Moi, je t'offriraiDavid Sullivan admits he prefers to watch West Ham on TV than travel to away games. The club's joint-chairman came clean following fierce criticism that not one Hammers director travelled to watch the Premier League's bottom team lose 2-1 at Manchester City on Sunday. Sullivan and fellow top brass say they chose to donate £6,000 - their travelling costs - to a kids' charity instead.
Des perles de pluie
Venues de pays
Où il ne pleut pas
"The honest reason we were not there?" asked Sullivan. "Watching our poor away performances week after week, and not having the ability to influence things, has impacted on us. My family think I'm mad devoting so much time and money to the club and, as the match was on TV, I decided to watch it on TV. We couldn't influence the result, we donated the cost of private plane to a charity for terminally ill children, we thought that would do more good."
West Ham have won only once away from Upton Park this year - at Blackpool in February - and have lost the last three, nudging them ever closer to relegation. But Sullivan's no-show prompted a stinging reaction as it came just days after he questioned the commitment of a number of the club's players in the struggle to stay up. He insists he would never miss a home match and will be at Upton Park for this Saturday's cruncher against Blackburn.
West Ham are heading for meltdown with one of the highest wage bills in the Premier League while they are nailed to the foot of the table. The club is still around £90million in debt and Sullivan has previously described going down as 'Armageddon' with savage cuts in costs needed to trim a salary bill of £60m a year. The Hammers also hope to move into the 60,000 seater redesigned Olympic Stadium in just three years' time.
Sullivan's business partner and fellow joint-chairman David Gold was recently hospitalised by blood poisoning. Sullivan, himself, underwent a triple heart by-pass 15 years ago but insists he can handle the stress of running West Ham.
He added: "Had it not been on TV we would have been there. None of us draw any salary or expenses from West Ham United. We are not £20k-£60k-a-week footballers. We only took 1,100 supporters yesterday. Like us the bulk of the West Ham United supporters preferred to watch it on TV. We'll be at Wigan as will 4,500 supporters."
Meanwhile, Hammers striker Demba Ba insists West Ham can prove Sullivan wrong by pulling off a great escape, but will have to scrap to survive after being rumbled tactically by the rest of the Premier League. Avram Grant’s side remain rooted to the foot of the table after their fifth consecutive defeat, at Manchester City on Sunday. They will have to quickly refind the winning formula with fellow relegation candidates Blackburn visiting Upton Park for a six-pointer on Saturday.
After losing the Carling Cup semi-final to Birmingham on February 6, the Hammers went unbeaten in four games, including their only back-to-back Premier League victories of the season, following the boost of new signings in the January transfer window. But, including the FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Stoke, Grant’s side have failed to win in seven matches in all competitions over the last two months.
Midfield inspiration Scott Parker and Wayne Bridge, who missed the City match, will return for Saturday’s must-win fixture. And Ba, who joined the club from during the last window and scored four times in February, said his side had to find a new way to win again for their vital last three matches. "We had a totally new, different team at the start of February, and other teams were surprised by us," said the Senegal striker. "Now they look at West Ham differently. They know how to counter West Ham. So we just have to do better. Not just tactically - we have to give everything that we have. It is not only about tactics, but it is about fighting. We are playing teams around us. I think that will help us. If we beat them, then we have more chances to stay up."
Ba scored his fifth goal in eight Premier League starts against City but it was too little, too late after conceding two early goals to the Champions League hopefuls. Now the Hammers must focus on their remaining matches, which are all against teams near them in the bottom seven of the Premier League - Blackburn, Wigan and Sunderland. "It was disappointing not to take any points but we need to move on and look to next week," Ba continued. "I think that we are going to do something in the last three games. Definitely. Chelsea and City were big games, but for us the most important is the three to come. Blackburn is the most important to start. We have learned from the past games, we always learn, try to not produce the same mistakes again. We don’t feel that there is pressure at home. The fans have been great. Even if we lost and gave 100% they would be happy."
The best results for West Ham came away from Lancashire on Sunday. Wolves failed to beat 10-man Birmingham while Manchester United lost to keep the title race alive Sir Alex Ferguson’s side still have to face Blackburn and Blackpool in the last two games. The Hammers will be in the unusual position of cheering on Chelsea at Old Trafford this Sunday. When asked after Sullivan’s comments, Ba said: "We are going to keep cool, put our heads down and keep on working. I see how the players train, how they react after games and I can say that we are going to fight to the end. It is a great team to play in."
It is not tactical maladroitness that is bugging Julian Dicks but rather a perceived 'lazy attitude' of some of West Ham's players that could cost the club their place in the Barclays Premier League, and lead to the sacking of manager Avram Grant. Grant looked to be on his way out of Upton Park in January after rumours linked Martin O'Neill with the Israeli's position, but he remained in charge and seemed destined to keep his post after overseeing a four-match unbeaten run to move the club out of the relegation zone.
However, the recent losing streak has seen the club plummet to the foot of the table and they are now three points adrift of safety with three games remaining. While vice-captain Scott Parker has excelled in the middle of the park, picking up the Player of the Year award from the Football Writers' Association, Dicks thinks few of his team-mates have stepped up to the plate this year. The Hammers have conceded an average of two a game away from home this year while goals have been hard to come by at the other end.
Dicks admits the manager must bear overall responsibility for the dismal season, but maintains that West Ham would not be in such a perilous situation had a number of the club's players put in the required effort. Speaking in today's Mirror, he said: "The last three games are about the players. They have to stand up and be counted. They are all on good money and it's about time that they started to earn it, and that hasn't been the case with some of them this season. There's a few players there that aren't good enough. That's not their fault, but there are some players there who are good enough that don't work hard enough. Robert Green has pulled off some world-class saves this year, Scotty Parker has played well, so has [Mark] Noble, and I like Demba Ba and Robbie Keane, but once you get past those, you struggle to put your hand on anyone else. If the players don't have passion and desire, then you are going to struggle to win games. So it's down to Grant or whoever is in charge to get rid of these players."
Dicks, who made over 300 appearances for the east London club, admires the way that Grant has stuck to his task of trying to keep the Hammers up despite all the speculation surrounding his future. The former West Ham and Liverpool defender admits that the ex-Chelsea boss will have to leave his post if the club go down, though. "I think he has gone about his job particularly well, given the amount of stuff that has come out about him," Dicks added. "He has kept his dignity really well, but football is a results-based game and if he is not getting the results then someone else has to come in and try to get results. If a team goes down, then the manager usually goes. I don't see it being any different at West Ham."
Things haven't be helped by the continued absence of Scott Parker, who has missed the last three games with an Achilles injury. It is hoped that he will be available for the club's remaining fixtures. The England midfielder will undoubtedly be the subject of numerous offers this summer if West Ham are relegated, but Dicks thinks the club should not be pressured into selling their prized asset. He said: "It's down to the club if they want to sell him or not. He's under contract. They can make him stay. If they want £10million for him then they should hold out for £10million. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, then he stays at West Ham."
Parker was the subject of a bid from Tottenham last summer and is expected to be offered several escape routes out of Upton Park if the Hammers are relegated to the npower Championship. It is nice to think West Ham would have a choice in the matter but no Hammers fan could begrudge the combative midfield an honorable discharge should the worst happen. In recognition of his outstanding contribution this season, Parker is the current muse in the Guardian's Gallery, via way of Spider-Man, Leonardo DiCaprio, a mermaid and er... Jacques Brel.