Sunday, 31 January 2010

Ilan's The Man

The pair had entered once the strains of Any Old Iron, Run Rabbit Run and ­various other cockney melodies had faded. Yet after a rousing reception for what was billed as "Home At Last" by the West Ham programme, an afternoon of rheumy-eyed sentimentality for the two Davids slowly dissolved into the foreboding reality that their acquisition is in a more perilous state than they possibly dared imagine. It served only to confirm what most West Ham have long since dreaded. It is also the reason I'm hungrily thumbing through this morning's papers looking for the merest scintilla of hope that imminent reinforcements could be on the way before the transfer window falls like a guillotine tomorrow evening...

Vagner Love, Fred, Rafael Sobis, Adriano, Jo, Julio Baptista, Alfonso Alves, Oliveira, Keirrison, Alan, Clive, Mancini, Luis Fabiano, Hulk, Amauri, Diego Tardelli... no clues in the written press to the identity of the mystery Brazilian striker referred to in passing by David Sullivan yesterday night. Thanks then to Sky Sports, whose sources understand West Ham are closing in on the signing of St Etienne striker Ilan Araujo Dall'Igna. Ilan is out of contract in the summer and St Etienne are believed to be willing to let him move on for a nominal fee. The 29-year-old appears to have played just 12 games this season but will have no problem gaining a work permit as he holds an Italian passport. Sky report Ilan is expected to fly into London on Monday to tie up the move to Upton Park.

Elsewhere, the News of the World insist Mido remains hopeful of sealing a surprise move to West Ham after talks with the East Londoners this week. The Egyptian attacker is still owned by Middlesbrough but is cutting short a loan spell with Zamalek in order to return to England. There has been much speculation about which club he is joining after Hull pulled out of the chase for his signature and Zamalek have already agreed that he can depart for pastures new for the remainder of the campaign. The Hammers have been active in the market since the takeover from David Sullivan and David Gold and strikers have been top of their list of priorities. Other names still being considered include Portsmouth based Frederic Piquionne, Celtic's Scott McDonald and Stoke pair Dave Kitson and James Beattie.

According to the People, United are keen on an ambitious attempt to sign Tottenham skipper Robbie Keane, in what is described as one of the 'biggest shock deals of the transfer window'. The paper reports David Sullivan is working on a sensational move for the unsettled striker and has opened talks about taking him to Upton Park. The Hammers have asked Tottenham to let them have Keane on loan with a view to buying the Ireland player for around £8million if they avoid relegation. That would take Keane's total career transfer fees close to an incredible £80m, the same amount Real Madrid paid to take Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United last summer.

Sullivan's chances of getting Keane for that figure are slim, states the article, but he is also looking at raising the cash and taking the gamble of buying the 29-year-old now, and possibly selling a couple of players to balance the books. Spurs have supposedly informed the Hammers that if they pursue Keane, a deadline-day returning hero from Liverpool just a year ago, they want a player in return. That player would either be Carlton Cole or James Tomkins and Upton Park chief Gianfranco Zola would be loath to deal on those terms. The People think Sullivan and ally David Gold want a big signing to please the fans and Keane certainly fits the bill. His wages are huge, but the West Ham new men will push the boat out if they can sort out the fee with Spurs before Monday evening. Spurs are reported to be shocked by the Keane development. They were happy to let Russian flop Roman Pavlyuchenko go to Birmingham City, who have offered £10m to end the player's White Hart Lane nightmare.

Also on the Tottenham front, a couple of the papers state West Ham hope to seal a loan move for defender Alan Hutton. Hutton, 25, has failed to cement a regular first-team place and is desperate to get his career back on track. The Hammers failed to bring in a replacement for Lucas Neill when he left the club last summer and Zola has money at his disposal to bring in new faces. He is said to be hoping to agree a move for Hutton before the transfer window closes on Monday. Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp admits he is willing to let the Scotland international go on loan to another Premier League club. "Alan is a good player and he needs to play," he said. "So if he wanted to go out, it's something that could happen. I have had one or two people ask about Alan. Up until now, I have said I don't want to loan him but, if he really wants to, I wouldn't stand in his way."

Away from the transfer front, and Kieron Dyer has been given a month to prove his fitness or face being forced into retirement. The News of the World report that part of Sullivan and Gold's severe cost-cutting regime is focused on 'player excesses'. It is felt that the time has come for Dyer to prove he can still perform or face being offered a severance package. Midfielder Dyer, 31, has made just 18 appearances since a £6million move from Newcastle 2½-years ago. The former England player is on £60,000 a week and each outing has effectively cost the club around £460,000. Dyer still has 18 months of his contract to run but a verdict on his future is expected in three weeks. This season every time Dyer has returned to action he has rapidly broken down again. If the player was paid up until the end of the season then an insurance package could save the club £2m.

Only two months ago striker Dean Ashton was forced to accept a retirement deal after losing a two-year battle against crippling injury. West Ham's owners have already revealed a tough streak by suspending £20,000-a-week defender Calum Davenport's wages. Although the player is back in training after a stabbing incident, he faces assault charges. The PFA and Premier League are currently investigating if West Ham are in the right to have stopped paying the player prior to a court case. Behind the scenes the cost cutting continues with the departure of chief executive Scott Duxbury last week. Technical director Gianluca Nani is set to follow out of the door next week.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

All's Fair In Love And Football

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
In the end, reflected Martin Luther King, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Gianfranco Zola was pondering such a sentiment yesterday after he discovered that friendship really does mean nothing in football. The West Ham United manager believed that he had captured Eidur Gudjohnsen but was left stunned by his former team-mate’s decision to move on loan to Tottenham Hotspur from Monaco until the end of the season. In Zola's world, a handshake means something, and he thought that taking and passing a medical was enough to signal the player's arrival. "I'm disappointed because we invested a lot in him," admitted Zola. "But our life doesn't depend on Gudjohnsen and we'll get on with it."

Zola, normally so measured in his responses notes Gary Jacob in this morning's Times, was at a loss to explain why Gudjohnsen chose to compete with as many as four other strikers at White Hart Lane. The Iceland forward had completed a medical at Upton Park this week and West Ham had agreed to pay part of his £100,000-a-week wages, an offer that was broadly matched by Tottenham. "We are a little twisted, turned and bitter," Zola said. "I was expecting a different decision. I don’t want to start a war with Eidur but I will be honest in front of him. Our life does not depend on him." Then, with heavy sarcasm, he added: "Tottenham probably need a striker more than us, they think they need another one. But the player... I wasn't expecting that. I'm more disappointed in the player because I was expecting something different."

When asked if Gudjohnsen would still be his friend, he said: "It's very difficult to say right now. I think you are taking advantage of my feelings and I don't want to play that game." Yet the placid Sardinian could not hide his disgust at the actions of a player he lined up alongside at Chelsea between 2000 and 2003. "They keep telling me that football has got like this right now and I keep saying that when I'm dealing with people, I always expect for the people that I have got in front me to behave in a certain way - with respect. Okay, that wasn't the case here. But we move on. We have a lot of things to achieve here this season and we can still achieve them anyway."

Writing in her weekend column, Karren Brady has her own take of things. "West Ham draw 1-1 at Portsmouth and it could be worse," she stated. "We could be Crystal Palace. Free-scoring teams are seldom relegated and that's why we are looking for a striker who can provide a consistent threat alongside Carlton Cole. But this isn't as easy as it seems when your club is at the foot of the table. Palace have serious financial problems and today are forced into administration, losing 10 points in the process. Suddenly for them, outside hopes of promotion become a battle against relegation."

Brady is of the opinion that Jordan, maybe like Zola, has not realised until far too late that all's fair in love and football. She writes: "Take the case of Eidur Gudjohnsen. Yesterday he had a medical, settled terms and we put him up in a hotel before signing him from Monaco today. Then I get a call that he could be going to Spurs instead. So I call their chairman Daniel Levy on instant ring-back. Daniel always does, because we're friends. Except that this time he doesn't and the sound of silence speaks volumes. I then call the Icelander's agent who tells me that if Spurs' offer isn't good enough 'We will call you back'. Very kind of him. Is Daniel my brother any longer? Hello, Daniel, are you there?"

Zola has made the signing of at least one striker his priority as the January transfer window draws to a close. Gudjohnsen has been scrubbed off Zola's wish-list but West Ham are very close to confirming the acquisition of Benni McCarthy from Blackburn. The South Africa international wants more game time ahead of this summer's World Cup and Zola is willing to give it to him. Despite McCarthy's lack of Premier League action - only seven starts all campaign - Zola is convinced he can rouse the forward to a season-saving display for the Hammers. "It shouldn't be a big problem", he insisted. "The quality is there, that's what we are looking for. The rest is down to me and my staff to get the best out of him. I have no worries about that. He is determined to do well, to prove himself, and that is a great assurance for us.'

Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce has been scathing about the player's failure to turn up for training and Zola said: "I understand Benni and Sam have different opinions. I don't know the reasons and I don't want to know. But I think I know Blackburn wanted to sell him - that's the bottom line. If Benni McCarthy is leaving it is probably because he wasn't playing there and didn't feel appreciated. That's probably the reason why he is leaving. It doesn't mean I want to get involved in the row between the two. I will help him very much to get to the World Cup. We are going to give him the chance because if I help him, he will help us. He has the qualities to be a World Cup player and to give West Ham a big boost. So we will co-operate with this.'

Manchester City's Benjani Mwaruwari, Scott McDonald of Celtic and the Egypt striker Mido are among the other names to have cropped up but Zola is remaining tight-lipped. "Mido and others are names that are circulating but as far as I'm concerned, Benni is the only one close to us," he added. "He's the only one I want to talk about. I am sure the club will be linked to many names but Benni is the real target for us." Nonetheless, today's Independent reports United are closing in on Egyptian striker Mido, having missed out on Ruud van Nistelrooy and now Eidur Gudjohnsen. The courting of Mido, who was dropped by Egypt for the Africa Cup of Nations, demonstrates how desperate West Ham have become with only three days left until the transfer window closes, writes Mark Fleming. The 26-year-old had persistent weight problems during his time at Tottenham Hotspur and has only scored one goal in 11 league appearance for Zamalek in the Egyptian league this season.

Celtic are willing to accept £3.5 million from West Ham United if Scott McDonald, decides, as seems likely, that he wishes to follow Danny Fox and Stephen McManus out of the Celtic Park door before the January transfer window closes on Monday. The Mail confirms the Hammers are back in for the striker, capped 15 caps for his country, after the Australian’s talks with Middlesbrough fell through on Thursday. Writing in this morning's Times, Graham Spiers reports that when questioned about McDonald’s place at his club, Tony Mowbray was forced to deny that a rift had developed between himself and the Australia striker. Yet the Celtic manager did concede that McDonald could leave. "Do I want Scott McDonald here? Yes, because he is our top goalscorer," Mowbray said. "There have never been cross words between me and Scott. I don’t think he has ever felt unappreciated here with me. He is a very likeable lad, a sensible boy who is very aware of what his strengths and weaknesses are as a player. Scott and I get on fine, but he understands what my job is — it is to try to build a squad."

Selling your leading goalscorer is not the most obvious part of a masterplan designed to take your club back to the summit of Scottish football, suggests Stephen Halliday in the Scotsman. But as Tony Mowbray's reconstruction of his Celtic squad continued apace yesterday, it became clear that Scott McDonald could be the next player to join the exodus. The Australian international, who is closing in on a return to action following hernia surgery earlier this month, is understood to be the subject of interest from West Ham, Middlesbrough and Wigan Athletic. The 26-year-old, who joined Celtic from Motherwell for £700,000 in the summer of 2007, is valued at around £4million by the Parkhead club.

McDonald has scored 14 goals for Celtic this season and Mowbray insisted he would be content to retain his services beyond the closure of the current transfer window on Monday night. But with another striker high on Mowbray's shopping list over the next three days, he also accepted circumstances could transpire which see McDonald move on. "There is some interest in Scott, I think that's widely known," said Mowbray. "Has he got a future at Celtic? Yeah, if things come together, that's what happens. Scott has been running around at Lennoxtown this morning trying to get himself fit to play for us at Kilmarnock on Tuesday night. If he is here to play for us on Tuesday, I'll be delighted. If he's not, then there will have been reasons behind that which I would hope would become evident. I won't deny there have been conversations with Scott and they have been interesting chats. But at the moment, there is nothing to say either way. Scott is looking for assurances, he wants to play and be on that field every minute of every game scoring goals. He does understand that I have a squad of players but he wants to play. I can't assure him he will be on the field for 90 minutes of every game, because I've got respect for the other players and that's why you have a squad."

Elsewhere, Newcastle are ready to offer Victor Moses £20,000 a week in a bid to win a wages war with promotion rivals Nottingham Forest and West Brom. According to various reports, Chris Hughton has made a £2m bid for the Crystal Palace winger and is confident of completing a deal, despite late Premier League interest from Fulham, Wigan and West Ham. Forest and West Brom have also tabled bids for the 19-year-old but Newcastle can offer a far greater salary than their Championship rivals.

In other news, Zola revealed his regret at the departure of chief executive Scott Duxbury, who brought the little Italian to Upton Park in September 2008 as the replacement for Alan Curbishley. Zola said: "We were expecting changes. I'm more sad than surprised." Though Zola has lost an ally, he insisted that his passion for the club and the players remains strong, saying: "As for my own position I want to assure the supporters that I have no intention of following him out of West Ham. I have a commitment here and I'll do my best to get the team safe. That is my target and my priority." That said, Zola plans to meet David Gold and David Sullivan, the joint chairmen, in the next month to suggest changes to and seek assurances on his backroom staff.

Sullivan has earmarked several areas to cut costs, including the medical team. Scott Duxbury resigned as chief executive yesterday and Nick Igoe, the finance director, and Gianluca Nani, the technical director, are expected to depart. According to the Mail, the changes may leave Zola exposed because the officials have been his allies. "Hopefully there won’t be too many cutbacks as the system is working well. They [the chairmen] know that the players, management and people concerned with the team are the main asset for a club. There are things I want to change but we are talking about people still working here and I don’t want to put them in a difficult position."

The Mirror reveal that United captain Matt Upson has already been told to sign a new deal - or be sold. Upson, 30, has just 18 months left on his £60,000-a-week contract and West Ham’s new owners do not want him running down his contract and leaving on a free transfer. England defender Upson has insisted he is committed to West Ham despite interest from Manchester City and Tottenham but Gold and Sullivan are anxious to discover his intentions in case any last minute offers come in.

The same paper suggests it is not Upson, but rather central defensive partner James Tomkins who could be the subject of last minute interest. Rafa Benitez in particular has been monitoring the progress of the highly-rated 20-year-old, who was drafted into the Hammers youth academy after being spotted playing for his local Sunday League side. The 6ft 3in central defender made his debut two years ago in the club's 1-1 draw with Everton. Although his mistake in that game allowed Yakubu to score, injuries in the team allowed him to get a run in the side and Tomkins eventually claimed the Young Hammer of the Year award. He was recalled from a loan spell last season at Derby and handed a long-term contract extension after managing to claim a regular first-team place in the West Ham side.

In the meantime, as part of the new era of fiscal stringency, United plan to hit Tottenham with a £5,000 bill as the war over Eidur Gudjohnsen rages on. According to today's Sun, the furious Hammers want their money back for putting up the 31-year-old striker in a plush London hotel and paying for a medical before he snubbed them for a last-minute move to Spurs. West Ham's new co-owner David Sullivan said: "We didn't just put the player up in a hotel, it was his whole entourage. It's an issue of morality. I suppose Tottenham have not broken any rules but to kick a team when it is down is not sporting in my mind. We're fed up of being pushed around and paying for everything, so we're sending them a bill."

Talking of paying for everything, seven clubs have reportedly asked businessman Tony Fernandes to consider a takeover after he failed to seize control at West Ham. Three Premier League sides are among those to have contacted the Malaysian millionaire after he lost out to David Gold and David Sullivan at Upton Park but Fernandes is unlikely to invest in any club, including the Hammers. "I love West Ham but there's clearly got to be one boss and I am not considering being a minor partner," the Lotus F1 team boss told BBC Sport. Fernandes, a supporter for 35 years, said he would find it difficult to own another club after Gold and Sullivan took charge on 19 January. "It's hard. I kind of love West Ham very much and I can't imagine supporting anyone else," he said. "I've been approached in the past anyway, but the West Ham news has probably pushed me to the front in terms of ownership."

Along with the two Davids, finance firm Intermarket and Italian Massimo Cellini, the 45-year-old Fernandes was one of four parties interested in owning West Ham. He said he offered fresh ideas and complete backing for manager Gianfranco Zola and assistant Steve Clarke. "I don't want to say too much right now as I still may use those ideas at another club," said Fernandes. "I've been offered many clubs in the last week." One of these is thought to be cash-strapped Portsmouth, although he declined to give identities. Fernandes thought he was on the brink of sealing a deal for West Ham and flew his business partner in from Kuala Lumpur as negotiations continued late into the night of Monday, 18 January. "We were looking to take Zola out on the Tuesday and they suddenly called us and said 'we've sold'," he said. "My partner, poor guy, got off a 13-hour flight and did a turnaround. He was in the UK for an hour."

The stumbling block appeared to be that Fernandes was seeking 100% ownership, while Gold and Sullivan offered a controlling 50%. "I think we just ran out of time. I wanted to be in total control of the club," said Fernandes, who is based in Malaysia but makes regular trips to Lotus HQ in Norfolk. "I think they were just unsure whether I would complete in the expected time. We were in a bit of shock, to be honest. We thought we had it. I was pretty confident they would go with us."

After taking over, Sullivan revealed West Ham had run up debts of £110m. Cost-cutting is expected at the east London club and chief executive Scott Duxbury announced his resignation on Friday. "We would have removed a lot of the debt and given the club a new lease of life," said Fernandes, who said he had been boosted by an estimated 10,000 messages of support from West Ham fans. "I talked to Scott about that already and to Nick (Igoe), the financial director, and certainly savings were on the cards."

Fernandes also said he had been relishing the prospect of working with Zola, who guided West Ham to ninth in the Premier League in his first season but sees his side flirting with the relegation zone this campaign. "I've got very close with the management, the players and the coaching staff over the last year, and I'm a big believer in Zola and I'm a big believer in giving people a chance," he said.

Sullivan and Gold have a four-year option to buy the remaining 50% from Icelandic bank Straumur, although they have urged Fernandes to invest in the club. While not ruling out being involved at some stage, Fernandes said it was unlikely in the short-term. "We've talked on the phone and SMS'd (sent text messages) a few times, but it hasn't really progressed from there. I think it would be a long shot to be honest but let's see - never say never," he said. "You've got to be totally aligned with someone to be a partner. Of course, it would be a fantastic thing to be involved with West Ham, and I never close any doors."

Fernandes said he would have developed West Ham gradually, altered admission prices, investigated the benefits of moving from Upton Park to the new Olympic Stadium and introduced global marketing and cross-promotion of the West Ham and Lotus brands. After what he called "phenomenal diligence", he admitted to being surprised at the extent of the club's financial turmoil. "It's very typical of current financial excesses. There were some player transactions that looked very odd to me," he said.

In recent years, he has been to an average of about 10 West Ham games a season, but admitted he will find it difficult to attend his next match. "It would feel a bit odd going there at the moment, when you come so close to owning a club," he said. "I came there to see a club which was not in a great position. My expertise is to take an asset which is not being treated very well, to give it some love and care, and move it on." Under the new owners, Fernandes believes the club he calls an "unpolished diamond" can still sparkle. "The squad needs strengthening up front, but has a fantastic midfield," he said. "It's a good squad. The new owners must believe in the squad, and it will perform. There's no need to chop and change too many things and to start panicking." And he expects the days of Premier League big spending to be curtailed in the near future. "Like Formula One, there needs to be a reality check, eventually even the billionaires need a reality check," he added.

Life could not be any more real for Sullivan and Gold as they take the journey from Birmingham City to make West Ham their proud cause. Julian Dicks took the same trip in 1988, became an Iron-hard idol of the Boleyn Ground and once was fined two weeks’ wages for publicly lashing the directors for trying to fleece the fans. As Upton Park prepares for the first home match since the takeover against Blackburn today, Dicks is scathing about the Icelandic bankers who took the Hammers close to ruin and tells the Express that the people have their club back.

"Sullivan and Gold are real West Ham supporters and we know that because they have been saying it for years, not just recently for public consumption. What did we have when the Icelandics were in charge? Some bloke who came in and made a lot of noise, told everyone he was a West Ham supporter and delivered nothing but trouble. I spent 11 years with West Ham, the best part of my life. But last season I went back and they wouldn’t even let me in. It didn’t feel like my club any more.

Yet the supporters are fantastic. They are what West Ham are really about, and I’m sure those fans are delighted that they’ve got their club back from the brink in this way. They are not daft there. They realise they’re probably never going to win the Premier League title, but they love a good cup run and they love the club and that is very important. It was always a fantastic place to play, even when I was with Birmingham. And the fans were so good to me I get goosebumps just talking about it now.

I have to say, though, that Upton Park has lost a bit of its atmosphere, which I guess is a sign of the times. And I don’t like the idea of any move to the Olympic stadium, either. It just doesn’t feel right."

In charge of Grays Athletic, the struggling Blue Square Conference South team, Dicks has former Hammer Kenny Brown as his assistant, John Moncur as the chairman and even this week handed a debut on loan to Andrea Zola, son of West Ham manager Gianfranco. The vice-chairman is renowned claret-and-blue blood Andy Swallow. Surprisingly, Zola junior is a 19-year-old left-back rather than an attacking sorcerer in the style of his brilliant father, but Dicks says: "He has a great football brain and you can’t teach that. It’s in the genes. And he can get stuck in and put himself about a bit, too. He was in the reserves at West Ham but he wants to play every week so he has come to us for a while and looks impressive."

There is an irony in all these old Hammers being gathered together at Grays to fight for survival on the pitch while the wider football community of east London and Essex is breathing a big sigh of relief, writes John Dillon. Sullivan and Gold are sure to get a fabulous welcome after their purchase of 50 per cent of West Ham rescued the club from the anxious limbo-land of being held in stock by a crumbling finance house in Reykjavik. Dicks, who played 262 times in two spells as the most fearsome left-back in the game, is similarly delighted that after all the trouble, the boardroom has ended up in the hands of two shrewd businessmen who support the club, bucking all the trends of the modern Premier League.

What has happened at West Ham is important, says Dillon, at a time when the supporters of the biggest clubs in the land – Manchester United and Liverpool – are in rebellion against their absent foreign ownerships. Today’s match could be seen as a celebration merely of the fact that a Premier League club has been returned to the hands of Englishmen. There will be changes but the hope is that there will be care for the soul of the club, too. Dicks has his own special place in that folk history after famously speaking out against the Bond Scheme the club attempted to introduce to finance a new stand. It prompted protests and pitch invasions and was an early warning of the trouble to come for fans everywhere, but it failed. "Basically, they were asking people to pay £975 on top of ticket prices to watch rubbish football," recalls Dicks. "I thought it was wrong and I said so."

And the last word for today goes to Karren Brady, where yesterday's diary entry reads: "I'm beginning to feel there's something special about my new club and the staff who work there. West Ham people are family in a know-what-I-mean way that has to be unique. This is London's working class club. I'm not a good sleeper and sometimes get up in the night and send emails to staff. At 4am on Sunday morning I was surprised to have one back. I ask him why he isn't asleep. "I live at the club," he said. I've met that sort of dedication before so I'm very positive about the future at Upton Park." As Marlene Dietrich once remarked, it's the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that truly matter.

Friday, 29 January 2010

If You Really Want To Hear About It...

"That's the whole trouble. You can't ever find a place that's nice and peaceful, because there isn't any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you're not looking, somebody'll sneak up and write "Fuck you" right under your nose."

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is which striker have we been linked with this morning, and what his lousy goalscoring record is like, and how his club were fed up with him before we approached, and all that David Di Michele kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

But I will anyway... because the first cathode ray pictures to greet my bleary eyes this morning seemed to suggest we'd made a move for Richard Reid. It was only after I'd hurled my shoe at the television screen that I realised it was even worse than that. We had, in fact, 'agreed in principle' to sign Mido, the full-figured pharaoh. Aside from a pretty transparent attempt to replenish the squad's tumbling BMI statistics since the retirement of Dean Ashton, Sullivan and Gold seem to be unveiling their grand plan for the team to eat itself to safety; a front two of Midough and Benni McCarvery literally gobbling up the chances.

That's if McCarthy actually gets permission to play. According to various reports this morning the player has seen his £2million move to West Ham from Blackburn hit a snag due to a work permit problem. The Sun states the hitch is set to deny the South African the chance of a debut against Rovers at Upton Park tomorrow, even though the striker has already met his new teammates. McCarthy, 32, had agreed a 2½-year deal but his permit is expiring and because of a lack of recent international appearances getting a new one could prove a problem. The news will also frustrate Rovers boss Sam Allardyce, who needs the cash to bid for James Beattie or Benjani as a replacement.

Allardyce is quoted in the Mail as saying: "It's close to him finally becoming a West Ham player. It's a work permit situation, that's the only hiccup and that should be resolved by Sunday." McCarthy infuriated Allardyce by not turning up for training in order to force through a move but Rovers midfielder David Dunn said McCarthy would not 'lose much sleep' over leaving the club under a cloud. "Sometimes things like that happen, it's perhaps not always the best way but I'm sure Benni will not lose too much sleep over it," he said. "There has been a bit of attention on Benni over the last week but maybe he feels this is the right career move for him. He has been a good goalscorer for the club and is a good lad as well so I wish him all the best." Gianfranco Zola would add only: "He's a quality player, a good goalscorer and also very good at linking the play. He was one of our main targets and it is good that the club has been able to sign him."

Speaking in the Mirror, Robbie Savage believes McCarthy could be the best signing of the transfer window - "even if he did once call me technically the worst player he'd ever seen!".

He christened me 'Stinky' after we sat on a hot team bus with our club suits on and I took my blazer off to reveal huge sweat patches under my armpits. I called him 'Benni NoCalfy' - and if you ever look at his legs you'll see why. He's the only footballer I've ever seen with no calf muscles whatsoever.

I remember the pair of us playing on a bog of a pitch as Rovers beat Middlesbrough 2-1. Afterwards, he said "you should play in the mud every week". What he meant was that while he and I were at different ends of the scale skills-wise, I made up for it with desire and work rate.

Benni is a great striker who would score plenty of goals and keep West Ham up. But - how shall I put this - he's a bit laid back sometimes. In fact, on one famous occasion Mark Hughes showed us the Pro Zone stats after a match and our keeper Brad Friedel had run farther in the game than Benni!

He's a top, top player whose potential move really stands out in what has been a quiet transfer window so far.
Meanwhile, various papers say West Ham are the latest to try to tempt Tottenham into letting winger David Bentley move on loan. As the Guardian quips, "West Ham have read about Spurs turning down a loan bid from Sunderland for the out-of-favour midfielder, and have promptly made a loan bid for the out-of-favour midfielder". To be precise, Sunderland asked to take Bentley until the end of the season but Spurs were only interested in a transfer. Manager Gianfranco Zola is desperate to boost his Hammers squad and sees £15million Bentley, 25, as an ideal short-term solution.

The moves for Mido and McCarthy signal the end of United's interest in Benjani. Sky Sports 'understands' that West Ham will not be pursuing a permanent or loan deal for the former Portsmouth star. They report the Zimbabwean was out of favour at City under former boss Mark Hughes but new manager Roberto Mancini appears prepared to offer players a chance to impress. Having allowed Robinho to return to Santos on loan on Thursday and, with Roque Santa Cruz struggling for consistent fitness, the Italian may now have been unprepared to allow further departures.

The same source states Palermo would like to sign Valon Behrami but not until the summer. The Swiss midfielder's agent announced earlier in January that his client was expected to stay at West Ham because no team could afford his price tag. However, Sky insist that Serie A side Palermo could come into money from the sale of in-demand defender Simon Kjaer and president Maurizio Zamparini has declared an interest in Behrami. The Italian club hope that the connections of their sporting director, Walter Sabatini, could broker a deal, with Zamparini telling "We're trying to take him. The negotiation is difficult and complicated, especially for the salary the player receives in the Premier League, but Sabatini is his friend and let's see how it goes. Behrami is a very good player."

But Zamparini would not want to complete any deal until the summer transfer window. He added a few hours after his initial interview: "We still like the player but it is unlikely that he will arrive. In any case, we will try and buy him but not now because it would upset the balance of the team. The interest is real but it is for June. Now I would not even take him for free." If a deal was struck with Palermo then it is likely reserve goalkeeper Rubinho would be part of any package coming the other way.

In other (momentous) news, West Ham have confirmed the resignation of chief executive, Scott Duxbury. The move comes as a result of this month's takeover of the club by David Gold and David Sullivan, with Duxbury effectively being squeezed out when the owners brought in their former Birmingham colleague Karren Brady as vice-chairman. "I am proud of my work at West Ham United, but feel the time is right for me to pursue other opportunities," said Duxbury in a statement. "I wish Mr Sullivan, Mr Gold and Karren great success in driving this wonderful football club forward, and I know under their stewardship the club will prosper. Thank you to all the supporters who have kept faith with the club through good and bad times."

Duxbury joined West Ham as the club's in-house lawyer under the then chairman Terry Brown, and was subsequently promoted to chief executive by Eggert Magnusson after the club was bought by an Icelandic group. However, his time running the club was blighted by controversy, not least because of his role in signing Carlos Tevez in a deal which breached Premier League rules and will subsequently cost the club more than £30million in fines and compensation payments. Indeed, Duxbury presided over one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of the club and earned grudging respect for keeping things afloat during the post Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson months. Brady thanked Duxbury for his valued contribution and wished him every success in the future. Which is fair enough I guess, although it seems to me akin to praising an arsonist for trying to put out his own fire. Writing in the Telegraph, John Ley thinks speculation will begin over the future of Gianfranco Zola at Upton Park given the 'close relationship' between the pair.

Duxbury's exit had widely been expected but the manner of it has come as something of a surprise, reports the Mail. He is believed to have been given golden handcuffs in his employment contract, along with other club directors under the stewardship of Terry Brown. The terms provided for a 24-month notice period entitling the board member to two years' salary in compensation for loss of office. Duxbury earned £474,000 in the 12 months to May 2008 but that is understood not to reflect his current entitlement. One insider told The Guardian that the compensation he would be due if dismissed is closer to £2m. His resignation is likely to waive much of the settlement.

The Mirror thinks Duxbury was unhappy at the sweeping, draconian economising imposed by the new regime. The same paper goes on to outline the "amazing string of cost cutting measures" introduced by Karren Brady, which includes even ordering staff to turn the lights and heating off. In the John Cross 'exclusive' it is revealed West Ham’s new owners are desperately trying to save the club and our new vice-chairwoman has been put in charge of cutting the crippling debts. Ruthless Brady gained a reputation at former club Birmingham for being a no-nonsense operator. David Gold insists that the tough measures have his and Sullivan's full support as they desperately try to save the club following their takeover. "Karen is our financial doctor," said Gold. "She identifies problems and helps us fix them. This is what we are good at and it is a great challenge. All non-footballing costs are being looked at. We are looking at absolutely everything. We will not damage the footballing side, but we need to cut costs to increase income. It’s not brain surgery."

Gold, Sullivan and Brady having been scathing about the club’s previous owners and are keen to make their mark with the stringent off-the-field cutbacks. Judging by the club website, notes today's Express, nobody is safe. Intriguingly, the staff section is ‘coming soon’ and ‘this new section will appear shortly’. So far, these measures include:

  • Sacking legends Tony Cottee and Tony Gale, as well as TV star Matt Lorenzo, as £40,000-a-year club ambassadors.
  • Ordering a massive reductions in Gianfranco Zola’s medical staff- some of them on up to £200,000-a-year- even though it was a department that the manager had championed and was keen to improve.
  • Beginning a battle with the FA to get £15m compensation after Dean Ashton was forced to retire after injuring his ankle on England duty.
  • Trying to force out big-money reserves as they believe the current squad is far too big... Luis Jimenez has returned to Italy to join Parma and Nigel Quashie has joined Queens Park Rangers.
  • Suspended injured defender Calum Davenport’s £20,000-a-week wages until his court case is resolved.
  • Leaving Technical Director Gianluca Nani to face the axe after making a string of signings which have turned out to be expensive mistakes.
  • Telling staff not to leave lights on and insisting the heating should be turned off.
  • Considering the sale of England defender Matt Upson rather than let him run down the rest of his 18 months contract.

John Cross insists it is the treatment of Calum Davenport that has raised the most eyebrows. The unfortunate stab victim has been accused of assaulting his sister in an incident which led to him being stabbed in both legs and the club has insisted that until his case is resolved his wages will be suspended. Davenport continues to train with West Ham and legal experts, the PFA and Premier League have all been called in. The PFA is looking at whether West Ham are breaking any rules and are hopeful of overturning the club’s ruling, while Davenport, whose wife recently gave birth to a baby daughter, is hoping the Premier League also rule in their favour and order West Ham to backdate the wages. Zola had previously backed Davenport, while it was former chief executive Scott Duxbury who broke the news over the suspension of his wages.

And that's it for now, except to say: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." Peace JD.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Whirligig Of Time

Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges...

As expected Tottenham have pipped West Ham to the loan signing of Monaco striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, leaving the door open for out-of-favour Spurs striker Robbie Keane to leave White Hart Lane. The Mail reports the Hammers had been expected to complete a deal for the Icelandic international after the player completed a medical on Tuesday, but Harry Redknapp swooped in with a late offer and used the lure of a Champions League challenge to snatch Gudjohnson, a former Chelsea player, from under the nose of their city rivals. The Spurs boss told The Sun: "We've been talking about him for nearly two weeks and when we heard West Ham were interested we made our move. We are not paying a penny more than West Ham were offering him. Two identical deals were on the table. In the end it was a straight choice for Eidur."

The arrival of 31-year-old Gudjohnson brings the amount of senior strikers at Spurs to five. Roman Pavlyuchenko has made no secret of his desire to leave the club while Robbie Keane, too, has grown frustrated by his bit-part role. The Irishman's agent has been reportedly been sounding out a possible loan deal with a number of clubs, including West Ham and Celtic. Keane, though, is Tottenham's top earner and his salary could put any move in doubt. Across London, an indignant David Sullivan is quietly seething at the actions of his North London rivals and has taken to muttering dark forebodings of karmic retribution. It all portends to the paths of the two clubs crossing again before the January transfer window finally slams shut.

To that end, Sky Sports 'understand' that West Ham are fixing their sights on a retaliatory double swoop on Tottenham, but this time for David Bentley and Alan Hutton as oppose to Keane. Bentley, who scored a goal in a rare appearance in Tuesday's win over Fulham, has failed to hold down a regular place in the Spurs side this season with Aaron Lennon keeping him on the sidelines. Sky are reporting that the former Arsenal man is believed to be keen on a move away from White Hart Lane in search of regular first-team football and West Ham are ready to offer him the chance to move to Upton Park. By the same token, Zola is said to be hopeful of luring Bentley's team-mate Hutton to East London with the Irons in the market for a new right-back. Hutton has been linked with a switch away from North London after failing to hold down a consistent spot in Harry Redknapp's side, and could be tempted to move on in search of regular action as he looks to safeguard his place in the national team. The possibility of doing business could depend on the degree to which the already frayed relations between the two clubs has degenerated.

Sky are also carrying the story that Luis Jimenez has completed his move to Parma after West Ham released him from his contract. The Inter Milan forward was on loan at Upton Park for the rest of the season but yesterday the Hammers agreed to end that prematurely. Now Jimenez has penned a deal with Parma until the end of the campaign. "I'm happy to go to Parma," Jimenez told Sky Italia. "My experience in the Premier League has not gone as I wanted. Now I hope to stay for a long time in the same team, although in my career until now I have never been able to do so." Parma's sporting director Pietro Leonardi added: "Jimenez is an important player who will give quality to Parma and will help us to achieve the objective of survival."

With one out, could unsettled Stoke City striker James Beattie be on the verge of coming in? Numerous reports this afternoon suggested Gianfranco Zola had earmarked the former Southampton and Everton forward as his preferred option over Man City's Benjani (now a rumoured target for Blackburn Rovers), and the odds on his signing dramatically shortened. Stoke City manager Tony Pullis pulled off a masterstroke by bringing Beattie to the Potters last January with the former England man bagging 7 goals in 16 appearances to help keep Stoke City in the Premier League. However the pair had a very public fall out over the club's Christmas party. Since the incident relations have mellowed but Pullis remains determined to cash in on his wayward striker.

In other news, West Ham could be ready to test Celtic's resolve with a bid for Australian striker Scott McDonald, reports BBC Scotland. The Irons have had the Parkhead goalscorer watched and an enquiry has apparently been made. McDonald, 26, has struggled to secure a regular start under boss Tony Mowbray and Wigan recently ended their interest because of Celtic's asking price. Gordan Strachan, who took over at Boro in October, spent £700,000 on McDonald in 2007 to bring him to Celtic from Motherwell, for whom he had starred for three seasons.

McDonald, who has earned 15 caps for Australia, arrived in British football from Cranbourne Comets. He made only two appearances for each of Southampton and Wimbledon, and had loan spells with Huddersfield Town and Bournemouth. Currently recovering from a hernia operation, McDonald has scored 64 goals in 127 appearances for Celtic and will be keen to start hitting the net regularly to clinch his place in Australia's squad for the World Cup finals in South Africa this summer.

When Sullivan and Gold first sat down with Zola to discuss potential transfer targets it was mentioned at the time that a reserve goalkeeper was on the list. This has seemingly been placed on the back-burner during the increasingly feverish hunt for a striker. Nonetheless, according to rumours printed in La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, West Ham are back in the hunt for out-of-favour Palermo goalkeeper Rubinho. The Hammers had already been linked with the Brazilian earlier this month, but the Sicilians went on to negotiate a swap deal involving Livorno shot-stopper Francesco Benussi. The article states Rubinho has expressed scepticism about a switch to the Serie A relegation battlers and Palermo might now have to listen to offers from other sides. Rubinho arrived in Sicily from Genoa last summer with high expectations but lost his place in the Rosanero’s first team after a series of high-profile blunders.

Elsewhere, a vast expanse of white greeted anyone who logged on to Pompey's website this morning, sullied only by a message that read "website unavailable". And far from being on the blink as a result of technical issues, it seems the impoverished south-coast club was plumbing such depths of penury that they were unable to pay their website provider. By mid-afternoon the problem had been rectified, which will come as some small crumb of comfort to club staff who will need to access the site tomorrow afternoon in order to read the latest statement explaining why their wages are late again and when they can expect to be paid. With a prognosis this bleak, it was surely only a matter of time before West Ham got linked with one of their players; in this case rampaging left back Nadir Belhadj.

Finally, there is good news with the expected return to action of both Scott Parker and Herita Ilunga for the crucial home game against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. Talismanic midfielder Parker missed Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Portsmouth at Fratton Park with a tight hamstring, but he is training again this week and is desperate to return. Ilunga has been out since he limped off at White Hart Lane during the 2-0 defeat by Spurs on December 28, but his hamstring has responded well to treatment and he will look to challenge Jonathan Spector for the left back slot this weekend.

Carlton Cole played 20 minutes as a second-half substitute at Pompey and showed some of what the Hammers have been missing since the end of November. He is likely to replace youngster Frank Nouble up front, while James Tomkins is rated as only 50/50 after his clash with Kevin Prince Boateng at Fratton Park that forced him off with a facial injury. Kieron Dyer and Danny Gabbidon are expected to return to full training next week, while Mexican striker Guillermo Franco is perhaps a further week away.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

David Sullivan- The Freedom Fighter

The following is an interview with David Sullivan that I stumbled across today. I'm too tired to doing anything constructive with it...

David Sullivan- The Freedom Fighter
By Mihir Bose

Last Monday night after David Sullivan had become the new co-owner of West Ham, he took the people he had been negotiating with to the first floor bar of the Ritz.

As he toasted victory he asked his guests to look across the road at the Walpole, part of his property portfolio. This, he told them with pride, was once the residence of Robert Walpole, the first man in this country to have the title of Prime Minister.

Sitting at the bar of the Ritz and watching the world go by is one of the ways Sullivan relaxes. But that evening was special for the man ranked by the Sunday Times in 2009 as the 114th richest person in the country with an estimated wealth of £450million.

It was the moment the 60-year-old could have claimed to have come home, both in the footballing and wider social sense.

Many may still see him as the porn king, who made his fortune selling hardcore magazines and films featuring topless girls. In 1982, he was even convicted of living off immoral earnings, serving 71 days in jail. But, for Sullivan, his porn past is nothing to be ashamed of.

"I do not feel embarrassed," he says. "I've made a lot of people happy. If I was an arms manufacturer or a cigarette manufacturer, and my products killed millions of my clients, I'd have a bit of doubt about the whole thing. I was a freedom fighter. I believe in the right of adults to make their own decisions."

While Sullivan's wealth is there for all to see, there is something very disarming about the way he lives.

His home, set in 12 acres in Theydon Bois, Essex, may be guarded by electronic gates but he, himself, opens the door to the house.

In the hall the two butlers holding out trays are, in fact, wax models and the small dining room table, next to his kitchen, is decorated more like the bar of a sports club with small wicker baskets containing packets of crisps, dates, biscuits and chocolates.

We meet as he is finishing his lunch of ham and bread and he is watching Sky Sports News. Birmingham have just opened the scoring in their 2-1 FA Cup victory over Everton and Sullivan is ecstatic.

"My man Christian Benitez has scored for Birmingham," he tells me. "That is the last player I bought. That is my team."

Sullivan made £20m from his sale of Birmingham last October, having owned the club for 16 years.

He claims he could have made that sort of money "buying a few office blocks 20 years ago or a street of houses in Chingford". But wheeling and dealing in property would not have given him the pleasure that owning the football club did, nor the sense of achievement. "I left Birmingham in great shape and with a great team which is eighth in the Premier League."

Not all Blues fans will appreciate his departure and many will be furious with Sullivan's sentiment that he feels "Birmingham are a smaller club than West Ham". He adds: "Not a single player is on more than £25,000 a week.At Upton Park, we have bigger ambitions."

AND while he can claim to have followed the Hammers since he was 12 after moving to London from his home town of Cardiff, it was by no means certain he would end up as owner of Upton Park. Indeed, even as late as last week he might have ended up at another London club. Sullivan approached CB Holdings last October within a week of leaving Birmingham, intent on investing in the Hammers. "I wanted to buy a quarter of the club with an option to buy another quarter," he reveals.

But while Andrew Bernhardt, the man who has been running the club on behalf of their Icelandic bank owners, liked the proposal the club could not be sold without a proper process.

This meant Sullivan and his partner David Gold found themselves in a race with three other bidders. With the outcome uncertain, Sullivan was approached by Richard Murray, chairman of Charlton.

"I will be honest with you," he reveals. "Had we not succeeded in buying West Ham we would have bought Charlton. Richard Murray and his consortium have done a wonderful job and he wanted some help. We would have gone in and helped."

But as Charlton, waited the West Ham deal was finally done, with Sullivan and Gold getting 50 per cent of the club with an option to buy the other half in four years' time. I understand they paid an initial £20m, of which £5m has gone to reduce the bank loans, the rest to the club.

The last time West Ham changed hands in 2006, when Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson bought the club from Terry Brown, their debts were £20m. Sullivan has inherited debts of £110m: £48m owed to the banks; £40m to other clubs - including £22m to Sheffield United for the Carlos Tevez fiasco - and a further £12m loan West Ham took out in December. That was borrowed by pledging 70 per cent of next year's season-ticket money and 60 per cent of the following season's.

"They had to borrow this money to stay alive," says Sullivan. "There is virtually nothing more to sell. The shirt sponsor paid 75 per cent of his fee not just for this season but for two seasons. The club have been robbing Peter to pay Paul - selling the future."

In addition, West Ham may have to pay Alan Curbishley, who won his case for unfair dismissal, anything from £750,000 to £3.5m. There is also a huge wage bill. "The average wage of the staff, and this includes footballers, is higher than Goldman Sachs," Sullivan says. "West Ham have more people on the administrative and support side earning between £100,000 and £300,000 a year. The place has been run as a charity."

Some money may be recovered if West Ham sue the solicitors who advised them to plead guilty on the Tevez hearings; a decision which Sullivan feels was not only wrong but opened the door for action by United.

But Sullivan's anger is really reserved for the Icelandics. "They virtually bust the club," he says. And the wrecker in chief was Eggert Magnusson, who ran it on behalf of Gudmundsson.

During Magnusson's big-spending days the fans were behind him but, as Sullivan says: "If you keep buying players fans will love you. Magnusson did not take logical decisions."

Magnusson has since defended himself, saying he was not the only one involved in making decisions and that his purchases helped West Ham avoid relegation in 2006-07. But Sullivan feels it might have been cheaper to have been relegated.

West Ham have another relegation battle this season, which greatly worries Sullivan despite reassurances from Gianfranco Zola. "The manager is not worried at all," he says. "Zola is the nicest man I have ever dealt with."

High praise given that Sullivan's previous managers include Terry Cooper, Barry Fry, Trevor Francis, Steve Bruce and Alex McLeish. But while he has no present plans to change the manager, he reserves judgement on Zola's long-term future. Sullivan adds: "I said to Zola, 'I don't know if you are a good manager. All you've got so far is a year in the job.' You can't judge a manager on 12 months. Only time will tell whether Zola is a fantastic manager or an okay one."

In the immediate future, what concerns Sullivan more is the club's failure to score and he is desperate to bring in two forwards before the transfer window closes. The probable signings are Blackburn's Benni McCarthy and Manchester City's Benjani. Both are likely to come in on loan, with the moves made permanent once their work permits have been resolved.

Whoever comes in, the new owner is adamant that nobody is leaving Upton Park this month. "We will not sell any players," he says.

So where does this leave Matthew Upson? "He will not be sold now. In the summer he will have 12 months to go on his contract. If he wanted to play Champions League or European football you couldn't stand in his way. So unless Matthew wants to sign a new deal he will have to be sold next summer. Nobody else has to go. The squad is thin and in the summer we will be looking to discover the next Ronaldo."

By then Sullivan should know whether West Ham can move to the Olympic Stadium. This is central to his ambition to get to the Champions League within seven years. "If we don't we'll struggle to get in the top four," he admits.

For Sullivan to succeed the present plan to convert the 80,000-seat stadium into a 25,000 athletics one after 2012 will have to be scrapped and the running track will have to go.

Sullivan says: "It is obscene in the credit crunch to build a stadium and bring three-quarters of it down." So what about Lord Coe's dream of an athletic stadium? "The bigger dream is for West Ham fans to have a football stadium. He can have an athletics track elsewhere."

Sullivan is already working on plans to fill a ground of 80,000. "We would offer tickets at £5 a go for some matches. We can bring Premier League football back to the people."

However, Sullivan was eager to quash the idea that a move to Stratford would mean West Ham United becoming West Ham Olympic. Karren Brady, the vice-chairman, had suggested a name change but Sullivan said: "Karren is a good businesswoman but she doesn't understand football. There is no possibility of West Ham being called anything other than West Ham United."

Sullivan sees himself as building a dynasty with his boys David and Jack, aged 12 and 10, eventually taking over. The only problem is David jnr supports Arsenal.

Sullivan, himself, admires the Gunners. "Arsene Wenger is the best manager, better than Sir Alex Ferguson. I can see why my son supports Arsenal. But it's time he came home."

Sullivan may find that moving West Ham to the Olympic Stadium is easier than changing his son's allegiance.

London Evening Standard

Our Insular Tahiti

To the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee...

Norman Mailer once wrote that obsession is the single most wasteful human activity, because with an obsession you keep coming back and back and back to the same question and never get an answer. For the last four years West Ham's obsession has been a fabled leucistic haired Norsman who once bestrode the verdant playing fields of this Sceptred Isle. So bewitching was this behemoth as he pillaged Premiership defences, so indelible his mark, that he appeared to someone inside Upton Park Towers as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them; or as Melville described: "All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought." So it was that Eidur Gudjohnsen became our own White Whale; the corporeal embodiment of the ungraspable 'phantom of life' and the quintessence of the 'one insular Tahiti'...

So it is that Tottenham are attempting to hijack our swoop for Eidur Gudjohnsen, according to several media sources this morning, because Harry Redknapp is worried he only has 348 back-up strikers if Jermain Defoe injures his big toe. The Hammers were confident of tying up a deal to land the former Chelsea forward, either on a free transfer or on loan from Monaco. He held talks with Gianfranco Zola yesterday afternoon and the Italian left convinced he had persuaded his former Chelsea teammate to join West Ham's battle for Premier League survival. Now, Tottenham’s late intervention could see the Icelander switch London clubs, reports John Ley in today's Telegraph.

After last night’s 2-0 win over Fulham, Tottenham manager Redknapp, who failed to persuade former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy to join him, said: "I like Gudjohnsen. He’s a good footballer and an interesting player on a loan. I spoke to his agent, he said he was going to West Ham, so I left it with the agent and Daniel. He would be a good loan signing. We have got a lot of games coming up and he can play in different systems. He would suit the way we play. When I heard about it I thought it would be interesting because I think Monaco are going to do a big part of his wages."

Gudjohnsen flew into Stansted last night to meet West Ham representatives, reveals Tom Lutz in the Guardian. Although it's actually called London Stansted to make people think they're landing right next to Big Ben or something when in fact it's nearer Ben Nevis and you have to pay £84 to get into the capital and there's not even a buffet car on the train. Anyway, he subsequently underwent a preliminary medical at 8pm after West Ham owner David Sullivan reportedly agreed a £1m deal to take the striker on loan for the rest of the season. This morning, however, a disgruntled Sullivan told ESPN he fears Harry Redknapp and his chairman Daniel Levy have made a rival offer. "We thought we had him, but I am worried that he has 'ducked' on us," he said. "I am chasing it up as we speak."

As of now, Tottenham seem favourite to capture his signature. The BBC report that Spurs have secretly been in negotiations for weeks with the player and this appears his likelier destination after further talks today. It is thought Gudjohnsen will make his final decision in the next 48 hours. Should the Icelander, who only joined Monaco last summer, opt to sign for Tottenham, it will a bitter pill to swallow for Sullivan, who reacted angrily to news of Spurs' interest. "We thought we had a deal and the player had even had a medical," he said. "We then heard that Tottenham were trying to speak to the player. I can't say I am happy about it but I believe in karma and what goes around, comes around." Meanwhile, further question marks will be raised over the future of unsettled Robbie Keane. He is one of three Spurs players- Alan Hutton and David Bentley are the others- who have been linked to West Ham during this transfer window.

The Mail suggests the Iceland international's head has been turned by Tottenham's interest. They are chasing a place in the Champions League, while West Ham's battle is at the opposite end of the table. Gudjohnsen, for his part, is understood to have asked for time to mull over his decision. If the veteran forward does indeed prefer White Hart Lane to Upton Park, then West Ham will likely step-up their pursuit of Benjani Mwaruwari, Manchester City’s 31-year-old striker. Ley writes that Liverpool have shown an interest in the Zimbabwean but the former Portsmouth forward could be tempted to work with Zola, who is desperate for attacking cover, even though Carlton Cole made a late appearance as a substitute at Fratton Park last night after recovering from a long-term injury problem.

Blackburn Rovers are also thought to be in the hunt to sign Benjani. A source close to developments told Soccernet on Wednesday evening: "Blackburn are showing interest." Rovers are seeking a replacement for Benni McCarthy who is said to be on the brink of joining the Hammers for £2.5 million. The South African striker, who played for Ajax and Porto before moving to England, has described the impending switch to Upton Park as a 'dream move' despite the struggles of the east London side. Rovers boss Sam Allardyce, who has been expecting McCarthy's departure for months after he voiced his frustrations about a lack of first-team opportunities, labelled McCarthy "selfish" for missing training in an effort to force through the move. "The only loyalty a player has got is to himself," he told BBC Radio. "That's not just Benni, that's all players today. It's more about a selfish attitude that they have. If something comes their way that they think they must have, they try their very best to go and get it."

Allardyce said McCarthy, 32, may have been badly advised. "If he is trying to manipulate a move by staying away, it's not the right thing to do," he added. "Sometimes players will get advised wrongly and I think whoever is advising him to stay away is very wrong as he's done himself no favours." Asked what his attitude would be to McCarthy if he was not sold this transfer window, Allardyce said several of the squad may have negative feelings. "It's not just about whether I would be happy to have him back in the squad it's whether the other players would be happy, because I don't think it's the right thing to do," he said. "We will cross that bridge when we come to it but people forget about things very quickly in football."

Elsewhere, Serie A outfit Parma have admitted to holding an interest in Chilean playmaker Luis Jimenez. The 25-year-old, currently on loan at West Ham, joined on a season-long deal from Inter Milan over the summer but has struggled to make an impact in England. Unsettled and beset by personal problems, Jimenez has seen his first-team opportunities severely limited as of late. Sky Sports 'understands' United could choose to terminate his loan agreement at Upton Park and therefore alleviate the club's spiralling wage bill. That would open the door to Parma, with the Italian club's sporting director Pietro Leonardi revealing that he is set to hold talks with Inter regarding a possible deal. "Jimenez interests us," he told tuttomercatoweb. "In fact, I am heading to Milan to talk about a possible transfer."

Finally, United's high profile approaches for both McCarthy and Gudjohnsen have brought a withering rebuke from Gabriele Marcotti. Writing in the Times, he argues Gold and Sullivan have spent too much time since their takeover of West Ham badmouthing the previous regime, while making no distinction between the guys who blew all the Icelandic money on mega-contracts for Kieron Dyer, Freddy Ljungberg and Luis Boa Morte (perhaps because it was their mate Alan Curbishley?) and the guys who actually managed to take West Ham to ninth place last year while making a £30m profit in the transfer market and nearly halving the wage bill (BTW, Birmingham never finished as high as ninth in the top flight with Gold and Sullivan in charge, though they may do so now that the two Davids are gone).

"They've complained about the debt and that's fair enough," he writes. "Less logical were complaints about having too many midfielders and not enough strikers (well, the manager did play with just one centre forward and West Ham have four on their books, plus Dean Ashton who was forced to retire - how many strikers do Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool have?). And the one about having 21,000 club shirts in stock was downright bizarre. Is that a lot? Is that a little? It's kinda tough for the majority of us who are not mass retailers of sporting apparel to judge."

Gold says he's convinced the club needs more strikers ("two, maybe three") and his first move is to bring in Benni McCarthy and Eidur Gudjhonsen. Let's take a closer look, shall we? says Marcotti.

McCarthy turns 33 later this year and supposedly cost £2.5m. Given his age, his resale value is likely to be zero and, since he signed a two-and-a-half year deal, it looks like the club will be paying his wages until he's 35. He has scored one Premier League goal in 14 appearances this season. By contrast, Guillermo Franco, who is a year older and is by no means a superstar but nevertheless has scored three times as many goals as McCarthy, cost nothing and makes less than half what McCarthy makes. He's an example of a short-term, quick-fix option that has a limited downside.

But, of course, he was signed by the previous regime so he must be rubbish. Best to go for McCarthy, the guy who can't win a spot in the starting XI at Blackburn.

Gudjohnsen's problem is that, simply put, he's not a striker. He hasn't been a striker since the start of his Chelsea career, whcih was nearly a decade (and two clubs) ago. You don't have to be an obsessive fan of Spanish or French football to know that. You just need to consider the fact that he has scored a grand total of ten league goals in 81 appearances over three-and-a-half seasons since leaving the Premier League. Or that, this season, he has scored a total of ZERO goals in 11 league appearances for Monaco. He's 31 and he's had his share of injuries which may explain why he has lasted 90 minutes just once this season.

In their heyday, Gudjohnsen and McCarthy weren't just good players, they were great players. And - who knows - maybe they will be great players again and be crucial in keeping West Ham in the top flight.

Right now these signings smack of a distinct lack of imagination (if not nous), he concludes. Not to mention the fact that West Ham already have four English strikers on their books; two of them are England Under-21 internationals (Freddie Sears and Zavon Hines), another is an England Under-19 international who cost the club all of £50,000 in the pre-Gold/Sullivan shoestring days (Frank Nouble) and the fourth was capped for England in their last match (Carlton Cole). So much for local owners championing the cause of local lads, eh?

The bottom line is that West Ham were on the brink of financial oblivion and West Ham fans should only be grateful to Gold and Sullivan for buying into the club. Unlike others, they are neither time-wasters, fantasists or convicted fraudsters. That said, the relentless bad-mouthing of what came before (the shoestring regime run by Scott Duxbury) is unnecessary. And if bringing in Gudjohnsen and McCarthy is the kind of bright, forward-thinking planning they think will keep West Ham up, then it may well be a long and painful summer for West Ham fans.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Good Vibrations

Simon Jordan once wrote that if he saw another David Gold interview on the poor East End Jewish boy done good he would "impale myself on one of his dildos". Well let's hope he doesn't see today's Telegraph where Jim White has contributed another fluff piece on the new Hammers chairman.

Opening gambit: 'A couple of days after he has effected a takeover of West Ham United and David Gold's phone won't stop ringing. His mobile is spinning across his desk as he attempts to talk, rattling the trophies adorning the study of his Surrey mansion with its noisy buzz. "Sorry about this, but I can't seem to turn the vibrate function off," he says, picking up the busily humming device. "You'd think in my business one thing I'd have learnt is how to turn off a vibrator."'

I didn't want to take any chances, so just in case Jordan missed the morning papers, I thought I'd reproduce the rest of the article here...

Gold is rarely mentioned without reference to his business. He prefers the euphemism 'adult products' to the harsher pejorative often cast in his direction, but whatever it is he sells beneath its brown paper packaging it has enabled him to finance quite a lifestyle.

Here, at its epicentre in the Surrey hills, Gold enjoys its trappings: the helicopter on the lawn; the grand piano in the hall gently playing to itself; the lavish portraits on the walls of family members depicted, Marie Antoinette-like, gambolling in imagined sylvan idylls. Not to mention sitting proudly on the sideboard, the original FA Cup, the trophy which he bought for more than £450,000 in 2005.

"It goes up to 1913, who won it that year?" he says, addressing the engraving on the front of the silverware with a magnifying glass. "Oh no, please don't tell me it was Aston Villa."

But for West Ham followers it is not the fruitier aspects of Gold's business portfolio that interests them. They are more concerned about his stewardship of football clubs.

In particular, after the failed Icelandic intervention at Boleyn Road, they would like him to repeat the trick he carried off in the Midlands, where, over 16 years until last August, he presided over the stabilisation of Birmingham City.

"Actually, I'll pull you up on that," he says. "What we did was a bit more than stabilise Birmingham. Without us you can safely say that club would not be in existence. It would now be a supermarket. It came really, really close to going into extinction."

With his brother Ralph and partner David Sullivan, Gold bought Birmingham in 1993 for a pound. Last summer the threesome sold it to Carson Yeung, realising a profit of £20 million each. It was a result Gold could hardly anticipate when he first stepped off his chopper at St Andrew's.

"When I saw the stadium, I thought: 'I wonder if I can get my pound back' " he says. "Clearly I'd overpaid."

So has he overpaid again for West Ham? This time it has cost him and Sullivan in excess of 50 million times that Birmingham investment.

"Yes, yes, of course we have, it's madness what we paid," he says. "The place was a car crash. Every page we turned in every document revealed yet another problem. It was the worst set of figures I have seen."

In which case: why on earth has he done it? He is now 73, his business empire is stout and profitable. What, then, propelled him back into football's self-inflicted financial mire?

"You have to say I'm certifiable, potty," he says. "There's no other business like this. In fact that's a misnomer, it's not a business. We've lost the plot. The Premier League is pulling in more money than any other league the world has ever known, yet show me a club making a profit. It's insane.

"I would not have done the deal if it had been any other club. I've only done this because it's West Ham, my roots. I can see my mum looking down, she was mad for the club. I remember her at Birmingham, she must have been 90, we were playing West Ham and she turned up in the directors' box wearing both a West Ham and a Birmingham scarf. I said, 'mum, it doesn't work like that'. She said, 'I don't want anyone to lose'. Only my mum."

So this is just about sentiment? "It's in my blood," he says. "I could have played for the club. I was offered an apprenticeship when I was a kid by the legend that was Ted Fenton. But my father refused to sign the forms. You had to get parental consent, so that was it.

"My father was very belligerent. I didn't speak to him for 30 years. Not because of that. It was many things. I never had a good relationship with him. Would I be where I am today had I taken up that apprenticeship? Who knows. But I'd have loved to try."

In fact, such is his affection for the club, this latest represents the third time Gold has sought a long-term relationship with West Ham. Before engaging with Birmingham, the Gold brothers and Sullivan owned 27 per cent of the Upton Park action. But it was not a happy courtship.

"They didn't embrace us," he recalls. "I'm not talking the fans, I mean the principals of the football club. They didn't give us a seat on the board, they were reluctant even to let us into the directors' box. Eventually, we were allowed into the directors' guest lounge, but never into the inner sanctum."

If the West Ham bigwigs worried that encouraging men of their business ilk on to the board might tarnish the image of the club, things have changed. Twenty years on, Gold's business nous is more than just welcome, it is a lifeline. And it will be stretched to its limits to sort things out.

"I hate debt," he says. "Personally, I would avoid it at all costs. Interest is a burden on a football club that puts you at competitive disadvantage. If Man United are paying £50 million a year in interest, if they didn't have that debt, then they could use that £50 million to reduce ticket prices or improve their squad. That seems self-evident to me. West Ham have borrowed against future income. That's absurd."

But it is also a fact of history. The question now is: what will he and Sullivan do to sort things out?

"We'll bring in leadership," he says. "It was quite clear there was none. Any question you asked, it all boiled down to: well we weren't given any direction. It had become a rudderless ship. We will bring openness.

"The manager was saying to us, 'I've never seen a director at the training ground'. That will change. You will see passion from us. We will bring 16 years of experience. We are people who have overseen success, but also we have overseen failure, the test is how you can recover from that."

One of the things Gold particularly wants to do is take over the Olympic Stadium after 2012. That would give West Ham access to much greater revenue streams. There is just one drawback to the plan: Sebastian Coe has long made it clear it is unlikely to happen. "We are not in the business of building Premier League football grounds," he once said.

"Yes, and I remember Harold Wilson saying, 'We will never devalue the pound'," says Gold. "Look, the best way to secure the legacy of the stadium is for a football club to take it on. Seb's a politician, but you've got to be realistic.

"How embarrassing to have one event there a year, with 4,000 people watching a weekend of athletics. No, football is its best hope. Maybe it's too late to affect the design of the building. Maybe it is about us taking it on and converting it afterwards. But believe me, it is in their best interests as much as ours."

But if that doesn't happen, what else can Gold offer? A future of belt-tightening and austerity might be the vogue manifesto for the forthcoming general election, but don't fans wish for something rather more from their chairman?

"Come on chairman, gamble with your money. Show some ambition. Bring me success. I want to go to a cup final," he says. "Yeah, that is the traditional way of regarding your chairman. Now, I might be wrong, but I think that's changing. Now I think fans are saying, do whatever you can, but I will not tolerate you taking my club into administration. I think if you treat the fans right they very rarely turn on you.

"Yes, on that bad day [in May 2008] when we got relegated [Birmingham] there was such despair it spilt over into uncontrolled red mist. For a few weeks they were mortified and it manifested itself in anger towards us.

"I've learnt, fans need two things: they need heroes and they need scapegoats."

And which is he going to provide?

"Come on, the chairman is very, very rarely the hero," he says. "You have to face up to that fact, it goes with the territory. If you're not up for it, you shouldn't be involved."

Growing Through Adversity

Gianfranco Zola believes that he has gained several years’ worth of experience managing West Ham United, although he has been in the post only since September 2008. Within days of taking charge, West Ham’s owner, Björgólfur Gudmundsson, suffered the financial problems that led to his bankruptcy and the eventual sale of half the club last week. After finishing ninth last term, Zola’s job now is to secure survival. "It has been difficult," he said, speaking for the first time since David Sullivan and David Gold gained control of the club. "It has been worth five years of experience in any other job. It’s a challenge and I accept it."

The Sardinian admits the completion of the protracted takeover of West Ham United came as "a massive relief", and that the onus is now on him to steer the club away from the threat of relegation if he is to retain his position at Upton Park. The new owners have so far been unequivocal in their public support of Zola, despite suggestions that they had considered recruiting Mark Hughes. They have since spoken with the Italian on a daily basis as West Ham seek to reinforce their squad, with the Blackburn Rovers striker Benni McCarthy and Manchester City's Benjani Mwaruwari among several names constantly mentioned in dispatches.

While strengthening the forward ranks was considered a priority, just as significant has been confirmation that none of West Ham's key players will need to be sold. "Every window we've had to sell someone because of the financial problems, so to know everyone is staying is massive," said Zola, who had feared losing the likes of Scott Parker and Matthew Upson had the takeover not been completed. "To lose players would have had big implications for us, not only because of the loss itself but because of the message you're sending out to the other players. We're trying to build something here, so this will serve to refocus everybody.

"The new owners already achieved the main things that were needed: to bring stability and keep all the players we have. As for my own future, it wasn't necessary to talk to them about that. I know that, in my position, I have to produce results. The new owners are going to be very demanding on the team and on me, but I like that. It's a challenge and I accept it. It's been good that they said they have faith in me and my staff. That's a very good start. Now it's down to me to make sure that first show of trust stays strong."

West Ham have won only once in eight games in all competitions but tomorrow's game at Portsmouth, four points adrift at the bottom of the table, marks the start of a run of fixtures Zola described as "an opportunity" to hoist the team away from the cut-off, with Birmingham City's visit the toughest on paper of the Londoners' next six league fixtures. Victory at Portsmouth, who are still scrapping for their existence, will not come easy, though. "We played them some time ago and it was tough. I’m expecting it to be even tougher this time, but my team are prepared," said Zola.

The manager recognises the significance of prospering in this period, and thereby maintaining the feel-good factor generated by the change in ownership, with demotion to the Championship unthinkable. Yet, already, the benefits of the regime change are being felt. "It's important that you have an owner to whom you can report, whether in good or bad situations," said Zola, with the implications of life under the previous ownership very clear. "The fact that there is an owner behind us, and looking after us all, is a massive thing. The players are all feeling positive about that, too. The trouble we had was certainly affecting our performances – the players were feeling the uncertainty around the club – though I'll put my hands up and say I've also made some mistakes.

Zola received a sack-load of good-will messages from fans when he was first.appointed. None of his friends or colleagues had warned him of the pitfalls. "Actually they told me good things," said Zola. "When they come out from the hospital, those people...". But nice guys do not always finish last, as Zola continues to prove. "Maybe, if I could go back, I'd have done some things differently. But it's been a difficult situation. I came here last season and, after a week, all the [financial] trouble started. We thought we'd come through that, then there were more problems. I tried to stay focused on my work on the pitch but, for me, it's a massive relief now. I've been here one-and-a-half years, but that time is maybe worth five years of experience in any other [managerial] job. I am stronger for it, absolutely. The fighting spirit is there. I don't like to give up on things or step back from difficulties. My main qualities are on the pitch and I want to use them on the pitch. If I can get everything else sorted, I can focus on that and I can put across my 20 years in football. I'm still alive and still fighting like a crazy man. I have less hair now than when I came here but, for this team, I will do anything."

Zola personally earmarked the pursuit of McCarthy and Benjani in dialogue with Gold and Sullivan, with the club's sporting director, Gianluca Nani, increasingly isolated at Upton Park. "The players that come in have to be my choice, but the new owners have been very co-operative," added Zola. "Strikers were a priority, and the owners know that. I trust them. We have kept in close contact and speaking every day, exchanging information. They're working to make the team stronger."

It is no secret West Ham are desperate to bolster their attacking options. Injuries to Carlton Cole, Guillermo Franco and Zavon Hines have stretched their forward line to breaking point and Zola was recently forced to give the 18-year-old striker Frank Nouble his Premier League debut at Aston Villa. At least, England striker Carlton Cole is back in the West Ham squad. He has been absent since injuring a hamstring in West Ham’s 5-3 win over Burnley on November 28, but trained with the squad on Monday and could be named as a substitute at Fratton Park. Zola said: "It’s very positive news. It’s a big lift for everybody having him back. It’s like a new signing, a massive thing for us. He’s an important player."

So what of actual new signings? West Ham have officially submitted a written offer for Benni McCarthy, according to the striker's club Blackburn Rovers. Gianfranco Zola's side have repeatedly been linked with the South African after his manager, Sam Allardyce, said he could leave during the current transfer window. McCarthy, whom the club believe is in Spain, missed training sessions on Monday and last Friday and is keen to quit Ewood Park after falling out with Allardyce over his fitness. The bust-up centred on McCarthy’s weight and the player was angry at being ordered by him to do extra sessions.

The Mail reports Allardyce feels he has little option but to agree a deal and the player's days at Blackburn appear to be numbered. The 32-year-old has struggled to find form this season, scoring only once in the Premier League and regularly finding himself left out by Allardyce. "We are very disappointed with Benni's non-appearance for training and will deal with it separately should he remain here after the transfer window has closed," said Allardyce. "We have said all along that we will listen to offers, but only agree to sell if both the commercial and football reasons satisfy Blackburn Rovers. That situation remains unchanged."

According to the Times, although McCarthy has edged closer to a move, it is possible the forward may not play when the teams meet at Upton Park on Saturday. It is thought Blackburn want £2.5 million for the forward, more than twice what West Ham are willing to offer as an initial sum, even though they are unhappy with the player's increasingly erratic behaviour. For his part, McCarthy remains desperate to play regular first-team football in the run up to the World Cup finals in his native South Africa. The Mail claims the striker is expected to sign a two-and-a-half year deal at Upton Park, with Rovers using the fee to fund a bid for Stoke City's James Beattie.

The same paper insists United are also closing in on a deal for Benjani but will probably be forced to wait until after Manchester City's Carling Cup semi-final second leg at Manchester United on Wednesday before completing any transfer. Benjani, 31, is thought to be high on the wish list of attacking reinforcements drawn up by the club but there remain significant hurdles to overcome. Firstly, the Zimbabwe international has impressed new boss Roberto Mancini in recent weeks during the prolonged absence of Emmanuel Adebayor. Secondly, the imminent departure of Robinho is forcing City to consider whether they can afford to let another striker go.

Elsewhere, the Hammers have decided not to offer a deal to Sergey Kornilneko, despite the Zenit St Petersburg striker impressing on a week-long trial. Sources close to the 26-year-old indicate that he was told West Ham were looking for more 'high-profile' strikers. In recent days, the club have been heavily linked with Monaco's Eidur Gudjohnsen, while talks are reportedly ongoing with Argentine forward Juan Carlos Menseguez. The 26-year-old, who plays for San Lorenzo, impressed during a loan spell at West Bromwich Albion last season. Lastly, Sky Sports are running a story about Mido but for the good of my own health (physical and mental) I'm ignoring it.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Oye Como Va

Toifilou Maoulida seems to be the buzz word on an otherwise deathly quiet Monday morning. At least two of the dailies say the French striker- whose name sounds like an early Santana album filler- could be about to join the 'Upton Park revolution' after hinting he was teetering on the verge of leaving Lens for the Barclays Premier League. West Ham, Wigan and Stoke are all credited with an interest in the player who has found himself consigned to the substitutes' bench for much of the current season.

The 30-year-old scored the only goal of the match against Compiegne in the Coupe de France yesterday and is quoted in the Mail as admitting it could have been his last for his current side. "I'm waiting to see," he reportedly told L'Equipe. "I've had a discussion with my managers recently. They have set a deadline of Wednesday. I am in favour of the Lens project but the situation is complicated. If an English club give me this opportunity then why not? The English league has always interested me. It's 50/50 at the moment."

Maoulida, who also lists Montpellier and Marseille among his former teams, joined from Auxerre in January 2008 and immediately made his mark with a 40-yard goal on his debut. He opted to remain at Lens despite their relegation and was the club's top scorer last season as he helped fire them to promotion with one of the best goal-hauls in Ligue 2.

The Sun stays a little closer to home with the suggestion West Ham are set to end James Beattie's 'Stoke hell' by jumping in (presumably two-footed) with a £3million offer. Pat Sheehan insists the club are pulling out all the stops to land the 31-year-old after he had a furious bust-up with boss Tony Pulis following a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal last month. West Ham are desperate to bring a player in with Carlton Cole struggling with a knee injury. The Sun runs with a David Gold quote pinched from his radio interview yesterday, when he said: "I'd be hugely disappointed if we did not bring in a striker before the window closes. But it would have to be someone of quality or there is no point."

Elsewhere, Charlton boss Phil Parkinson has issued a 'hands-off' warning to anyone considering a move for his teenage star Jonjo Shelvey. The 17-year-old has been linked with virtually every top club in London over the last couple of years and was rumoured to be the subject of a failed Hammers bid back in May. The youngster is understood to have a clause in his contract allowing him to leave upon meeting certain conditions and was reportedly the subject of a £3.5million bid from Chelsea last month according to the Sunday Times- a deal he is said to have rejected because of his desire to move to West Ham.

But the chances of that happening have been dismissed by Addicks boss Parkinson this morning, who told Sky Sports that he wanted at least £8million for the prodigiously gifted midfielder. "Chelsea were mentioned but I haven't had a call from Roman Abramovich," he said. "And West Ham couldn't afford him. We want him to help us get promotion, because he will do. [Fabian] Delph went [to Aston Villa] for £8million and Jonjo, in my eyes, is a better player."

Lastly, comes the news that Marlon Harewood has hobbled off the West Ham watchlist (if he was ever on it) after he broke his foot in training with Aston Villa’s reserves. Results over the weekend from scans have showed the forward must have an operation this week. He will now be sidelined for 10 weeks and expects to be out until April in what is described as a devastating blow for the £28,000-a-week marksman, who is out of contract in the summer.

Copyright 2007 ID Media Inc, All Right Reserved. Crafted by Nurudin Jauhari