Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Languorous Silence

One week in and already the close season is slowly imposing its languorous silence on West Ham related news. The footballing world becomes an abandoned chateau this time of year with its inhabitants scattering for a change of scene. The football fan is left to stroll through the echoing salon, the immense panelled dining room and numberless bedrooms; none sealed or closed but all kept in a state of suspended life, the beds made, the floors not exactly clean but swept occasionally, the decorations faded but intact. The fetid air seems to expand within the confines until it can spread no further and instead becomes thicker, turning back on itself, and cloaking such movement as there is with quietness. A climbing sun strikes deep into the house through the open shutters.

A million miles away under sweltering Spanish skies a deck-chaired Sam Allardyce, all goose fat and knotted head-hanky, plots West Ham's return to the top table. On the back of his fag packet he has scrawled the six to eight names he wants to sign before the Championship season starts in early August. They are predominately English players with the intention of quickly forging a new team spirit. Most with have experience of the Premier League or the Championship, and all will bring the requisite physical edge and fitness levels that the challenge dictates. Spluttering into his Bodegas Muga, the Hammers boss moves quickly to reject reports linking the club with the likes of Joe Cole and El Hadji Diouf. "There has been a lot of speculation about players coming in or leaving the club, but I'm not aware of any bids," Allardyce says. "It's quiet this time of the year because everybody, like myself, is on holiday and things start up again in July. At the moment transfer activity is at a minimum."

Blackburn forward Diouf has been strongly linked with a move to East London after the Senegal star admitted he would love to be reunited with Allardyce. Former West Ham star Cole has also been mentioned with a possible move back to Upton Park after a disappointing debut season at Liverpool. West Ham have also been credited with an interest in Newcastle midfielder Alan Smith and Peterborough goalkeeper Joe Lewis, but Allardyce has denied any enquiries have been made for the quartet. "No, no and no and I don't think we could afford Joe Cole," Allardyce adds. "Of course one would love Joe Cole because he is an outstanding player, but he would be too expensive."

Cut to a stately Victorian mansion nestled in voluted Surrey countryside and surrounded by a coruscating lake. Standing infront of a marble fireplace imported from France, David Gold is hoping Allardyce will help make West Ham the bookies' favourite for promotion. "There was one redeeming feature from getting relegated a week earlier [than the close of last season]," he explains. "It was that we had a week extra to set up our plans and start the process to bring Sam in. It was important to do that as quickly as possible. There is so much work to do and the sooner you can get started on it the better."

Moving into the drawing room where craftsmen are busy returning the intricate cornicing to its mid-19th-century splendour, Gold admits the futures of the club's better players – including Scott Parker, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Carlton Cole, Robert Green, Demba Ba and Mark Noble – are still in doubt. "Will he [Allardyce] be able to keep our best players?" he asks. "He has got the remit to do so and we hope in some cases he will. I am looking forward to working with him. It is sad we are relegated but we have dusted ourselves down and we are ready for the challenge. It is as much about pride as it is about money. Pride plays a big part in what you want to achieve, for yourselves and the supporters. This is important to us. I promise you we will be looking to be the bookies' favourites on the day we kick off the new season. If we are, then you know we have done the right thing and straight away we will go high up on their list of favourites just by bringing in Sam. They will say it shows intent."

Pan to a cluttered desk in a bestirred London office. Andrew Dillon is face down behind a fortress of files. Telephones are ringing, keyboards clattering. "Sam Allardyce kicked off his rebuilding at West Ham with a £4.25million double bid for DJ Campbell and Kevin Nolan," reads his article. "Hammers last night made a formal £1.25m move for Blackpool's Campbell and offered Newcastle £3m for Nolan. Campbell, 29, has a get-out clause in his contract which alerted new Upton Park chief Allardyce. The striker hit 13 goals last season as Blackpool joined West Ham in the relegation zone and is seen as an ideal replacement for Demba Ba. Allardyce has offered Ba, 26, a £15,000-a-week pay rise but Everton are leading the race to offer him Premier League football. Midfielder Nolan, 28, played for Allardyce at Bolton and has two years left on his Newcastle contract. But he fears his days at Toon are numbered under Alan Pardew. Hammers are waiting for a response to their bid as they prepare to fill the gap which will be left by midfield ace Scott Parker's departure. It is hoped the strong relationship between the pair might persuade Nolan to drop down to the Championship, especially as it appears West Ham United might be willing to match the 28 year-old’s demands."

A woman strides over, all fresh curls and ugly cream sweater. She's carrying a copy of the Mail's story that states West Ham are ready to bid £750,000 for the cousin of Rio Ferdinand — 18-year-old Southend defender Kane. He was watched last season by West Ham chief scout Roger Cross, apparently, who believes he is good enough to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious cousin. "Burt is on the phone," she calls as she kicks Dillon's chair. "He says with a clearout of players due at Upton Park the new manager has identified a number of signings, including several available on ‘Bosman’ free transfers, although fees would be paid for his top targets. He says David Sullivan called him yesterday to tell him the club are in negotiations for five players and could confirm at least one signing in the next week."

Dissolve to luminous blue-green ocean waves lapping at an isolated cove. England midfielder Scott Parker is skimming stones from a beach of multicoloured polished pebbles. He is on a family holiday and insists his future at West Ham will not be decided until later this month. "I've not really any idea where I might be playing next season," he insists. "My main focus now is being with my family. It's been a tough season and I just need to get away. I haven't set myself a deadline. Whether you believe it or not, my main focus is just going away and relaxing and what's to be is going to be. It's out of my hands, out of my control, really, isn't it? We will see what happens.' When asked about talks with Allardyce, Parker adds: "I would have thought maybe after my break that might be the case. We will see what happens."


CocknioDicanio said...

Nicely written piece of work, highly evocative I'd say.

As it happens, "languorous" is one of my favorite words. It's right up there with somnambulent and moribund. All three of which could be used to describe our performances last season....especially the defence.

Let's hope Sam sorts them out and
your next piece is more evocative of the thrills, spills and energy of a fairground.

Anonymous said...

I like it very much!

Jimbob said...

Another beautifully crafted piece that sums up how bereft I feel this time of year when football goes away.


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