced to move now if he wishes to land his man. Derby are loathe to lose the player but with the Rams heading back to the Championship a move is expected to happen if Paul Jewell receives a big enough offer.

The people over at Sky suggest the Hammers are interested in want-away forward Lars Nilsson. The striker could be set to leave St Etienne as he is growing increasingly frustrated at his lack of first-team opportunities. Nilsson joined the French side from Heerenveen last summer, but has been handed just one first-team appearance since his switch. Reports in France suggest West Ham United, Lens, Sochaux, Lorient and Auxerre are all monitoring the Swede's situation. Nilsson, 26, is at a loss as to why Laurent Roussey brought him to Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, and is open to offers, with a view to leaving in January. "I joined St Etienne with a lot of hopes. But I can't really understand why they approached me," he said in L'Equipe. "I want to play. If it is at St Etienne, that's fine. If it is somewhere else, I will go somewhere else. Sometimes I talk to the coach, but my situation does not change."

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