Rumours are circulating this evening that West Ham co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan have officially offered the vacant manager’s job to an interested applicant. At a meeting of the club’s ‘Supporter Advisory Board’ tonight, the typically garrulous Sullivan is thought to have revealed to those in attendance that he and Gold made the proposal and expect a definitive answer tomorrow. No name was given by Sullivan as to who the individual may be, but he did hint that it was a name he thought most supporters would approve of. He also disclosed he is British with experience of managing in the Premier League or in the Championship within the last two years.
According to a fan who was present at the meeting which took place in the Legends Lounge inside the Boleyn Ground, Sullivan was said to be pessimistic about the chances of the individual actually accepting the job; stating his ‘gut feeling was that they would turn down the job because of a particular issue’ said to be unrelated to the club. The co-owner also admitted he had offered the job to someone else within the last 48hrs, but they had already declined the opportunity, despite being offered over £1million basic with equivalent promotion bonus to take up the position. Around 100 fans were in attendance and the club were represented by Sullivan, Karren Brady, Ian Tompkins (Olympic Project Director) and Tony Carr; the latter strongly denying he wants the managerial job or that he ever had any interest in the post.
Following the sacking of former boss Avram Grant after relegation to the Championship was confirmed, the owners have said publically they are keen to bring someone in as quickly as possible. The rampant speculation came to ahead yesterday when the whispers concerning Dave Jones caused fevered activity on the betting exchanges. Such was the furore among West Ham fans at the prospect of the Cardiff City manager taking over the Upton park hotseat, David Gold was forced to issue a public statement dismissing the notion that an approach had been made. "Despite what you may have read in the papers, we have not spoken to Dave Jones," Gold posted on Twitter.
Reports suggested the club had moved for the Liverpudlian following the Bluebirds defeat in the npower Championship play-offs. Yet the 54-year-old former Wolves boss appeared equally keen to rule himself out of the running. Quoted in the East London Advertiser, Jones said: "I have not had any contact with them over the job. I am not prepared to say anything about the vacancy. I am still employed by Cardiff City and only thinking of them. I will be sitting down with the board at Cardiff and discussing my future with them soon."
With the Jones train seemingly hitting the buffers, Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies became today's cause célèbre. Trentside tittle-tattle erupted around lunchtime when it was claimed Forest had allowed West Ham permission to speak to their man. By late afternoon some witnesses had Davies variously attending an interview in London, looking around the stadium and visiting the training ground. Unsurprisingly, the money came in and brought the Scot's odds with it; up to third favourite in the current market.
It seems nobody was prepared to throw Iain Dowie's hat into the ring for the vacancy, so he did it himself. The ex-Sky Blues boss admits he would love to replace Avram Grant as the Hammers bid to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. "Anybody would be silly not to be interested in a club like West Ham," Dowie told Sky Sports News. "You never know if you will get that call or not, but I sense they may go for a slightly bigger name and look to make a statement. You would understand that and there is no problem with that." Dowie has been without a club since leaving Hull City in 2010. As one fan comented: "Purely out of respect to the fans, like me, who stood on that crumbling terrace being rained upon as Dowie rose like a gazelle to put a bullet header into the top corner of his own net right in front of the away end, he should not be allowed within a million miles of the job."
Away from the managerial front, and Steve Bruce was today furiously back-peddling after rashly announcing Sunderland's interest in signing £7million striker Demba Ba. Yesterday morning, the Sunderland boss confirmed: "My job is to knock on the owner’s door again and keep improving us – and yes, he’s one that we’re looking at. We’ll see what we’ve got and what we’ve got to spend. Hopefully we will improve the squad which we need to do. And yes, he’s one that we’re looking at." A few hours later came the news West Ham had reported the Black Cats to the Premier League for what they perceive as an illegal approach for the forward. The Hammers insist that Bruce called Ba direct, which is deemed illegal by Premier League rules, while Niall Quinn, the Sunderland chairman, has also been accused of contacting Ba's brother Cire and an unlicensed agent representing him.
A Premier League spokesman confirmed that they have received a complaint from the Hammers' which will now be considered. He said: "We have received a letter from West Ham United. We will look into their complaint to see if there is a case to answer." The regulations are detailed in Section K of the Premier League rulebook and state that a club cannot approach a contracted player at another club either directly or indirectly without prior written consent. Indeed, even a public statement expressing an interest in a player can be construed as an offence. Sunderland have today defended themselves against the claims with Quinn going as far as to deny any interest in the player whatsoever. A spokesman stated: "Sunderland AFC is fully aware of the Premier League regulations pertaining to player recruitment. If we are interested in any player currently under contract with another club, we will speak directly to that club, in line with the regulations."
Sunderland are one of a series of clubs - derby rivals Newcastle are among the others - to have been linked with Ba, who scored seven goals in the Hammers' ultimately vain bid to retain their top-flight status following a January move from German club Hoffenheim. Speaking at the Supporter Advisory Board meeting tonight, Sullivan admitted the player has intimated a desire to leave the club. He also claimed full credit for the signing (as oppose to Benni McCarthy, which was entirely Zola's idea) and acknowledged that Ba's legs are 'not great'.
Elsewhere, the Mirror claims Stoke have moved ahead of West Brom, QPR and Newcastle in the race to sign Carlton Cole. The Potters have already started to follow up their well-documented interest in the £9million-rated England striker with Europa League football a big incentive for Cole to move to the Britannia Stadium. The article claims West Ham are resigned to losing the marksman with joint-owner David Gold admitting even before the season had ended that the England internationals would be allowed to leave.
To that end, the same paper thinks Harry Redknapp wants to fund a move for Scott Parker - by selling Jermaine Jenas to Queens Park Rangers. Spurs boss Redknapp is desperate to snap up the West Ham midfielder and is said to be confident of getting the deal done. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has made it clear that Redknapp must sell before he can buy this summer - and Jenas is wanted by QPR boss Neil Warnock. Redknapp already has a wealth of midfield talent with Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric, Sandro and Wilson Palacios so Jenas has become surplus to requirements. Spurs believe West Ham may sell for around £5m to help ease their financial problems after relegation and get him off the wage bill. Redknapp has claimed Liverpool and Arsenal are interested in Parker but both clubs generally look at younger players and the Spurs boss is already in the box seat.
Finally, it's back to tonight's meeting and a brief summary of the other points of interest mentioned before Sullivan and Brady departed to 'see a man about a dog':
Sullivan said automatic promotion is their aim for next season as it is always something they have managed to achieve in the past.
The next manager must have a proven track record [in getting automatic promotion] and must have been involved in the game within the recent past.
The board are looking primarily for a British manager but Sullivan mentioned that they would consider a foreign name of the right calibre (Ancelotti was mentioned) and had ruled out Paolo Di Canio because he currently doesn't have enough experience.
The search for a manager may be concluded tomorrow or it may take another 2-3 weeks. However Sullivan reiterated that no stone was being unturned.
Tony Carr distanced himself from the managerial post and explained his true expertise lies in youth development.
Although stressing that patience is required for his job, Carr mentioned some "youth" who he thinks have real potential: Dylan Tombides, Robert Hall, Blair Turgot, Leo Chambers ('a Glen Johnson playalike'), Elliot Lee and Kieran Sadlier. He encouraged supporters to come to Little Heath to watch matches for free on Saturday mornings.
Regarding player appointments, and whether they would move players prior to the appointment of the manager, Sullivan revealed they might renew players but preferably not prior to the appointment of the manager. He said they had made a 'colossal offer' to an existing player to stay with the club.
Sullivan said that after letting 3 or 4 players go they will invest in new players because they know that what will be left won't be strong enough to win promotion.
More money is available for players than was available at QPR or Norwich last
Zavon Hines has turned down what the Board thought was a generous offer and this is now going to a tribunal. Sullivan said he had asked for 'silly money' and we would all be shocked if he told us the figures involved.
Jordan Spence has been offered a new deal and he has accepted in principle. He is also desperate to play though, and is therefore waiting to see whether he will fit into the new manager's plans before committing himself.
The Icelandic banks have always been supportive of the current regime's proposals.
Matthew Upson and Kieron Dyer have already left the club.
The new away kit was revealed; it is sky blue and seemed very popular with everyone in the room.
The SAB will be divided into sub groups with specialist roles, one of which will be a forum relating to the Olympic Stadium move.
Those firms that have been invited to tender for the conversion works have been asked to come up with ideas for retractable seating. They want to have it – it’s just a question of whether a viable and cost-effective solution can be found.
The stadium will be West Ham’s stadium – a 150 year lease is being negotiated –
possibly longer – but the stadium will also be used by other sports other than football and athletics. Essex CCC may play some 20-20 games there which would make it the 4th biggest cricket venue in the world. NFL and baseball are also being considered as well as concerts and tourism, all of which will bring in revenue for the club in terms of spin-off sales.
There will be consultation on the best way to commemorate The Boleyn Ground and what items should be taken to the new stadium (The Lyall gates, memorial bricks etc.) There will be a new, bigger museum on site and an SAB member’s suggestion has already been included in the plans, to allow individual fans to exhibit their own collections of memorabilia.
Season ticket information for 2011-12 will be announced tomorrow and will no doubt
spark its own debate. It is understood there will be a package of measures aimed at placating those fans who feel they miss out on one-off match promotions such as ‘kids for a quid’ because they have committed to a season ticket at the start
of the season. There will be discounts in the club shop etc.
It has been a strange couple of days full of repudiations and gainsaying and after the events of this evening I'm not sure things are becomming any clearer. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, said Mark Twain and he's right. Sometimes, on days like these, it is also an ocean.