Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Armageddon Scenario

I address you today not as the owner of West Ham United, not as the chairman of your football club, but as a fellow Hammer. We are faced with the very gravest of challenges. The Bible calls relegation "Armageddon" - the end of all things. And yet, not for the first time in the history of the Premier League, a team has the technology to prevent its own extinction. All of you praying with us need to know that everything that can be done to prevent this disaster is being called into service. The supporters' thirst for excellence, trophies; every step up the ladder of the league; every adventurous reach into space; all of our combined modern technologies and imaginations; even the wars that we've fought have provided us the tools to wage this terrible battle. Through all of the chaos that is our history; through all of the wrongs and the discord; through all of the pain and suffering; through all of our times, there is one thing that has nourished our souls, and elevated our club above its origins, and that is our courage. The dreams of our supporters are focused on those eleven brave souls crossing the white line. And may we all, West Ham fans the world over, see these events through. God speed, and good luck to you...

Two fans travel to an away game. One has refreshments in a West Ham carrier bag, the other proudly wears a spanking new claret and blue tie. Conversation revolves around the team. Who will play? What formation? What about the trio of new strikers they will see for the first time at Burnley? Will they fit in? Relegation doesn’t bear thinking about but a few hours later, on the way home from a 2-1 defeat at Turf Moor, it seems a stark possibility. The Hammers have slipped into the bottom three. It would be ‘a disaster’, the pair agree as we whizz through the sky at 500mph, cruising at an altitude of 22,000 feet in a Learjet 45, stylishly upholstered in pale grey leather. They are David Sullivan and David Gold, reveals the Mail's Matt Barlow. They own West Ham (well, half of it), and are at pains to point out that the cost of this flight comes from their own bank account, as their travel expenses always do.

The two Davids are in a confused state. Giddy with excitement at the prospect of their new project, this has been tempered by the financial mess they have unearthed at Upton Park. Each day seems to bring a new discovery of players and executives on fat salaries and long contracts, totally out of step with the club's status, states Barlow.

  • Gianfranco Zola, in his first job as a manager, was employed on a three-year deal worth £1.9million a year. His assistant manager Steve Clarke, lured from Chelsea to offer experience, earns £1.2m a year, more than double that of his equivalent at Manchester United.
  • Kieron Dyer, bought for £7m from Newcastle and handed a four-year contract on £3.5m a year despite his awful injury record, will probably end up costing West Ham close to £30m. He has started only five Premier League games for the club and is currently recovering from a nagging hamstring injury.
  • Dean Ashton was handed a new five-year deal despite excessive injury problems. Ashton announced his retirement this season with West Ham obliged to give him a year’s pay as compensation.
  • Dyer’s agent has received £1m for his transfer in 2007 and, a year later, Valon Behrami’s agent was paid £1.5m for helping to bring the Swiss midfielder to the club from Lazio.

These are just a few examples of the recklessness which has driven the Hammers to the brink of catastrophe and the new owners predict it will be three years for the problems to bottom out. "By the fourth year, maybe we can start to look forward," said Sullivan. "The situation they’ve inherited from us at Birmingham is far better than the one we’ve inherited, in terms of the way the club is run, the wages they carry, contracts, infrastructure. The training ground at Birmingham is vastly superior. We spent millions on it. At West Ham, we have a lot of players on too much money and a lot of very injured players. It is a disaster if we go down but we’ll just have to find a solution. We’re hoping to stay up and deliver an improved team next season. Some players will have to come in, some will have to go."

Zola, Clarke and the players were summoned to a meeting with Sullivan and Gold soon after last month’s regime change. The squad were told in no uncertain terms that none of them would be allowed to leave in January and that they would be expected to fight to keep the club in the Premier League. They were also promised that at the end of the season, if any of them wanted out then they would be allowed to go. The new owners will not accommodate unhappy players.

Sullivan has dedicated his time to little other than West Ham in the past month and he rubs at tired eyes, writes Barlow. His partner, Eve, testifies to his 18-hour working days - he finally shuts down his computer at 2am - but there have been signs of progress on some key issues. Deals to sign three strikers - Benni McCarthy, Mido and Ilan - were rushed through before last week’s transfer deadline and when Sullivan met Alan Curbishley last week they had a promising discussion about a possible agreement on the former manager’s compensation payment for constructive dismissal, a case he won against the club in November.

There has also been progress on their proposed new training ground, with planning permission granted. Already taking shape are plans to lay three pitches at the new 29-acre site at Rush Green near Romford, amid concerns that the surface at the old training ground in Chadwell Heath may be contributing to injury problems. Gold is also keen to press on with talks about moving the Hammers to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford after the Games in 2012. "We need that stadium to be part of the programme," said Gold. "We’ll try to persuade the Government and those involved that we are the best way forward. As an athletics stadium, you’ll get 5,000 people there on three weekends a year. It doesn’t make any economic sense. To claim you’re leaving that as a legacy is like saying we’ll leave it to rot."

Sullivan backs him up, explaining how West Ham could embrace the community in such a stadium. The pair are contrasting personalities but they have worked together for more than 30 years and they operate in harmony. "We even finish each other’s sentences, like an old married couple," said Gold, older, calmer and more relaxed than the robust and bustling Sullivan. "We’re very different characters. Dave has qualities I don’t have and I have qualities Dave doesn’t - not many, but I do. It works well and I think the key is respect."

Sullivan added: "We’re pursuing a dream but we don’t want it to burst. So we’ll pursue the dream, mixed in with a little common sense. And in three or fours years’ time, let’s say we’ve sorted out the mess at West Ham, and Dave might say to me, 'Let’s smack some money in and give it a go this year', we might well do that. One year, we’ll chase it, knowing we’ll run up a £30m or £40m loss just to see if we can make it. We did that at Birmingham once when we signed Heskey and Gronkjaer, who was dreadfully disappointing, and three or four others." Inevitably, Gold finishes the point, stressing the 'we': "Did you hear what Dave said? WE will do that. We will not go and borrow it, knowing that if we fail, the football club will be landed with the debt. There’s a difference."

Just how demonstrably benevolent the two Davids can eventually afford to be will be entirely dependent on the avoidance of the "Armageddon scenario" that is relegation. As the full catastrophic truth about the club's financial nightmare slowly emerges, a SunSport investigation into the Hammers' 'debt hell' has uncovered the full extent of boardroom mismanagement at Upton Park. In its simplest form, the paper states, London's working-class club has been trying to live like Chelsea toffs and now can't pay the bill. While West Ham fans have been putting up with low-budget football, a whole cluster of agents, coaches and hangers-on have been cashing in.

The Hammers plight, struggling in the bottom three of the Premier League and battling to claw their way out of a cash crisis, should serve as a stark warning to other teams living beyond their means. Fellow strugglers Portsmouth could be wound up in the High Court tomorrow in an on-going battle with the taxman as the team nosedives towards relegation. Even the Premier League champions, Manchester United, are saddled with enormous debts as football's gravy train grinds to a halt. Documents purposely leaked to SunSport by concerned staff at Upton Park (read Sullivan, Gold and/or Brady) reveal that:

  • West Ham's vastly under-achieving squad cost a staggering £75million in transfer fees alone.
  • The club still owes almost £15m of that money to other teams and instalments are looming.
  • A lavish £6m bonus system means West Ham would be no better off financially if by some miracle they won the Premier League or if they finished eighth - because the extra cash would be gobbled up by the players and staff.
Worried Sullivan admitted: "Things have to change at West Ham. We want to spend the money on putting the best team possible on the pitch. It'll be Armageddon if we go down. It'll be worse than what's gone on at Newcastle. I can't believe the contracts I've inherited. Every position is overpaid, whether in administration or on the playing side. All are earning more than they would at other clubs. We have made cutbacks already but may have to make another 20 or 30 people redundant by the summer. We have already had people in senior positions offer to take a voluntary 25 per cent reduction to keep their jobs. It's been gratefully accepted."

Gianfranco Zola and his highly paid players will be among those asked to take a reduction in pay. Midfielder Scott Parker pockets £65,000 a week - the same fee as crocked star Kieron Dyer. Defender Matthew Upson picks up £60,000 a week and fringe defender Manuel Da Costa even gets £20,000. The wages are crippling the club. Gold and Sullivan must slash the £60million wage bill to stop the club going under - even if they avoid relegation. "Everyone will be asked to take a cut this summer," said Sullivan. "If someone is doing a good job but is overpaid you still want to keep them. But many people at the training ground should take a voluntary pay cut. There's an army of people supporting the first team. Everyone at the club will be asked to take a salary cut in the summer. I'm drawing nothing forever, neither is David Gold. We are paying the first 12 months of Karren Brady's salary as vice-chairman. And we are not claiming back expenses. Every penny we spend is down to us. The club is in a mess and we all have to pull together. If we go down I can't even consider the situation."

Around 15 club staff have volunteered to take a wage cut and other cost-cutting plans are on the way. A 'player liaison officer' - who earns £50,000 a year to drive stars around - will be hit. The officer is a close family friend of a former West Ham employee. A fitness coach - paid a whopping £200,000 a year - and one of the club's two doctors also face the axe. Controversial technical director Gianluca Nani is also high on the hit list. Sullivan said: "We already had to slash 10 or 15 jobs. The club is in a mess, everyone has to pull together."

As a warning sign of the reckless financial regime of Icelandic owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson and his sidekick Eggert Magnusson, none flashes quite so red as Kieron Dyer's West Ham nightmare. According to figures published in today's Mail, it will cost the club close to a staggering £30million over the course of his four-year contract at Upton Park. Dyer has started only five Barclays Premier League games for the Hammers in two-and-a-half years and has yet to score a goal for the club.

West Ham’s medical team reportedly raised doubts about Dyer’s signing when he arrived from Newcastle in August 2007 but the transfer was rushed through before the deadline because the owners were keen to showcase top-class players. Dyer, who has managed just 558 minutes of League action for the club, signed a four-year deal reported to be worth £70,000 a week but broke his right leg soon after his debut and missed more than a year as he suffered complications in his recovery. His transfer fee was £7m - £1m more than the figure publicised at the time - and the agents’ fees on the deal cost the Hammers another £1m. Together with bonuses and National Insurance contributions, the club can expect to have paid out the thick end of £30m for him by the time his contract has expired at the end of next season.

Dyer has struggled through this campaign with hamstring problems and the 31-year-old has not played since limping off at Bolton in December. He is closing in on another first-team return but if his fitness fails and he breaks down again, West Ham could seek to negotiate a deal to pay up his contract and bring to a premature end his disastrous spell at the club. Aside from the Dyer bill, West Ham still have to cough up £2.5m to Lazio for Swiss winger Valon Behrami's transfer alone, a year and a half after his arrival. What is more it is understood the player may be sold in the summer because his family are finding it hard to settle in England. The Hammers are still to pay London rivals Chelsea £400,000 of the £1.2m 'transfer fee' that brought assistant manager Steve Clarke up the District Line from the King's Road to Green Street. Not to mention the reputed salary in excess of £1m a year enjoyed by the Scot and the near £2m paid to manager Gianfranco Zola in his first full-time management position.

West Ham slipped back into the bottom three following Saturday's demoralising 2-1 defeat at Burnley, a performance that left the club hierarchy furious at the players' attitude and defending in particular. "I still don't regret taking over," insisted Sullivan. "If we get relegated I would. We'd have to sell half the team. Normally you don't have the debt we've inherited or the wage bill we've inherited. I was always a very good judge. The season Birmingham got relegated I said after 10 games 'We're going down'. Maybe I've lost my judgment but I just don't see us getting relegated. Maybe it's the West Ham fan in me coming out and I've become an eternal optimist. I'm not acting like some administrator who just wants to save money. I want to improve the team. At Birmingham we bought a team which reflects the size of that club. But West Ham is a bigger club and we want to do it justice."

Indeed. Yet there's no denying it is getting serious now, writes Henry Winter in this morning's Telegraph. Blessed with a loyal support and guided by a long-established commitment to passing football, West Ham have always been an attractive point of the Premier League compass. But unless Gianfranco Zola’s players start fighting for their lives, following Scott Parker’s example and giving every drop of sweat for the claret-and-blue cause, West Ham will soon be setting their sat-navs for journeys through the Championship.

The descent into the dark recesses of the elite’s basement seems to have occurred almost by stealth. The nation’s radar has, admittedly, been busy blipping over more high-profile movement surrounding the England captaincy, the title race and the chase for fourth, notes Winter. Yet suddenly, as they prepare to take on Birmingham City at Upton Park on Wednesday, the spotlight burns on West Ham.

Their form has been poor, their cutting edge blunted by the absence of a goalscorer, until Carlton Cole’s welcome return. Their problems have been exacerbated by opponents rising from the depths. If poor old Pompey seem trapped in Davy Jones’s locker, Hull have certainly battled to the surface, gulping in the oxygen of 14th place as West Ham sunk to 18th.

Few people would swap many of Phil Brown’s players with Zola’s on grounds of technique (although Boaz Myhill might threaten Rob Green). What Hull possess is spirit, a dogged determination to scrap their way to points. Chelsea were held last week and Manchester City beaten on Saturday. West Ham must acquire such mental toughness before it’s too late.

Fortunately, states Winter, the Boleyn can call on Parker. Every time Parker steps on to the pitch, the West Ham faithful know that here is a man who will never surrender, who will never stop running. Opponents know they have been in a dogfight when vacating the midfield area patrolled by Parker. If anyone is to lead West Ham out of the heart of darkness, he thinks, it will be Parker.

Zola can create the plans for the great escape by getting the balance right in his front six. Parker and Valon Behrami have to start in midfield while Junior Stanislas, raw but cocky, brings some much-needed width. Either Mark Noble or Jack Collison completes the quartet.

Mido, lively at Burnley, is worth using in the hole behind Cole with Ilan deployed as an impact substitute (Benni McCarthy is gifted but too laid back). A 4-4-1-1 formation would give West Ham some steel in midfield and enough attacking options. With a squad as fit and deep as he has enjoyed all season, Zola must get his tactics right now.

Anybody who loves football will wish Zola well. He embodies all that is good about the game, making the ball dance as a player and now seeking to imbue his team with positive principles. But the table shows no mercy. The anticipated cut for survival is around 37 points. West Ham have 14 games to collect 16 points.

The majority will need to be reaped in the home fixtures with Wolves, Sunderland and Wigan. Otherwise, the task looks tough for Zola’s men unless they collectively rival Parker’s exertions. Hull’s Feb 20 visit is starting to look huge, Birmingham are flying and the other Upton Park guests include Bolton and Stoke, just the physical types to trouble Zola’s defence. Manchester City’s Champions League-chasers arrive on the final day. The away schedule is little more than an assault course. If West Ham take more than a couple of points at Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool the church bells of the East End of London will ring loud and proud. The last away game, Fulham, looks a must-win.

Zola’s post-match utterances are rarely imbued with great insight but Saturday’s verdict was stark, writes Winter. 'Time is running out,' said West Ham’s manager, 'and we need to start winning.' As perilous as things are for his team, the sands are inexorably trickling away for the affable Italian. West Ham's new owners still believe Mark Hughes could be the man to take over if Gianfranco Zola fails to persuade them he can move the club forward. An article in today's Independent states Upton Park's appreciation of Hughes pre-dates his departure from Manchester City. The prospect of him being an eventual successor to Zola was first touted in December, though there was no real expectation that he was about to be in the job market.

David Sullivan is publicly backing Zola, writes Ian Herbert, though the club's failure to make inroads against weaker sides in the past few weeks has given rise to a growing sense of concern about the club's chances of Premier League survival. "Of all the managers I've dealt with he is the nicest," said Sullivan. "The question is 'Is he too nice?' Ossie Ardiles was the nicest guy you could meet but look what he did to Tottenham. Time will tell. Zola will prove himself over the next few games." Hull City's 2-1 win over Roberto Mancini's Manchester City side, while West Ham lost at Burnley, has only heightened anxieties. Sullivan feels Hughes is his type of manager, though it remains to be seen whether he could afford to hire him; especially with the prospect of the Turkey national job looming on the horizon.

Draws against Blackburn and Portsmouth preceded Saturday's visit to Turf Moor, leaving Zola's side mired in deep trouble in the relegation zone. It hasn't stopped David Gold enthusiastically fanning the flames of controversy before Birmingham City’s visit to Upton Park tomorrow night. He expressed his desire to "whack" his former club, whom, he says, are not as big as some claim. Gold could be forgiven for nurturing some feelings for the club he helped save and turn into a respected Premier League force over a 17-year period. Not so. The West Ham United joint-chairman is still disappointed by the manner of his departure from the Birmingham board after he sold the club to Carson Yeung last summer. He claims that he was promised he would be retained as chairman, but the position never materialised. "I really want to whack Birmingham," Gold said. "I have a great fondness for them, but it was sad the way it ended. They reneged on the decision to keep me on the board. That will always rankle."

"I hope they win every single game this season except this one," added Sullivan. "We need the points rather badly. I hope they get thrashed. Five-nil. Good for the goal difference." The pair never won a place in the hearts of Birmingham supporters despite their success. They arrived with the club on an unstoppable slide into the third tier of English football and took it into the Barclays Premier League, developing a reputation as wealthy but prudent owners.

Sullivan said: "Two years ago all our fans were saying, 'Why don’t you do what Portsmouth are doing?' and I said: ‘Well, is it an achievement to lose £38m in a season and extend your credit to win the FA Cup on a fluke year when Barnsley knock out Chelsea and Liverpool?' Everyone thinks it’s bloody marvellous. I don’t think it is. But that’s not what people want to hear. Maybe now they look back and think it was right. They might not if they see one or two clubs, like Pompey or Crystal Palace, going out of business or getting relegated one or two divisions because they go into receivership rather than administration."

In typical forthright manner, Sullivan reckons any Birmingham fans who abuse him tomorrow are fools after declaring his regime the best in the club’s history. "I think the foolish fans will give us some stick," he said. "They are full of hot air, but deep down they know we did a good job. Birmingham has never had a better owner in the history of the club. I said I won’t be there forever and ultimately I will be back in London. We were always outsiders at Birmingham. But in three years' time the fans will look back and see what a wonderful job we did and what a great shape the club is in. We rebuilt the ground and made the club self-sufficient and self-funding - it is a viable business. It was dilapidated. You had to piss up against the walls and there was no hot water - that was the state of the toilet facilities on the Kop. We left a fantastic manager in Alex McLeish, who is on a relatively low wages relative to the job he does. We left a staff and infrastructure, with top people and wages the club could afford. We haven’t left a heap of rubbish. The change of ownership has worked both for us, the club, the supporters and the new owners. We could not be more pleased to see the club doing well and I mean that from the bottom of my heart."

But Yeung’s takeover sparked a war of words between the outgoing regime and their successors. The Hong Kong businessman was livid at being contracted to give ex-MD Brady a big pay-off - as well as inheriting a raft of bills. He even ordered a post-acquisition due diligence at St Andrews to probe the books. "The Chinese moaned because there were a couple of million of normal bills not paid," Sullivan admitted. "The reality is the club is in great shape and not a single player is on more than £25,000-a-week. All I want now is good relationships between both clubs and I have a present for Carson. I have a white and blue gold and diamond broach and cufflinks that I had made when I owned Birmingham and I am passing them on to him. They are beautiful items and very valuable. We want peace in our time."

For their part, Birmingham owner Carson Yeung's right-hand man, Peter Pannu, has insisted there will be no recriminations when they meet previous owners David Sullivan and David Gold at tomorrow's Barclays Premier League game. "The other party have taken over at West Ham and we wish them well. In fact, I did congratulate them myself," Pannu told the Birmingham Mail. "We are, after all, football people but work is work and we have to delineate on that very clearly."

There appeared to be bad blood between the current and former power mongers at St Andrews after Yeung called in the West Midlands Police economic crime team over alleged "financial irregularities" at the club, although any criminal investigation was ruled out. Sullivan also apologised over remarks he made about Yeung after a series of verbal exchanges between the Birmingham boards past and present. Acting chairman and finance chief Pannu is adamant relationships will be cordial on Wednesday evening. "I will shake hands in the boardroom. I have no problem with that and I have had a chance to have a conference with David Sullivan and David Gold. We had a very candid chat. David Sullivan appears to be a very straightforward man. He speaks his mind - just like me. I think people must understand we are all professionals so we know how to differentiate between right and wrong, work and personal. I respect David Sullivan, he has got his stance, we have got ours and we agree to disagree."

If any extra spice were needed, Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager, and Karren Brady, the former managing director at St Andrew’s who is now vice-chairman of West Ham, failed to see eye to eye when she wrote about the team underachieving last season. She said McLeish was ­suffering in 'Scolari ­territory – our team is ­inferior to the sum of its talent'. McLeish, who kept a diplomatic silence at the time, admitted: "Karren probably thought her ­comments would serve a ­purpose. But what she said was against my principles of team spirit. I told her not to write about the team and concentrate on all the other little funny stories because it was running against my team spirit ethic. Deep down she might not have been happy at my ­response, but she certainly took it on the chin and apologised."

McLeish could later claim credit for promotion to the Barclays Premier League, an achievement of which Gold remains proud. He said that he put the club on a sound financial footing during his 16 years at the helm. "We did a damn good job," he said. "We left a legacy of good players, a well-balanced squad that won’t break the bank. No one is on £70,000 a week sitting on the bench or is injured when the club is on the brink of going bust." He has begun a similar task of trying to reduce West Ham’s £110 million debt by seeking investment — a process that will be conducted by Shore Capital, an investment banking group — and lowering the wage bill. Today, though, his thoughts are not so far ahead but with the reunion with his former club. "People talk about Birmingham as a huge football club," he said. "If that were true there would not be 20,000 fans at the game, but a full house. No disrespect to Birmingham, [but] West Ham is a bigger club with tradition."

Indeed, Gold speaks fondly (again) of playing for West Ham's juniors, of the days he "snuck in" to the old Chicken Run and how he could afford just a penny for a plate of liquor at locally-renowned Nathan's pie and eel shop, still serving the local favourites just around the corner from Upton Park. That love for West Ham comes from his upbringing in the East End, with the seeds sown for the millions he now has by helping his mother sell buttons from a stall outside the family home.

Gold appreciates the importance of three points on Wednesday night. The 2-1 defeat at Burnley on Saturday sent West Ham back to the relegation zone with only 14 games remaining. "Of course my allegiance is to West Ham – that is where my heart and soul is and I think of my mum looking down and going, 'Come on you Hammers'," he said. "It is a massive game and it should be very exciting. We need the points more than them – they are fine, looking comfortable and even looking for European action." And Gold believes that a successful fight against relegation could spell the beginning of something special. "This is a big club with real tradition with FA Cup victories and a history of great players like Bobby Moore."

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola had expected to have to sell the likes of Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Carlton Cole. Instead, he was allowed to bring in Ilan, Benni McCarthy and Mido. Gold added: "We signed three players in the window but the most important thing was we didn't sell anybody. During our talks to take over West Ham, one of the conditions we asked for was that none of the players were sold while we were negotiating. Any three of five players came within a hair's width of leaving to bring some money into the club but we were able to prevent it. That was a vital piece of business, more important perhaps than bringing new players in and I think the fans appreciated what we did judging by the response we've had from them."

And Gold admitted that he had a tear in his eye when he finally took his seat in the West Ham directors' box for the previous home game against Blackburn. When the PA announcer heralded the arrival of Gold and Sullivan, the pair got a standing ovation. "The response was really nice," said Gold with a smile. "I already thought I had made the right decision [coming here] but that just endorsed it. Fans play a big part in your life and play a big part in the decisions you make. If you have their backing and they are onside you go that extra mile."

It is true that Gold and Sullivan’s reception in the East End has been very different. Gold was almost dragged into the crowd by fans who wanted to shake his hand as he walked around the pitch to his seat at Turf Moor. After the horrors of the Icelandic ownership, they will be heroes if they can stabilise West Ham in the top flight and chase away the threat of bankruptcy. "This is a club we wanted for 20 years and we are where we wanted to be," he said. “A 25 minute drive is so much easier than two-and-a-half hours up the motorway. We can do a better job as stewards of the club because we can go to more things.” With that David Gold concedes what 'a strange, surreal situation' tomorrow's game will be. "We are desperate for the points and it is more important to West Ham than Birmingham," he said. "West Ham have a habit of giving away leads in games so I won’t be celebrating if we score - I will be celebrating the win. I think we will stay up, which would relieve me. All I need now is for the team to start winning. Wednesday night will do for starters."

3 comments:

TBI said...

CALLING ANYONE! Please buy our club again this owner stinks to high heaven already.

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Colin said...

Before the Birmingham game I was thinking about what DS was up to. What was he thinking...?
I wonder whether this was less about West Ham than an attempt to change the way in which football is run (ie make it sustainable). The Davids have no reason to show loyalty to the current squad. Our club is a mess, as are many other premiership clubs, and not many of the players have declared themselves as loyal die hard Hammers, Mark Noble excepted. The Davids have a plan for the next several years, so why should they be loyal to 'professional' players who have their own careers ahead of the future of WHU? they'll be long gone before the plan is fulfilled.
I think what he was doing was trying to get the issue of obscenely high wages being damaging to football into the spotlight. G+S cannot develop the club in current financial madhouse. If West Ham has to lead the way I aprove without reservation. Just because Zola is a 'nice guy' doesn't mean that coaching some athletes makes him worth nearly £2m a year. That's nearly £37k a week. More than twice what I earn in a year. It is totally insane.
It's time that someone stood up and said that professional footballers do not deserve such outrageous sums of money. I just hope that other owners follow suit.

 

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