Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Bread Today, Jam Tomorrow

'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day.'
'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected.
'No, it can't,' said the Queen. 'It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know.'
'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'

Potential investors queue up as West Ham United fight to stave off insolvency screams a headline in this morning's Telegraph. Jeremy Wilson insists United have held talks with more than five potential new owners ahead of a court date in Iceland on Friday when Hansa, the club's holding company, will argue that it should not be put into insolvency. Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, the West Ham owner, will ask for a further three-month extension to the moratorium which will prevent creditors – in the form of banks in his homeland – from seizing its assets and forcing the club's sale.

Gudmundsson has prepared a series of reports detailing plans to restructure the companies. It will be argued that the value of Hansa's assets, of which West Ham is a key component, is above the claims of the creditors. The court is not expected to make any decision over Hansa until next week, though club sources maintain that the outcome of the hearing will not force any immediate sale of the club. To that end, Wilson outlines the complicated nature of the club's ownership. Although Hansa is the holding company, West Ham United Holdings Ltd and West Ham United plc are also incorporated within the structure. West Ham United plc is regarded as the member organisation by the Premier League, meaning that the possibility of a sporting sanction against the team could not be considered in respect of any financial issues relating to the holding company.

Negotiations over prospective takeovers have increased in intensity in recent weeks and, as revealed a few days ago, it is understood at least one of the interested parties is an Asian consortium. That said, it is thought West Ham United have not yet received an acceptable offer, while no group has reached the stage of due diligence. Gudmundsson was significantly affected by the economic crisis in Iceland, but the club are financially "firewalled" and were true to their pledge during the January transfer window of not selling players in order to finance any Hansa debts.

According to the Guardian, West Ham remain confident that their management team of Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke are at ease with the uncertainty over the club's long-term future. Since replacing Alan Curbishley as manager in September Zola has gradually impressed with his ability to produce results and his on-field vision for the club. While Clarke's responsibilities centre on the team's defence and overall strategy, Zola has made an impact with his leadership and his keenness to develop the younger players, with the 20-year-old midfielder Jack Collison, the defender James Tomkins and striker Freddie Sears, both 19, tasting regular first-team action.

"We are confident that the extension will be given," an executive at Upton Park told the newspaper ahead of the Reykjavik hearing, which could last up to seven days. "The club has stability of results, Zola and Clarke leading it, and has shown that the investment in players often results in a profit when they leave." Craig Bellamy, George McCartney and John Pantsil are among those all moved on for a greater price. "The court, hopefully, will recognise all this. Also, the best chance of realising the maximum return on any sale of West Ham is to grant a further moratorium."

If a three-month extension is granted, it is understood that this will be the final one, which suggests Gudmundsson will hope to sell the club by the first week of June. Meanwhile, Zola and Clarke have attracted predictable media speculation that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich might ask them to rejoin the club where they were firm favourites as players in the summer, if Guus Hiddink does not become the permanent head coach. But West Ham are convinced the pair are content in east London. "They understand that structures are in place, and that best interests of the club are being taken care of," the executive added.

On the pitch there has been considerable progress under Zola and Clarke, with European qualification still possible. The form of midfielder Scott Parker remains one of the key reasons for the club’s success and Zola believes he could soon be picked for England. The in-form midfielder, who has just signed a new contract to 2013, is set to be pivotal again when West Ham United go to the JJB Stadium tonight looking to consolidate their hold on seventh spot in the standings. With one man of the match display after another, Parker has been a driving force of late and Zola thinks it will not be too long before he gets more international recognition. "I'm not surprised he is playing well," said Zola. "He has played well for so long now. In his position internationally there are so many good players which is probably why he has been out so far. If he performs the way he has been performing week in, week out with the same intelligence and determination then he can get a more regular place in the international side as well."

The 28-year-old Parker was called up for last November's friendly against Germany in Berlin but missed out on a place in last month's game in Spain - when club-mates Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Carlton Cole all figured. Zola thinks Parker can take heart from their call-up. "It is like Robert Green. He kept performing well until he got back in. I'm sure the same thing can happen with Scott Parker." Parker has played three times for his country and is bidding to become the first player to get his first four caps while representing four different teams. With eleven league games to go, the manager said international ambitions can help drive the club on - especially with the 2010 World Cup finals looming on the horizon as well. "If you want to be involved you need to be really, really good. Especially in this country where you have such a high level. I'm sure my players know this and we will try to help them get to the next level internationally. Fabio Capello picked three West Ham players [last time] so it means he is keeping an eye on West Ham and is trying to cover every team in the league."

West Ham will face Wigan Athletic without midfielder Valon Behrami after he was carried off the pitch with an oxygen tank after badly twisting his knee in Sunday's win over Manchester City. The full extent of the injury is still not known, although tests have revealed the 23-year-old did not suffer a break or fracture. Behrami, though, expects to miss the rest of the season, as he awaits the results of a further scan that will determine whether he needs surgery. He told Blick: "The season has gone for me. I must now wait 48 hours until I know whether or not cruciate ligament surgery is required. Bad, very bad."

Behrami's absence will mean the probable return of Mark Noble after suspension, though James Collins (hamstring), Luis Boa Morte (groin), Kieron Dyer (calf), Danny Gabbidon (stomach/back) and Dean Ashton (ankle) remain sidelined. With Wigan one place and one point behind West Ham, the outcome of tonight's match could go some way to determining a possible Europa League place for either club. "A win will consolidate seventh place, which at the moment looks good enough for a Uefa Cup spot," said midfielder Jack Collison. "That is the target the manager, Gianfranco Zola, has set us. We have got 10 or 11 games now until the end of the season and we are going to look to kick on now rather than see the season out."

Looking beyond tonight, and some good news regarding new West Ham United pick-up Terry Dixon, who has begun working with the first team squad. The 19-year-old Republic of Ireland youth international signed a three-year deal last month after an arduous six-month rehabilitation programme with the club's medical staff. He had been released by Tottenham Hotspur back in March 2007, having suffered repeated knee injuries, but is reportedly determined to prove he has what it takes to make it in the professional game. The striker has been working hard at Chadwell Heath and coach Alex Dyer said it was important to not put too much pressure on Dixon. "He has done well and it is great for his confidence to be back out there with the boys," he said. "It is nice to have him involved and we will see how he goes in the days to come."

Gianfranco Zola has admitted he is looking forward to seeing what the teenager can do - both in training and then in reserve-team action. "Everybody keeps talking about Terry Dixon but I have not seen him play yet," Zola told "Hopefully soon he will be training with me so I will try to have an idea about him as a footballer. I'm looking forward to seeing him. They told me he was quite a talent and I'm really curious. This is a good opportunity for him. I think this club has been very good to him and I want to see how he takes the opportunity. A big satisfaction would be to see this guy have some success because he was ruled out from the game. They said he couldn't make it so if he does I will be very happy for him because he has been through hell. If he manages to be a successful player it will be good for him and for us as well."

Finally, Charlton have slapped a £5million price tag on 17-year-old Jonjo Shelvey to ward off reported interest from several London rivals. West Ham United were strongly linked with the young player a few weeks ago before he signed his first professional contract.

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