Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Counting The Cost

West Ham United and Manchester City remain a huge distance apart on their valuation of Craig Bellamy, according to a piece in today's Independent. The article states the Hammers are demanding around £15m, with Gianfranco Zola the ultimate arbiter on whether the player will leave. United have reportedly rejected an improved £9.2m bid from City for Welsh striker Craig Bellamy and continue to insist, publicly at least, that he and Scott Parker, another City target, are not for sale.

The latest offer for Bellamy arrived yesterday morning with Eastland officials confident it would be accepted, having had a package for both he and Parker, thought to be in the region of £15m, turned down last week. The Guardian reports that West Ham were once again in belligerent mood and made it clear that any separate deal for Parker, who was outstanding in the 2-2 draw with Newcastle United on Saturday, would also be turned down. Such a stance remains surprising considering the London club's financial plight, concludes Sachin Nakrani. Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson continues to look for a buyer to cover debts incurred following the collapse of the Icelandic bank Landsbanki, in which he had a 41% share, while the impending High Court verdict on the Carlos Tevez could land West Ham with further costs.

Yet insiders insist there is no pressure on manager Gianfranco Zola to sell and claim that the main transfer targets, which also include Matthew Upson and Robert Green, are happy to remain at the club. City are, however, expected to come in again for Bellamy, who has scored four goals in his past four league matches for West Ham, and it is thought a bid closer to £16m could persuade Upton Park officials to part with the 29-year-old, whom they signed for £7.5m from Liverpool in July 2007.

The Independent claims Bellamy appears to want out of Upton Park and though he prefers the idea of a move to Tottenham to City, Mark Hughes' buying power appears to leave him the most likely to secure his countryman. A £15m bid would be a huge deal for a 29-year-old – albeit one who is returning to form – and in readiness for a revised bid from Eastlands, the club already has a short list of three Italian strikers as a contingency. City, meanwhile, are endeavouring to be as realistic as they can in their bids. Hughes has been told that the reputations of the club's senior executives are on the line and they cannot just move in and blow every other club out of the water. But since City are the only club bidding for Bellamy the prospect of them signing him seems good even though he has been told he is under contract.

Hughes believes that Santa Cruz and Bellamy are the answer to his problems in the striker position and, suggests the Telegraph, is unlikely to be put off by a second rejection from the Hammers, who will face a backlash from supporters if the forward is allowed to leave. The City boss has been looking forward to this month since the Abu Dhabi United Group's takeover on Sept 1, but even though his team are struggling at the wrong end of the table, Wayne Bridge, who signed in a £12-million deal from Chelsea last week, has been the only arrival in almost a fortnight since the transfer-window opened. Now, insist the Mirror, United technical director Gianluca Nani has told Manchester City they will have to make an "extraordinary bid" to land Bellamy, Matthew Upson and Scott Parker.

Elsewhere, Luis Boa Morte has been given permission to speak with Hull City, who are hoping a £2m bid will bring him to the KC Stadium. Boa Morte has struggled to hold down a regular first team place at West Ham since his £5m move from Fulham in 2007 and has managed just one goal in 66 appearances at Upton Park. Despite the winger yesterday denying any knowledge of a possible transfer, Hull City manager Phil Brown today revealed he is hopeful of completing the signing by the end of the week. "We have made progress, things are ongoing," Brown said. "The clubs have agreed terms on Luis Boa Morte and we are trying to agree terms on Kevin Kilbane, on a personal front as well."

After a bright start to their debut season in the Premier League, which included victory at Arsenal, Hull are currently on a run of just one win in 12 games. Brown is hoping to tie up the deals for 31-year-old Boa Morte and Kilbane, also 31, before Saturday's return clash with Arsenal and has not ruled out further signings in January. Speaking ahead of Hull's FA Cup third round replay with Newcastle on Wednesday, Brown added: "They can't play any part in the Newcastle game but hopefully by Thursday or Friday they will bear some fruit.We said at the start of the season we wanted to flood the place with Premier League quality and both those players have it in abundance. To get that quality of player in to Hull City would be great for the football club. I would like in an ideal world maybe three or four players in and three or four out - but it is not an ideal world. If there are some players out there you can get hold of and they will strengthen the situation, it is always good to go and get hold of them. To freshen the place up wouldn't be a bad thing. We are looking to bring a striker in and we are looking to bring another defender in."

Another piece of good news, with the Mirror insisting Nigel Quashie is set to become the latest bargain buy at cash-strapped Newcastle. The Scottish international midfielder is approaching the end of a three-month loan from West Ham in the Championship with Birmingham. When it officially expires after the weekend Newcastle boss Joe Kinnear wants to move for the combative 'ace', who is available for around £500,000. The paper states Quashie's preference for a move to Premier League Newcastle is a blow to City, who would have been interested in doing a deal themselves. Meanwhile it looks like Birmingham are about to renew their interest in Calum Davenport, now he is not moving to Bolton. "I will have to pose the question to (managing director) Karren Brady, she had been talking with West Ham United and we left our proposal with them," Alex McLeish told the Birmingham Mail.

One player staying should be Herita Ilunga with Gianfranco Zola ready to hand the on-loan defender a two-year contract to keep him at West Ham. The 26-year-old has impressed for the Hammers since making the move to Upton Park from Toulouse in September and grabbed his first goal for the club in last weekend's FA Cup win over Barnsley. Ilunga's agent Daniel Striani stated last week that his client was growing impatient with the lack of progress over a new deal but Zola is desperate to keep hold of the Democratic Republic of Congo left-back and says Ilunga is one player he wants to retain at Upton Park. "Ilunga is one of the players we want to keep," said Zola. "He has been performing fantastically since the beginning and we want to keep him. We really trust him and he's not going to leave. I can tell you he's not going to leave and I think the club will go to him soon and offer him a new deal."

The Hammers appear to be ready to thrash out terms with the Toulousain at a time when Liverpool have emerged as a possible intereted party. French daily L’Equipe claim that Rafa Benitez is interested in luring the African out of East London, but Striani has rubbished the news. Speaking exclusively to Setanta, he said: "This Liverpool rumour is rubbish, and I’m glad you called me to check this, because there’s a lot of speculation surrounding Herita Ilunga’s future. What he wants to do is remain a West Ham player, and West Ham have first option to sign him. The player is waiting to know what they are going to do, and I can categorically tell you that these rumours about Liverpool or whatever other Premier League club are wrong. It’s up to West Ham, because the player is well-adjusted within the club, in harmony, and he wishes to stay. But you know I don’t have a crystal ball and don’t know what’s going to happen in the end."

Whether Gianfranco Zola is around long enough to conclude the Ilunga deal is another matter. SkyBet list the Italian, who has only been in charge at the Boleyn Ground since September as fourth favourite to be the next Premier League manager to depart despite his United side enjoying a recent run of good form. Zola, who made comments about his future before Christmas, has been given reassurances by the board that he will not be forced to sell key squad members during the transfer window. However that promise appears to have been ignored by large sections of the media and also the bookies, who still feel that things may come to a head before the end of the month. Joint favourites to go next are Chelsea boss Phil Scolari and Mark Hughes at Manchester City (5/2). Tony Adams, whose Portsmouth side are in freefall having been forced to sell their best players in recent months is listed at 11/4 whilst Zola is at 8/1. You can also get 16s for Middlesbrough's Gareth Southgate, Newcastle's Joe Kinnear and on no further managerial departures whilst the three rank outsiders are Alex Ferguson, Martin O'Neill and David Moyes, all 100/1.

Lastly, new research for Virgin Money shows as many as one in four season ticket holders are considering cancelling their tickets, with a further one in 10 season ticket holders planning to share the cost with friends as recession fears bite football. This latest research coincides with the launch of the latest figures from Virgin Money's Football Fans Inflation Index, which has been tracking matchday costs for three years. The average cost of a matchday currently stands at £95.60 - 22.6% higher than at the start of the index. The Football Supporters Federation is warning that many fans are turning to television to watch football as even the Premiership counts the cost of spiralling prices. Interestingly, West Ham United is fingered as one of the most at risk clubs of losing season ticket holders.

Research among 3,887 Premiership and Football League fans shows the cost squeeze is hitting all levels of the game but the pain is particularly acute in the Premiership. At West Ham United, Blackburn and Newcastle United as many as 37 per cent of season ticket holders are said to be having second thoughts about renewing. Even fans of Premiership and European champions Manchester United are feeling the pinch with 36 per cent considering giving up season tickets. However fans of Wigan are most likely to stay loyal – just 14 per cent are considering giving up their season tickets while 18 per cent of Stoke, Sunderland and West Brom fans are thinking of giving up season tickets.

Virgin Money’s Grant Bather said: "The recession is starting to bite football as fans count the cost of following the game. The game has been lucky so far but it looks like the winning run is over and the crunch is on the way. Football fans are legendarily loyal but when people are worried about losing their jobs something has to give and spending on season tickets is going to bear the brunt as supporters look to save money. No sector of the economy is immune from the downturn and clubs will have to start thinking about ways to make it easier for fans. To be fair there are signs that some clubs are responding but more needs to be done."

Malcolm Clarke, Chairman of the Football Supporters Federation, commented: "Over the last 15 years football inflation has consistently exceeded ordinary inflation and the industry may well now pay the price for its short-sightedness in allowing that to happen. At the end of the day watching football is a leisure activity and it would be very surprising if it was immune from the sharp effects of the recession, particularly at the top end of the game where prices are so high. Premiership fans know that these days they can watch almost any game in the pub for the price of a couple of pints, and this is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative for many."

West Ham 37%
Blackburn 37%
Newcastle 37%
Man Utd 36%
T*ttenham 34%
Portsmouth 31%
Bolton 31%
Man City 31%
Portsmouth 31%
Everton 27%
Aston Villa 26%
Chelsea 26%
Arsenal 24%
Middlesbrough 24%
Fulham 22%
Hull 20%
Stoke City 18%
Sunderland 18%
West Brom 18%
Wigan 14%

1 comment:

Col said...

Thanks for a good informative piece of work that rolls up all the ACTUAL things going on but leaves out all the rubbish being spoken about by most journo's.

Shame we don't see more of this sort of writing.


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