Thursday, 2 June 2011

Welcome To The Funhouse

Sam Allardyce had been West Ham United's manager for precisely eight hours when first notice of the funhouse he has taken over was served. While he was speaking live on Sky Sports, news broke that Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian businessman who is team principle of Formula One's Team Lotus, had tweeted to claim he had offered to buy the club from David Sullivan and David Gold. Allardyce was pressed for an instant reaction and his surprise meant football's platitude-speak was forgotten. Instead, the man who has taken over from Avram Grant following relegation and vowed to lift the club from the Championship said: "I'm bemused by the statement but my information, having spoken to David Sullivan, was that he was not wanting to sell West Ham because it's his club."

After changes of ownership had effectively cost him his previous two jobs, Allardyce admitted: "That was one of the reasons why I took the job because I didn't want any fractions in terms of change of ownerships because my reputation has already suffered, wrongly so, by new ownerships at Newcastle [United in January 2008] and Blackburn [Rovers, last December] disposing of my services when there was no real credibility in that; other than the fact that they were new owners and they didn’t want me. It wasn't down to results. If that's the case [that Fernandes has made an offer], and that materialised, then I'm surprised at that. It's a dangerous thing, Twitter!"

When the club's relegation to the Championship was confirmed earlier this month by a 3-2 defeat at Wigan, Fernandes had tweeted: "Gutted to see west ham relegated. How do u go from 2-0 to lose 3-2. If the fans want me to get involved I will. It's a great club and we fans have suffered to long." Subsequent comments made via his account suggested he would be looking to help the club by making an investment rather than launching an overall takeover bid, but his vague tweet yesterday has left Sullivan and Gold guessing over his intentions. The message read: "For all you West Ham fans an offer has gone to the present owners of West Ham. Let's see if they accept." He then added another missive: "Won’t be any more statements on west ham. Keeping fans informed. Now we have to just respect the process. If something happens it happens. If it goes quiet it goes quiet." Whether or not this was a publicity stunt – and Sullivan did not deny they might sell, while Gold conceded fresh finance is required – Allardyce now realises how difficult managing this club can be, writes Jamie Jackson in today's Guardian.

Fernandes had been a rival bidder when Sullivan and David Gold took control of the club in January 2010 and, while the two West Ham owners would welcome extra investment, yesterday’s offer was quickly rejected. A terse statement was swiftly released. "He [Fernandes] has announced this on Twitter and people can draw their own conclusions as to the seriousness of it from that," said Sullivan. "We are not looking to sell the club but, as we have always said, we would love co-investors to join us in the rebuilding of West Ham United. In the event that a serious investor came forward as was the case with Chelsea and Manchester City, we would naturally consider it for the good of the club — but this is certainly not the case in this instance. This kind of approach is very unhelpful it distracts from our main focus which is promotion."

Gold, who described the Twitter announcement as 'bizarre' and said that it was 'inconceivable' for negotiations to begin in that way, admitted he would listen to a serious offer. "We are interested in finances coming into the club," he said. "I would be happy to sit down with Tony with a view to him joining the board and bringing in desperately needed finances." Fernandes, who is also the chief executive of Air Asia, has previously indicated that he would want outright control of West Ham. Gold and Sullivan currently own 62 per cent of West Ham, but have a three-year option to buy the remaining stake from Straumur, the bank which inherited the club following the collapse of the business empire of former owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson.

Having immediately rejected the approach, Sullivan went further in dismissing it as a stunt. "The whole thing is nonsense," he raged. "I can assure Sam he has an unbreakable two-year contract and he is the perfect man for the job. I can only think the motivation for this 'takeover' bid is PR. If there's a Roman Abramovich or Sheik Mansour Mark II out there, then fine. But when someone offers to buy your club for buttons and does it via Twitter it is most unhelpful at a time when we are trying to rebuild West Ham. It's a joke, but not a funny one. Maybe tomorrow we'll put in a bid for Air Asia on Twitter and see what reaction that gets."

While Allardyce was getting a vote of confidence less than 24hrs into his £1.25m-a-year job, the reality is he must start his tenure by winning enough matches to assert his authority, states Jackson. He needs to indicate that the £40m "hole" in finances Sullivan says relegation caused will be plugged by his taking the club back into the Premier League. The 56 year old immediately pledged he can do so – Gold and Sullivan will expect this – while moving quickly to show he understands scepticism from fans over his penchant for direct football. If he can manage the noise from his owners while also convincing them to hand control of transfers to him (Grant found this tricky), he has the best chance of picking up that £1m promotion bonus.

Ten seasons ago Allardyce achieved at Bolton Wanderers what he will now attempt in the east London, writes Jackson. He will gaze at an inherited squad that includes Scott Parker, Robert Green, Carlton Cole, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Demba Ba and Mark Noble and know that if the majority were to stay a repeat of that feat next season will be so much easier. Allardyce, however, is aware that this is unlikely. "There will probably be an exodus of top players for financial reasons. There's a dramatic loss of revenue [following relegation], even with the parachute payments, and you have to adjust, like every club does. I don't know if I'll be able to keep Parker [and] we'll have to see with the others but it looks like it will be difficult. But the financial support from the chairman and the board will help me to cover those players."

For his part, the Player of the Year has admitted today that it would be virtually impossible to continue his England career if he remains in the npower Championship with West Ham. The midfielder is refusing to enter any debate about his future until after England's Euro 2012 qualifier with Switzerland at Wembley on Saturday. However, speaking at the Millbrook testing plant of England sponsors Vauxhall, Parker outlined an inescapable truth for a player who has only just broken back onto the Three Lions scene. "Not many players do get picked from the Championship," he said. "That is just the way it is. But it is too early to say exactly what is going to happen to me on a personal level. I am sure we will see over the next couple of months. There is speculation but it is easy for me to block it out. If I was 22 it would probably be a different story and my mind would be elsewhere. Now I am quite experienced. I know how things work."

Parker is expected to start on Saturday, which would represent the first time he has kept his place for back-to-back qualifiers in his entire career. Given he feared never playing for his country again after Fabio Capello axed him from the provisional World Cup squad without featuring for a single minute in the two warm-up games, Parker is understandably keen to remain involved. "My aim is to be there come this time next year," he said of the prospect of playing at Euro 2012. "I know there is a long way to go and things can change but if I can help in any way, that is what I will try and do. I never felt like quitting England. My mentality was always to work hard and force my way in. It was quite difficult not to be selected for the World Cup. After that I thought my chances would have been limited. But the Wales game was a massive chance for me. I felt if I didn't perform in that game I would not have pulled on an England shirt again. In football, especially at international level, when opportunities come along you have to grab them."

"Whatever happens there's the basis of a good squad and some very good young players to rebuild quickly," stated Allardyce. He is referring, of course, to James Tomkins, Freddie Sears, Junior Stanislas, Jack Collison, Jordan Spence and, if he stays, Mark Noble. But how many of these are built for the tests of a tough 46-game Championship season? asks Jackson. Whoever stays or leaves, the new manager requires some hardy operators for the repair job required following last season's damaging campaign, on and off the field. Wally Downes and Paul Groves, Grant's assistants, have been removed with Allardyce bringing in Neil McDonald, who was his No2 at Rovers.

Allardyce is also considering returning to Blackburn for striker El Hadji Diouf, sniggers the Mail, and in doing so creates the one headline every Hammers fans has been dreading for the last few days. The 30-year-old Senegalese had a controversial but successful loan spell at Rangers and played an influential part in their run-in to the SPL title. The Scottish champions remain interested but he is prepared to drop down a level to reunite with former mentor Allardyce for a third time having played under him at Bolton and Blackburn.

Allardyce has admitted he may not be able to prevent West Ham's big-name players leaving the club this summer and wants figures he can rely on to help claim promotion at the first time of asking. The Mail report Pablo Barrera could be one of the first to go. Although there is moderate interest from Everton, the 23-year-old's agent Jorge Berlanga admits Spain may be his next destination with Espanyol and Real Zaragoza leading the chase. The Mexican winger had a miserable first season in England after his £4million move to Upton Park last summer. He failed to make an impact and struggled to win a place on the subs bench in the second half of the season. Berlanga said: "Some clubs are interested in the player but the decision lies with West Ham." FC Copenhagen, meanwhile, are also thought to be keen on defender Lars Jacobsen.

Similarly, this morning's Sun states Everton are now the shock favourites to snap up West Ham star Demba Ba. Sam Allardyce is fighting a losing battle to hold on to the Senegalese striker, despite offering him a £15,000-a-week pay rise. Ba, 26, has a get-out clause because of relegation, which allows him to escape the remaining three years of his current £35,000-a- week contract. Sunderland have also been chasing one of the club's most sought-after player and it is causing bad blood. West Ham are furious at the pursuit of their star and have already reported the Wearsiders to the Premier League over claims of an illegal approach.

Everton finished seventh last season but boss David Moyes is keen to add more firepower to his team. The Toffees' strike-force currently consists of injury-prone veteran Louis Saha and Jermaine Beckford, who made only a late impact in his first season as a Premier League player. Ba's escape clause would also enable him to leave Upton Park for next to nothing and West Ham suspect he is being lured away. The Hammers signed Ba from German side Hoffenheim in January for a deposit of just £500,000 and he repaid them by scoring seven goals in 11 games. The rest of the £6m fee is based on appearances, because of uncertainties about a knee injury. Allardyce has made it his priority to try to keep Ba on the books, even though it means playing Championship football for at least one season.

1 comment:

Emlyn said...

Trilby, you know i love your blog, it misses something though. Ive realized what it is. your opinion. C'mon dude, give us a side note.


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