Wednesday, 27 January 2010

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.


T.I.S said...

I have to disagree with your point I am afraid. We (West Ham fans) were kept in the quiet about the finances and state of the club throughout the whole of the Icelandic regime, so it is very refreshing to hear the truth for once. Regarding our interest in McCarthy and Gud (Boris) Johnson, we will have to wait and see, Franco came from Spain with no premiership experience and has been excellent, so having a mature striker with premiership experience in McCarthy could only be a good thing surely?

Robyn said...

I don't think that was the point that Trilby was making; it seems to me that he was merely outlining Marcotti's objections. I agree with you though. It has been helpful to hear the full extent of our financial woes and McCarthy should be more than a useful signing if he comes.

TBI said...

Benni will score goals, sulk, go missing and have rows with other players.

He will fit in perfectly. (That's if he gets another visa)

Anonymous said...

As long as he scores that's all I care about. Those chances we missed against Pompey were soul destroying


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