Sunday, 24 January 2010

Lasciate Ogne Speranza, Voi Ch'Entrate

Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here for it is the cursed Sunday paper round-up... Benni McCarthy has agreed personal terms with West Ham United's new owners and could join the club in time for Tuesday's Premier League game at Portsmouth according to the Times. Duncan Castles states Blackburn Rovers expect to receive about £2.5m for a player who is also attracting interest from Everton and Celtic. McCarthy has reportedly been offered a two-and-a-half-year contract at Upton Park with West Ham proposing to structure the initial six months as a loan deal to hurry through the striker's registration. There are no work permit issues because McCarthy's wife is Spanish. Blackburn's top scorer in two of his three full seasons at the club, McCarthy has been their most productive striker this campaign despite starting only seven League games because Sam Allardyce has often criticised the player's fitness. Castles reveals Blackburn rejected offers of more than £6m for McCarthy from Chelsea and Sunderland after his first two seasons at the club.

By contrast, the Sunday Mirror claim the Hammers had made a £2million bid for McCarthy, only to pull out of the deal on Thursday when Rovers said they would not entertain a bid until they had found a replacement. Instead, West Ham were said to be poised to solve their striker crisis last night by signing Eidur ­Gudjohnsen on loan from Monaco. The paper insists the 31-year-old Icelandic marksman has snubbed an 11th hour move by Liver­pool and is expected to fly into England tonight to seal the four month loan deal. The Merseyside giants supposedly tried to hijack Gudjohnsen’s move by matching his ­per­sonal terms that were thrashed out with the ­Hammers late on Friday but the ex- Barcelona and Chelsea star was keen to link up with Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke, his old friends at Stamford Bridge.

The News of the World agree in part, reporting David Sullivan is currently locked in talks with Monaco over the signing of the Icelander, alongside Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce who is also trying to lure the Icelander back to England. Zola was said to have been alerted to Gudjohnsen's availability on Friday and is hoping to set up a loan deal until the end of the season. Zola turned his attention to Gudjohnsen, who has struggled to make an impact at Monaco since quitting Barcelona last summer, after the club officially missed out on Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Van Nistelrooy is hoping he can impress enough for Hamburg to earn a place at this summer's World Cup finals after agreeing an 18-month contract to join the German club from Real Madrid. A story in the Mail says HSV confirmed after their 1-0 Bundesliga defeat at Borussia Dortmund that they had won the race for the player's signature. The move comes after Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp admitted the player's salary meant he was unlikely to move to White Hart Lane. "We don't pay those type of wages here," said Redknapp. "Daniel (Levy), the chairman here, runs a good business and wouldn't be paying that sort of money. It would break our wage structure by an awful long way. He's probably worth it and is probably earning an awful lot more at Real Madrid. He's been a great player and could still be that for someone."'

Having missed out on Van Nistelrooy, West Ham may turn to another Madrid outcast Jan Huntelaar who is also wanted by Everton after failing to shine at Milan. That is according to the News of the World, who insist Benni McCarthy and Manchester City's Benjani also remain targets. Sullivan is quoted a saying: "The absolute priority at the moment is for us to bring in two new strikers. We can mix and mend in other parts of the team but not up front. The squad is terribly inbalanced, there are too many midfielders and not enough forwards"

The same article states the Hammers will not sell midfield general Scott Parker who is believed to be wanted by Manchester City and possibly Tottenham, yet if the former put more than £10million on the table for Swiss international midfield Valon Behrami it is likely West Ham would do a deal given the other midfield options within the squad. West Ham will also consider making a £2.5million offer for Crystal Palace's forward Victor Moses who is being chased by City, Fulham and Forest.

Another section of the paper claims Spurs have offered Robbie Keane to West Ham in a bid to lure Carlton Cole to White Hart Lane. Boss Harry Redknapp wants to shake up his strike force as Tottenham seek to clinch a Champions League spot and seemingly failed in a bid to sign Cole before the start of the season. New West Ham owners David Sullivan and David Gold have vowed not to sell any of their top stars in this transfer window and have been desperately seeking to sign at least two new strikers themselves as partners for Cole. The article states they may be persuaded to try and strike a straight bargain for Keane now it is clear Spurs are ready to offload him.

That's if the club doesn't sign Toifilou Maoulida first. The former Marseille striker claims he is in talks with three Premier League clubs- West Ham, Wigan and Stoke- and will know by Wednesday if he is leaving Lens for England. "The discussions are fairly advanced and the deadline is set for Wednesday," he told RMC. "They are Premier League clubs and it would be on loan with an option to purchase." Maloulida, 30, has scored twice in 12 outings this term for Lens and is always an awkward customer to deal with in attack.

Speaking in the Mirror, James Tomkins has urged the new West Ham board to do everything in their ­power to keep captain ­Matthew Upson. The 30-year-old has just over a year on his deal to go and has yet to open talks with the club over extending his stay in east London. Manchester City and ­Liverpool are monitoring the situation, while new Hammers owners David Gold and David Sullivan are set to hold talks with the England defender. Tomkins, who plays alongside Upson at the heart of the West Ham backline, said: "Matty is a great ­captain and a great player. For me he’s been ­brilliant because I’ve learnt so much off him. He has had trust in me and we work very well ­together. It’s massive that we keep him but that’s out of my hands. He is a good player and a good man."

Meanwhile, various reports claim David Sullivan has invited Alan Curbishley to invest his financial pay-off from West Ham back into the cash-strapped club. Former Hammers boss Curbishley won his case for wrongful dismissal against the club in November and is still awaiting settlement. The article states Sullivan and business partner David Gold face an uphill task to balance the books at Upton Park and are seeking new investors, and the former Birmingham owner believes Curbishley could go a long way to aiding those efforts. Sullivan told the People: "Alan will get somewhere between £1.25million and £3.25million, and we'd love him to invest his settlement with us in West Ham. It would be marvellous, I could think of nothing better, but I don't think he's going to be doing it. We're hoping to start seeing people we hope will invest with us by the middle of the week. We've got a few people who've got a gold card who we're going to see and we're hoping they'll join us in the battle to keep West Ham alive."

Sullivan revealed: "We're talking about substantial sums of money from some very rich people and we're hoping in a few months' time that they will have signed up for the fight. We will show them what we did at Birmingham, where all the investors doubled or quadrupled their money. Unfortunately, we've inherited a really bad situation. It's awful. I've never seen so many people on £100,000-ayear-plus in an organisation as small as West Ham and it can't be right. The whole club has been Father Christmas to the world, but being £110m in debt you can't do that. We want to spend the money putting the team on the field rather than carrying three or four staff on huge wages. I expect to see some real light within 24 months and real progress within four to five years - both on and off the field. The club's chief executive Scott Duxbury told me he had instructions to sell as many players as he needed to raise £8m in January and £12m in the summer. There aren't that many saleable assets at West Ham, to be honest, not for big money because of the age or the medical condition of the players. But, anyway, we're not selling. We'll be buying a couple of strikers in the next few days or next week."

Talking of Duxbury, the News of the World have been revealed more details of the club's financial woes and it does not make for pleasant reading for the man supposedly in charge of the purse-strings. The article states Sullivan has been staggered at what he sees as some of the excesses at the club, free spending that has continued despite the fact West Ham have been on brink since the business empire of ex-owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson collapsed 15 months ago. "We have bought into an incredibly bad situation. At every level the club has been badly run," said Sullivan. "I'll give you one simple example. It is now January and we have still got 21,000 first team shirts in stock at £21 each. Ridiculous. No proper decisions have been made. Bad deals have been done. This is the deck of cards we have inherited and it is going to take us time to play those cards."

West Ham's perilous financial position has forced them to take out loans on the promise of the next two years' Premier League television revenue, despite the fact they are far from guaranteed to beat relegation. Also, 70 per cent of a shirt sponsorship with SBOBET has been taken up front to stave off the threat of administration. Gold claims the club needed to raise £20m (Sullivan said the figure was actually £8m with a further £12m in the summer) by the end of the month, which would have meant the sale of Scott Parker and Matthew Upson and either Rob Green or Carlton Cole. Whats is more, some of deals that have heaped such a heavy financial burden on the club left the new owners barely able to catch their breath.

In summer 2007, Arsene Wenger was willing to off-load Freddie Ljungberg for £1.5m The player is believed to asked for £50,000 a week. In the end, the club contrived to pay Arsenal £3m and gave the Swede near to £80,000 a week. A year later, they realised he was not up to Premier League pace any more, and they paid up his £6m contract. Players such as Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy, Lucas Neill and Scott Parker joined on wages which were way out of West Ham's league. While Sullivan was staggered to discover technical director Gianluca Nani was being paid £300,000 a year while two full-time club doctors earned a combined salary of £400,000.

Sullivan's view is that if the pyhsios need any help then players will be sent to a specialist. The doctors will go and so will Nani, whose track record in recruiting players is described here as 'disastrous'. The example of German Under-21 international Savio Nsereko for a fee touted at £9m is cited in the article, which is slightly unfair given that most people agree the fee was nowhere near that amount. Besides, any impartial evaluation of Nani's effectiveness cannot ignore the acquisitions of Behrami, Ilunga and countless young imports who are yet to reach their potential.

Nonetheless, Sullivan's verdict on the squad is damning. He said: "We have an unbelievably unbalanced team. It doesn't take a genius to see we have more midfielders than we know what do with." On the coaching front, Sullivan is astonished that, given the club's plight, it still opted to hand Gianfranco Zola a new deal so soon into his managerial career on a salary of £1.9m. Assistant, Steve Clarke is on £1.2m, thought to be double the salary of Manchester United's No 2, Mike Phelan.

Sullivan will also wonder why several new company cars were recently acquired, including an Aston Martin on a £1,500 a month lease. Having brought Birmingham from the brink, Sullivan has a proven track record of putting football clubs back on track, even if it is painful. As it stands the plan is simple. Sullivan said: "The short term situation is survival. The long term situation is our dreams."

One man in no doubt those dreams will be fulfilled is Barry Fry. "David Gold is such a massive Hammers fan, he even hosted his mum's 90th birthday bash at the Upton Park social club," writes Fry. "And that can only be good news for West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola." Fry, who was the first managerial appointment of Gold and David Sullivan in their Birmingham days, said: "Zola is a very fortunate man. So are West Ham fans because these guys are genuine supporters. They want what the fans want and won't sell the best players."

A party at the club was exactly what Gold's mum wanted to celebrate her 90th birthday. Fry explained: "David asked her, 'Where do you want to go? The Ritz, The Dorchester, do you want me to fly you anywhere in the world?' She chose the social club at Upton Park. I know because I went." And he has nothing but praise for the east London club's new owners. "Their knowledge of football is second to none and their business expertise is superb," Fry added. "They are very genuine people who will back their managers."

Fry also explained how Gold and Sullivan backed him over winger Jose Dominguez at Birmingham. "I had a lot of players but I went back and told them that I wanted Dominguez," he said. "I got him over from Benfica but David Sullivan said, 'No, you've spent your budget'. He was £80,000, so I said to David, 'Would you pay his expenses so I could bring him over and have a look for a few days?' He said, 'No'. So we had to do that ourselves. I said, 'If we signed him, would you give the money back that he paid for his hotel?' And David said, 'Well, we ain't going to sign him, so yeah'. He came over for three days and was different class. I told David, 'If I said give me £80,000 and I'll make you a million, what would you do?' "He said, 'All right'. We sold him to Sporting Lisbon for £1.5million later on." Fry added: "With Sullivan, Gold and Karren Brady, you can put your case to them and, even if you're over budget, they'll back you. They won't agree with you, but they will back you - and that's all a manager can ask for."

One man feeling singularly unsupported is Calum Davenport. According to the News of the World West Ham have stunned the unlucky defender by suspending the player's wages until his court case is resolved. The paper states Davenport has received a communication from the Hammers' HR department alleging that he may have been in breach of his contract when he was attacked last August. The defender, who has since been charged with assaulting his sister, has taken legal advice and brought in the PFA. Incredibly Davenport is continuing to train with the club on legal advice while his solicitor attempts to resolve the issue.

This is the latest blow for Davenport in a long list of struggles. Two weeks ago he was denied entry into an Essex health club to use the swimming pool after he was told the Hammers' deal with them had expired. A spokesman for Davenport refused to comment last night. A West Ham spokesman also refused to comment. Bobby Barnes, PFA deputy chief executive, said: "I am aware of the situation and will be working with all parties to try and achieve a satisfactory outcome."

Finally, West Ham co-owner David Gold is confident the club will sign a "quality striker" before the transfer window shuts. The Hammers had been linked with a move which would have cost £100,000 a week for Real Madrid's Ruud van Nistelrooy but that fell through when the former Manchester United star signed for Hamburg. But Gold, who took over as co-chairman at Upton Park with David Sullivan a week ago, insisted the search would go on. He told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme: "(We want) any centre forward, any striker, with a caveat that they must be able to score goals. There are lots of strikers who don't score goals. We're listening to any proposals and working hard to bring someone in. But the greatest danger was that this deal (van Nistelrooy) could have gone on and on and the window would have slammed shut on us. I would be hugely disappointed if we did not bring in a striker before the window closes. It would have to be someone of quality or there is no point."

Gold maintained that no West Ham players would be allowed to leave as the new regime, who have revealed the club is £110m in debt, attempted to stave off relegation. Gold, however, did reveal that plans were being put in place in case the worst happened. He said: "We will have a plan in place for relegation but hope that won't be the case. I'm hugely confident. I believe we could be in mid-table by the end of the season, but we are planning and making adjustments for the possibility of relegation."

He also revealed his belief that Gianfranco Zola would make "an exceptional manager given time" and insisted the club could keep top players such as Matthew Upson and Scott Parker even if they were relegated. "I would hope so," said Gold. "We would do everything in our power to keep the players if we got relegated but I'm hugely confident we will keep our Premier League status."

Gold insisted the move for Van Nistelrooy, which puzzled those who wondered how a club in such debt could afford six-figure wages, would have been short term and designed to guarantee survival in the Barclays Premier League. He said: "We wouldn't be prepared to pay somebody £100,000 a week for one and a half years. But we would be prepared to do so for four months."We did it at Birmingham with (Christophe) Dugarry for £50,000 a week and it saved us from relegation."

Gold also maintained that the club's proposed move into the Olympic stadium, three miles from Upton Park, after London 2012 could transform the club. He said: "It's a dream. It could transform West Ham football club. As a fan I want to stay at Upton Park but I'm a realist. If West Ham is to move forward and challenge in due course, three or five years from now, we have to move into a state of the art, modern stadium. Everybody I've spoken to is in favour of the project. We are looking at the possibility of retractable seating. The Manchester City stadium has been hugely successful and we would like to emulate that."

Gold, however, reassured West Ham fans that the club's name would not be changed after suggestions that it could become 'West Ham Olympic'. He added: "(The name of) West Ham United would never change while I am co-chairman of the football club. I wouldn't want that change. What you might do is call the stadium West Ham Olympic stadium. I can make a case for that."

You can hear the interview in full here.

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