Tag Archives: West Ham

Open Letter to West Ham United

Mr D Gold & Mr D Sullivan
West Ham United Football Club
The Boleyn Ground
Green Street
Upton Park
London E13 9AZ

9th January 2014

Dear Sirs,

West Ham United Football Club
I am a proud West Ham supporter and have been for 47 years. Over the past three seasons I have become increasingly disillusioned with the direction in which you are taking our club. Along with many thousands of West Ham fans I am now dismayed, yet unsurprised, at the plight we find ourselves in.
We need a change and we need it fast. I think we can all agree on that. Yet having witnessed the hapless reigns, under your aegis, of Avram Grant – a proven football failure who led us to relegation – and Sam Allardyce – who looks determined to do the same – I have no confidence in your collective abilities to affect this.
Avram Grant’s management of the club was a farce. That alone was enough to make us a laughing stock, but your gauche attempt to appoint Martin O’Neill in December 2010 and the manner of Grant’s eventual departure, doubly compounded the situation.
O’Neill withdrew from discussions when he read about his impending appointment in the press before he had agreed a deal. Grant survived, but was summarily dismissed following the game at Wigan that confirmed our relegation. It was a match where defeat was plucked from the jaws of victory. Having been two up and cruising we capitulated and ended up losing 3-2. Yet that does not excuse what followed. That Grant was not even allowed to travel home on the team coach and was forced to make his own way back to London felt rather tawdry – certainly not the West Ham way. Indeed no less than Scott Parker, then club captain and a real credit to the shirt, expressed his disappointment at the shabby treatment of his former manager. He was sold shortly afterwards.
Two years on and things are, if anything, even worse. The ridicule that our beloved club was subjected to by the media following the 5-0 loss at the weekend to a decent Championship team (‘team’ being the key word) was dispiriting. Yes, we all heard the usual excuses and we all read your ‘open letter of support’ for the manager, but if the defeat in Nottingham was wounding, then last night in Manchester, gangrene set in.
Of course, losing a semi-final is not unprecedented for West Ham. But the manner of the defeat certainly was: an incompetent performance that reeked of indifference. So much so in fact that the 6-0 score line is not the worst part of the story. West Ham is a proud club, famous for its playing style and footballing philosophy, but it is becoming a travesty.
I feel that things simply have to change. There are tens of thousands of West Ham United fans who share this view. I understand that you are the legal owners of the football club and to that end, I would like to know how much you want from a fan consortium to purchase your shares for cash?
Our plan is simple: we will crowdfund the purchase of West Ham United and place in into the hands of thousands of genuine supporters for the good of both the club and the modern game.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Yours sincerely,

AG Payne

You can sign the petition here http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-gold-david-sullivan-name-your-price-to-sell-to-west-ham-fans

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#oneaday49: It’s all about leadership

Today is the day that West Ham United will prove that they do not live up to their name. West Ham yes, United no. I written so many times before about the appalling lack of leadership at the club that I am bored by the whole thing and cannot wait for this season horribilis to end. It has been a slow, but inevitable death right from the very first game of the season. Next week, I will go to Upton Park to say goodbye to Scott Parker, one of the few who has risen above the nonsense at the club  and played his heart out week in, week out. If only others had shown the same approach we may have shown a bit of fight.

But before we say goodbye and sign off, I will leave you with Avram Grant’s words of wisdom at his press conference on Friday, the full ‘transcript’ is available at  http://www.whufc.com/articles/20110513/avram-on-friday_2236884_2359537

‘This is a game we need to win. It doesn’t only depend on us, but what depends on us is the need to win. We are also playing against a team who also need to win, so this will be interesting.’

‘We need to do what depends on us, which is to win against a very difficult team in their home. If we don’t do it, we don’t have any chance’

‘In my experience of football it is not over until it is over. It has happened to me in the past. I was not in this situation – a relegation fight – but I was in the top in a situation like this when it didn’t only depend on us. I don’t want us to miss this chance, I want us to do what we need to do. That is all.’

And so the drivel goes on and on. Soon it will stop and I for one hope our leaders learn and then think long and hard before appointing their next manager. Time to put the helicopter back in the garage Mr Gold, close your mouth more often Mr Sullivan and take a tip from SirAlan Ms Brady and say ‘you’re fired’ a little earlier next time.  One thing is for certain, you will no longer get my season ticket money until you have proved there is a vision, after all a fish always rots from the head.

And finally the grand total of  14, yes 14 people pressed their Facebook ‘LIKE’ button on Avram’s reported words on West Ham’s website, proving there are only a few idiots around, despite all the rumours. 


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#oneaday 46: Chancey the Manager

One of my favourite films of all time is the last film Peter Sellers ever made, ‘Being There’. It was a tale of a man (Chance – the gardner)  who lived in near isolation, although not poverty, in a busy world and who by chance becomes a confidant to the president of the United States of America and extraordinary influence, yet speaks simplistic nonsense.  He is a simple man, naive but innocent and decent, but sadly capable of little. A nice guy.

Chance (Chauncey Gardiner) reminds me so much of the West Ham United manager, Avram Grant.  The wrong  man in the wrong place  for West Ham. I have gone on record, from the start of the season before we conceded 12 goals in 4 games that this was a catastophic disaster of a decision and culminated with me ditching my 2 season tickets in January. Take a look at this, enjoy the ‘movie’ references and marvel at the wisdom.

So yesterday, Saturday May 7th 2011, I decided to go back to West Ham.

The mood of the season has not changed since August last year, the beginning of the season. We have been consistent. A mix of appallingly bad leadership at the very top, ie the owners and their appointment of a manager who has zero track record, highlighted how much our owners really know about football and probably highlighted what the football industry thought of them. Faced with a crippling debt, which they inherited knowingly, they probably had few options in terms of replacements for the man that they undermined last season, Franco Zola. But the option they went with was always wrong, wrong for West Ham and wrong for everyone who is associated with the club. I think the mainstream media knew this and gently highlighted it early in the season. Indeed out very own foghorn Leghorn, co-chairman David Sullivan spoke freely about the manager being on the end of the noose as soon as we had lost our opening 4 fixtures by 3 goals a piece.

Then there was the Martin O’Neill debacle. Clearly the owners knew that Avram Grant’s days were numbered and he was an awful mistake, so they tried to recruit a replacement in January. Here the idiotic two were join by their managing director, Karen Brady who we will see dishing out all sorts of cod advice next week on the BBC when she appears as one of Sir Alan’s helpers on The Apprentice. Brady decided to brief the press on the quiet that O’Neill was all but a done deal. Even hapless Grant knew his game was up and threw his scarf into the crowd after the game with Arsenal which he thought would be his last. Trouble was, Mr O’Neill was a man of principle and knew if you sleep with dogs you can catch fleas. Within a day the deal was off, O’Neill was staying put at home and Sullivan and Gold were left with their tails between their legs. Gold even had the front to appear on Football Focus and state that ‘I would like Avram to be the manager for the next 20 years’. Unbelievable. You have to think this is either rubbish, or err, rubbish.

All this week the other half of Little and Little, Mr Sullivan, has been shouting his mouth off in the press about the inevitability of being relegated and the fact that all of our ‘England’ players will be sold. You really have to wonder if the owners are daft at all. We know they never want to pay high wages to players, just look at their record at Birmingham. How better to get the big earners off your books by a season or two in the Championship? The fans will understand that these players are too good for the Championship won’t they and the club can reduce the wage bill and get a few quid to boot.

You have to look at track records. The one track record we all know is that Avram Grant doesn’t have one, ‘got n Harry Rednapp’s way at Pompey as ‘director of football, took over from Mourinho at Chelsea when they lost the Champions League, and presided over Portsmouth’s relegation last season, before relegating West Ham’ is how I would sum it up. But the bigger question for me is the track record of the Holey (sic)  Trinity of Sullivan, Gold and Brady. 16 years at Birmingham – they took over in 1993 with the club in Division 1 (now the Championship)  and were  relegated to Division 2  in 1994. Eventually promoted to the Premiership in 2002 but relegated in 2006 after just 4 seasons. Promoted again the following season, in 2007, they were relegated the following year 2008 and promoted back in 2009. In short Birmingham were a yo-yo club – 16 years at the helm and Gold and Sullivan presided over 4 promotions and 3 relegations.

But back to Grant. Clearly unable to motivate the players, in possession of unusual tactical nous to say the least, he still, week after week talks absolute rubbish in every interview he gives. He cannot motivate his team, his bosses love to demotivate the team through the press and most of all us fans have become demotivated. Who can blame the players if they just want to get the season over and get the first cab out of Upton Park in search of a new club, with better ownership and with a manager who may just make them feel better about themselves and show them how to win. Messrs Green, Upson, Parker and Cole I personally wish you the very best of luck.  I just hope there are no more teams who will think Avram Grant is no more than a simple gardner and  I bet you all fear playing for him ever again.

Meanwhile Mr Sullivan and Mr Gold, you need to show proper leadership, take  long hard look at yourself, and hope for you own sakes that you can find someone with takent to manage our club. I am not sure how many would want to work for the two of you.

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#oneaday 10: Dignity and leadership

So today is the final day of the much derided Avram Grant’s managerial reign at West Ham. For most, including me, this is the end of a very sorry chapter in the history of my football club. I have been on the record from the first, onerous day that he was unveiled as the new manager, that he should never have been appointed. My suspicions about the decision making of the owners of the club, messrs Sullivan and Gold, the two Davids, Gollivan by other words has always been high, ever since they bought the club last year.

Their first move was to brief the press against the incumbent manager, Gianfranco Zola, a true gentleman and a proper human being who only wanted the best for his players, the club and the supporters. The two David’s did not want Zola. I still am not sure why, but they felt he was not their man, did not have the right experience and West Ham were not exactly high in the table when they bought the club. So after much agitating in public and through the media, many pundits and observers suspecting that the owners wanted to make Zola break the terms of his contract and thus save paying him off, Zola duly left the club, along with his number 2, Steve Clarke at the end of the season.

The owners claimed that they wanted a more experienced manager, one with a proven track record and one who could execute the long term plan that the owners had for the club. Appointing Avram Grant never got near fulfilling that brief and you have to wonder what the logic, or indeed the commercial reason was for this decision. Indeed the so called long term plan  has never been shared with the supporters. As I see it, the long term plan is focused on moving the club to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. According to the PR this is all part of ensuring that the Olympic legacy is not lost and that the stadium is retained and used for athletics , which was a core promise made by Lord Coe on behalf of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympics. That is all very good and very noble, but the owners’ decision  to pursue this bid, is of course money orientated. And that is no bad thing at the end of the day. Rumours are that the Upton Park site has had planning permission for residential development granted, and estimates range on that deal realising £150 – 200 million profit for the club and its owners. In one fail swoop the debt would be wiped out and the club would be financially stable and solvent.

Decisions are always a key part of leadership. Even if the decision is ‘no change’ those who are in charge need to ensure that they are exactly that, in charge and capable of making decisions. Ever since the two David’s made the decision to appoint Avram Grant, they have been less than certain that their call was right. For me it was always wrong, but there is a school of thought that says once you have made a decision, you should stick by it and give it time to work. The speculation about Avram Grant’s future has been rife and in recent weeks, the club’s owners have made all sorts of noises. He was told that he had three games before Christmas to get at least one win. That sort of ultimatum is a daft one. Suppose West Ham lost their first two games and won the third, do you then keep the manager? Equally if they win the first, is he off the hook and therefore there is no real motivation to get results in the next two? All in all it was a stupid thing to say in public or in private and not the sort of thing you expect from any leaders in any walk of life. As it was West Ham won one game and drew two – a very good set of results given their previous form. And the rumours started again.

Thus on Tuesday this week, before an important Carling Cup semi final first leg, when Martin O’Neill was spotted at the club, we all knew that the end was nigh for the manager. Clearly the owners had decided that his time was up, but they wanted, quite naturally to seek a replacement before pulling the trigger. But why would you interview a potential replacement at the club, for staff and by passers to see? Why not somewhere private? Was it the need for the owners to be seen to be making a decision? Are they that paranoid that they want the media and supporters to know that they ‘really do know there is a problem and are doing something about it’? Indeed the rumours got stronger that Grant would be sacked on Wednesday after the board of West Ham would meet. Today, news broke that Grant will no longer be the manager, but that decision will be announced tomorrow, Sunday, after our home game against Arsenal. He will be replaced by Martin O’Neill.

This sort of approach smacks of being somewhat seedy, cheap and actually wrong, even if the decision is absolutely right. If the owners appoint the manager, they have the righ to remove him, but please don’t go about your business in this way. It lacks dignity and leadership in every way.

 At least Avram Grant has acted in a dignified way and is making no comment. More rumours suggest he has already struck a deal with the club. A pay off is always the upside of any manager’s hurt when he inevitably loses his job. I wonder when the game against Arsenal  finishes around 7.30pm today if Avran Grant will wave his goodbyes to the fans and the players and sail off to his next port of call. Indeed I wonder  if he will raise a smile. That would really be a first, the last time I saw him do that was when he arrived at the club.

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#oneaday 4:Re-use and Recycle?

Management, specifically football management, what makes a good manager and why do failures get re-used and recycled time and time again? It seems like the only way the managerial gene pool is ever widened is when Premier League owners decide to import big hitters from abroad, or Blackpool and Stoke get promoted.  Having seen the hapless incumbents at Liverpool, West Ham, Aston Villa and even Chelsea look like dead men walking (apologies Gerard) after their teams all lost vital games tonight, the talk is of who will be sacked first. 

Surely this prize must be won by Avram Grant at West Ham, who has never really fitted the bill since he arrived in the summer. After 3 games in the Premier League, the owners Messrs Gold and Sullivan put dear old Avram on a warning. He’s had more since, despite the MD of West Ham, Karen Brady (her of The Apprentice panel alongside SirAlan) assuring the media, public and the fans, that ‘we just don’t sack managers’. The big question was how did this Israeli football manager ever get a job in English football in the first place? He arrived as technical director at Portsmouth when Harry Redknapp was manager and  Harry made it clear that he did not want any interference. He then went on to do a similar job, this time director of fooball, at Chelsea and dropped into Jose the Special One’s manager’s seat when Emperor Roman decided that Mourinho had expressed an opinion one too many times. After losing the Champions League final, Grant was sacked. He then returned to Portsmouth as director of football, only to become manager about a month later after the latest Pompey owner sacked the latest Pompey manager. He left after Portmouth lost the FA Cup final and were relegated, admittedly because of points deduction due to Portsmouth FC going into administration. Indeed Grant did not even hold the required top-flight coaching certification from UEFA when he took over at Chelsea. In fact, he had never received the lower-level coaching cerfications from UEFA for “B” and “A” level coaching in Europe.  But Messrs Sullivan and Gold thought it would be a great idea to hire him.

Not far behind must be either Roy Hodgson (most pundits ‘in the know’s’ choice as England manager to replace Capello after the shambles that was the 2010 World Cup) or Gerard Houllier. Neither seem in control of their respective teams, both seem just too old, too bemused and actually not good enough for either team and certainly unable to handle the expectations at their respective clubs. Indeed Hodgson’s first foray into English football was to get sacked by Blackburn a few years back. Admittedly he had a very good season with Fulham, but his record in our league was actually poor. Ditto Houllier. One UEFA Cup , FA Cup and League Cup victory plus a runners up in the League really does not make him a great winner, especially at Anfield. Thus groans were heard all through the claret and blue parts of Birmingham when Martin O’Neill stepped down, Kevin MacDonald stepped in and then made way for Houllier. If Houllier gets the boot, then he will almost certainly return to France. Ditto if Carlo Ancelotti leaves stricken Chelsea, it is unlikely that he will seek further misery in England.

So the question really is why do some of these consistently under performing managers keep getting employed? Why do the club owners fall for the same candidates time and time again? Lord knows why. If Grant and  Houllier go, surely that must be the end for them in English football? Of the current 20 Premier League managers, 14 are British which is as high as I can remember. Of those, Hogdson will not be in his job until the end of the season and some of the others may have a few sleepless nights. But we need new, younger  managers, men with fresh ideas and men who can handle the errant ways of the modern millionaire footballers. Outside of natual promotions – ie managers of teams who gained promotion in order to gain a foothold as a Premier League manager namely  Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Roberto Di Matteo and Owen Coyle, there seems to be a total lack of promoting managers from lower divisions into the top jobs. Is that caution or stupidity? Indeed, does football need a bit of a cull in order that we can refresh and relaunch our game?

Let’s see what happens in the coming months. Meantime, if you are a Villa, West Ham, Liverpool and even a Chelsea supporter, the next few weeks will be  very interesting. Messrs, Southgate, O’Neill, Allardyce, Curbishley and Hughton are all looking to get back into the top jobs, it will be interesting to see who does not come back and if clubs like West Ham or Aston Villa live a little and look to the Chanpionship for talent.

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#oneaday 1: The decline of auotcracy, in the national interest…?

 Given the generally depressed outlook all the way back in dark old days of 2010, I would like to think that 2011 would be a year where things started to get a little bit  better? On a personal front 2010 was as good as any year, but as a West Ham and England supporter it was absolutely dire. Mind you, if you are a Chelsea or a Liverpool supporter, it has also been pretty dire and in Chelsea’s case this is a major change in fortunes twelve months on.  A bright start to the year for the England national team soon faded and hopes of glory ended in a seedy and bloated fashion in South Africa.  Money it seems, can’t buy you love, or indeed sustained success and certainly not the right to host a World Cup.   However, behind the easy headlines though perhaps we are getting a glimpse of a different and possibly a better way of getting collective success. 

2011 saw the slow but significant decline of the’ autocracy’. Gordon Brown, a famed autocrat, led the way in politics by losing an election, all be it narrowly, to a couple of jolly decent chaps who days before were at each other’s throats but seemingly had no choice but to bury their hatchets and work together ‘in the national interest’. We hailed the ‘New Politics’ and even the most cynical of commentators have had to admit that coalition politics is a reality which will be with us for some time, who knows may be for the next 4 1/2 years. We have already seen the compromises and ‘breaking of promises’, but that surely is a sign that change is upon us and one party ideology over another is surely too 20th century. In any case, good or bad it is a change and change can be as a good as a rest.

Moving sideways into sport and specifically football, we have seen the cracks appearing at the top, namely at Liverpool, Chelsea and to some extent at Manchester United. The debacle at Anfield has been a long time coming, but it has torn a once invicible and hugely proud club apart at the seams. A couple of ‘no nothing (about football) ‘ Americans – Gillette and Hicks –  basically borrowed unfeasible amounts of cash to buy a ‘business opportunity’ which they could not resist. The rest is history, except that history is still being written – Americans still own the club, all be it different ones, and Roy Hodgson, the critics’ chocie to replace Capello post South Africa, is on the thinest of thin ice, after only 5 months. The fans are calling for control.

Over at Old Trafford, the fans have been vocal ever since Mr Glazer and his sons and/or brothers took over, again leveraging the cash  debt against the assets of the club. Only Alec Ferguson could steady the ship, bringing an errant Rooney to heel and deliver continued success, seemingly. What will happen when Sir Alex eventually decides to press his stopwatch for the last time?  Again the fans are calling for control, via various business consortia.

However, the biggest  surprise has been in the softie South, in West London, the home of millionaires, billionaires and those who govern us. Chelsea. The absolute reign of Roman Abramovic rolls on,  but the cracks are starting to appear and the water is flooding into the ship. The Mighty Roman is almost like a latter day Captain Smith on the bridge of the Titanic. Chelsea, the unsinkable machine, have hit an iceberg and now need to change course, and make repairs fast. Ray Wilkins was sacked and no one knew why. Ancelotti is living by a thread and their players, used to winning, are getting older and their ambition is blunted. The murmurs from the fans have started and if the bad run continues, those whispers become taunts, which become boos, which become protest and leads to a boycott. The Roman is under pressure and you have to wonder how he will deal with it, given his meteoric rise to fortune and lack of experience in the ‘old’ country. I personally think that he will simply fire and forget, but time will be my judge, and those Chelsea fans may well be demanding control before 2011 is too much older.

So these autocratic club owners may be facing up to the reality of managing people, highly paid ones, who just don’t follow the script. Who knows if there will be more fan democracy at play in 2011, I personally hope so, but what other country allows their prize business assets to be sold to anyone who raises the money? After all, this was the year that Cadbury’s was sold to Kraft and promises made pre-sale, were soon broken once the paperwork had gone through. We operate in a free market, and it allegedly produces the best ‘product’, the dear old Premier League is the best in the world, we are told,  but in the national interest? From the England football team’s perspective, that will never happen.

Meanwhile over in Geneva, one autocratic organisation that is totally self interested and is not showing any signs of changing  soon has announced that they are setting up an anti corruption committee.  FIFA and corruption are words that seem to travel all over the world together on expenses. Let’s see how this one develops in 2011.

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Motivation is what you need….

As a long suffering Hammer, one who actually parts with the thick end of two grand a season for the right for two of us to witness the best and worst of the Premier League, I get an email every Monday from West Ham. The wonders of the internet eh?

This is what arrived in my inbox today, and from the words, it really does not look like a ghost written piece on behalf of Avram….have a read and you may agree that Avram’s hand is here.

Dear Andrew

Once again I must hail your fantastic support at our away fixture against Arsenal at the weekend. Many things were very positive at Arsenal. The fighting spirit was good and the players can be proud of the way they played against a very good team.

No one is happy with our position, but at this stage of the season, one win can make the picture look so much different. We are only in November and we know we can do it with the matches we have coming up.

Click here to buy tickets for West Bromwich

Click here to buy tickets for Blackpool and Wigan

We have a long way to go. We will pick out the many positives, work hard in training this week and I know we will take points. We had a tough game in midweek but we deserved to win and even though some players played extra time and some were just coming back from injury, they kept going.

I am pleased with their effort. It was just unfortunate there was no time to respond. We tried but from their point of view they scored in the perfect moment. Arsenal are a very good team but we did a very good job tactically.

The difference between us winning games is very small thing. We are doing all the right things. The next couple of months are very important for us and I am encouraged by the performances. It would be different if we were not playing well.

I have watched Arsenal in many games and I think they created fewer chances than usual in this game. We have defended well and to lose in the last minute it is very disappointing.

After a game against a very good team, we can take a lot of positive things from this match and also the Carling Cup win last week against Stoke City. We are not in a situation that we cannot change. We will win games, we deserve to win games and we will try to do that at Birmingham next Saturday.

We are in a good situation in terms of our performances and I really believe we can do it. We have fighting spirit. It was a heroic performance on Saturday and it bodes well for the future.

Thanks again for your support,

Avram Grant


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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…..

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

So wrote Dickens in the opening lines of a Tale of Two Cities, a brilliant piece centred around the run up to the French Revolution and it’s immediate aftermath. Living in these times, ordinary people had been pushed to the point of no return, witnessing the excesses of the rich and privileged, they rose up and changed everything. That spirit of revolution spawned France’s national strap line ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ and if ever we needed that DNA in and around football we need it now. Indeed whilst our French neighbours are making their views on ‘these times’ clear 21 miles away, we may well wonder if things have changed, for good or bad.
With France in social meltdown, our football is now approaching that nadir. Forget the situation at West Ham, that is bagatelle compared with what is happening at Portsmouth, Liverpool and the mighty Manchester United. In a few weeks everything has changed and ultimately I believe this will be for the good of football and its fans. But the public gets what the public wants.
Liverpool and Manchester United have one thing in common. Very much in common. Both were/are owned by businessmen who have borrowed a ton of money to ‘buy’ the club, the  money was easy, credit was everywhere and the good times flowed. Or did they? These clubs and mine, have been saddled by heavy debt and high interest rates effectively stopping them from being able to buy further success. Clubs owned by properly rich individuals – Manchester City and Chelsea – have been able to outgun both clubs in the transfer market. The youth teams of all of these clubs continue to produce players, but it seems that the clubs, their supporters and importantly fellow players are not patient enough to nurture the talent. Everyone wants a quick fix, immediate and continued success at all costs. Wayne Rooney has come in for a ton of stick this last week, and he does deserve some of it. But not all of it in my view. Here is a player who does care about his football and one who has seen the rot set in at Manchester United, the rot of the Glazer reign. Not only has he seen this, but Sir Alex Ferguson knows it. I am convinced that Rooney knows that times have changed and Manchester United under the Glazers will not be the same. They will not be able to buy talent in, not at least until the new rules about clubs having to make a profit come into play. Rooney will have passed his best by then. Ferguson would have laid down the gauntlet to Glazer and his family. Break the bank to keep his prize asset at the club or watch him leave to Manchester City or Real Madrid. Ferguson knows the regime, he is coming to the end of his reign and he will not like the methodolgy of these US businessmen one iota. Fair enough to play to the tune of the boss, if it is their money, but with people like the Glazers, Gillett and Hicks, it isn’t their money and their methods of ‘leveraging the brand’ have stymied the clubs royally. Given the new media world we live in, action and reaction take place at an unprecedented pace. The Glazers will not have expected to have a hike in their overheads at the beginning of the week, by the end of the week they have to find another £5m pa on their overhead. At least the extra cash may produce a result on the pitch, rather than an additional bonus to some Mayfair or Manhattan based hedge fund.
And then we see what has happened to poor old Pompey. A people’s club if ever there was one. I don’t know many Pompey fans anymore, but those I have known generally come from the area. We have seen a succession of chancers come and go on the South Coast. This bloke Gaydamark was another Abramovich, but substantially poorer. If these blokes are businessmen then Sonny Corleone is a puppy. Gaydamark ‘sold’ to some other ‘young entrepreneur’ Sulaiman Al Fahim (the fat geezer with a baseball cap who looked like he craved kebabs), who never had any money, it then passed to Al-Faraj who called in the administrators. A well documented mess of gigantic proportions and one that may result in Pompey being no more. Except it always will be a club so long as those supporters have the spirit. We are seeing it at FC United and at AFC Wimbledon, fan power makes a huge difference and surely that gives us all hope. I got an email from West Ham yesterday which talked about a club ‘owned by the fans for the fans’. I don’t think so. Until fans are given a seat at the table, permanently, football will always be subject to the whims of the free market. Historically fans are the ones who do not change, do not follow the money and above all care about that thing called their club. In these troubled times, we must not forge that.

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Secrets and Lies

Boy has my head been spinning for the last week or so. As always with ideas, just like Flick in Bug’s Life, my head is always full of them, but my moral compass has been under attack from polar energy.

I flew back from Edinburgh two Fridays ago in order to go to Lords for the England vs Pakistan Test Match. My life is just not right if I don’t get at least one visit to HQ in each and every season. I have not missed the Lords Test since I first started attending in 1975 and it was with some excitement that I went along to St John’s Wood. My very good friend, Rob, was taking his oldest son, Robson, for his very first Test. What a lucky boy, at 9 years old being taken to Lords by your dad. Apparently he had been so excited about this trip for weeks, that he had had trouble sleeping! I think Rob was pretty excited too.

Kirsty and I were late as my flight was delayed, and by the time we got in, England had lost 4 quick wickets and were on 54-5. Poor old Robson, his first morning at Lords and England had not done themselves proud. Mind you, down the years I have seen plenty of batting collapses, given the dominance of the West Indies in the late seventies and all the way through the eighties, and then the re-emergence of Australia from’89 onwards. Much like following our national football team, you have to have lows, plenty of them, to enjoy the highs. It’s a life sentence!

The second hour of the morning went off without issue with Prior and Trott bringing up the hundred before lunch. Other good friends were also in the ground, Simon, Olly, Jason, Keith, Gus, Tom and Doron so lunch was always going to be fluid. Robson was desperate to either get to the Lord’s Shop or get back to the game, but handled himself well and his patience was rewarded. But we missed 2 English wickets after lunch, and now with Broad and Trott at the wicket we were hoping for 150. The rest, as they say is history as a series of records were broken and the two batsmen amassed a 300 partnership. Quite simply amazing, emotional and uplifting. Besides it took out attention away from the merciless pigeon bombing that was going on in the skies above us.

Those pigeons soon cleared the seats around us, with the poor chap sat in front bombed three times before he called it a day. The upshot of all this was as we left, one of the gentlemen who had stayed his ground thanked Kirsty for talking to his 16 year old son and making him feel welcome. What a magnificent game cricket is and all those who support it. Or so I thought.

The rest for the moment is history. A News of the World ‘sting’ exposed possible spot betting fraud from 4 Pakistani players. England’s magnificent win and particularly Broad and Trott’s incredible stand had the gloss somewhat sanded off by this smear. The mood at Lord’s on Sunday morning seemed very black and all commentators felt a sense of sadness and anger.

A few days later the Red Tops did it again and ‘exposed’ Wayne Rooney’s extra marital daliances. All in the public interest you understand. All professional sport seems to have been spoilt by money. And the jealousy rife amongst the press merely exacerbates the situation. Dear old Mr Capello’s £6m per year wages seem to be the key to most of the ire from the media, I say that only because it is mentioned everytime he is mentioned. The members of the media have always seen themselves as kingmakers, guardians of the little secrets and lies that make their publications so irresistable. Witness this last week. The England football team had two convincing performances admittedly against weaker opposition this week, but nevertheless scored 7 and conceded 1. The media were not that noisy about the victories, and nor should they be, but imagine the deluge of abuse that would have come Fabio’s way if we had drawn both games? Indeed you don’t have to imagine too hard, just look at the abuse he got in the run up to the games. Out of order. The exposure of the potential Pakistani cheating will be a good thing for cricket, if it turns out to be based on fact and truth and the early signs are that it is, but if it is actually poppycock, well that will not be such a good thing.

If we could clear our national DNA of one thing, it wouldn’t be the cult of celebrity it would be the fascination with idle gossip fuelled by an underlying, dark, deep rooted envy. If those elements of the media were to concentrate on the facts, then our sporting world would be a little more, well, sporting. The days whereby the media were privileged to the inner sanctum of the sporting world are coming to an end. Information is free and secrets can no longer be secrets. Lies are always lies, but the age of truth is upon us. Let’s hope that leads to more honesty and better sport.

Meanwhile, I am off to see my beloved Hammers (Avram Grant or otherwise) take on the mighty Chelsea. Let’s just hope we get a break and can surprise a few people.


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Same meat, same gravy

So here we go. 1 week into the new Premier League season and already it’s all happening but nothing is changing. The events are not really for the better, at least from my perspective. Aside from Blackpool’s unexpected and invaluable 3 points by way of the thrashing of Wigan, everything else was pretty predictable. That included the capitulation of West Ham at Villa, not for the first time I may add. All the bullish talk about a new era under Avram Grant from the West Ham Diddymen, turned out to be hot air. I did not go to the game, I did not listen to it, I did not even read about it. All I did was watch the 8 minutes of highlights on Match of the Day, one of the best lifestyle ‘Apps’ available on TV.

It just saves so much time. When I saw the teamsheet before the game, I knew it was all over. Had I paid good money and invested more of my life travelling to the game, I would have puked up on my Pukka Pie when I saw those four horrible words. ‘Boa, Morte, Faubert, Kovac’. Three ex internationals who have had, let’s say, their best days. Probably in Boa Morte and Faubert’s case when they were back home at summer camp. Avram, bless him, impressed us all when he decided to use Faubert as an ‘attacker, playing on the right wing’. Eureka, he must have read Curbishley’s hand over notes to Zola, given this bloke was bought for £6m as a winger who had played for France, but no one including Curbishley, at the club had ever seen him play. Indeed Arsene Wenger had advised him not to join West Ham, ‘for the benefit of his career’. Arsene has done his share of bollocks talk down the years, but I really wish his advice had been heeded on this occasion. For all of us.

What is it with these managers who pick the same rubbish players week in, week out? What are they watching? Are they all stupid? Clearly not. Zola was a footballer and could be a good coach one day. Surely he must have seen that Boa Morte and Faubert are simply not good enough. There is not a West Ham fan I know who thinks either have anything to contribute. Is it a case of the club, consciously or otherwise thinking ‘we are playing Luis 60k a week, we must get some value from him?’ is that the real reason? When money was loose, under our brief and damaging Icelandic Age, it was wasted. We are still paying the price for that approach. But fundamentally is it not the time for the football business models to change? What other (so called) profession or career indulges their people on 2 or 3 or 4 year contracts, effectively binding in players and clubs to a financial agreement that does not work for the club or the supporters who finance all of this. Before I get slated for this, it is my belief that supporters, active or otherwise support the whole business, even if it is through their expensive Sky TV packages. The days of the paying supporters funding clubs at the top level are well over, not that this made any real difference, but the pursuit of money by all involved has now incurred lasting damage on the game.

The Blackpool chairman Owen Oyston has resigned this week. Is that good or bad for Blackpool? I have no idea, but he has cited the frustration with the Premier League system. Agents are not known for their honesty, and what ever you think of Oyston, maybe he just does not fancy a season which ultimately will end in tears, just the way it did over at Turf Moor. The temptation to break the £10,000 a week ( ie £520,000 per year) wage ceiling must be strong, but he and everyone else knows that money will not guarantee success indeed it will only ever end up in tears.

Over at Citeh, the Arabs in charge have allegedly shelled out £26m on James Milner. To sweeten the deal with managerless Villa, Stephen Ireland has been sent the other way. Everytime I have seen Ireland play he has looked good. Citeh’s loss will be Villa’s gain. Ireland has cited ‘too many Citeh youth team players sauntering around the club with ten grand watches on their wrists, acting like they have played 200 Premier League games already’ as an indication of the effect of too much money. He is right. In all forms of life, unless you are a little hungry, things don’t happen. Too much money makes it too easy. You only have too look at what has happened at Realtime Worlds and APB in the games industry this week. £100 million spent and…..

Ranting? Yes. I started writing this on my way to West Ham and it gives me no pleasure to report that West Ham have shipped another 3 goals. Avram has continued to demonstrate that he has absolutely no idea how to manage a team, although he did at least drop Boa Morte and Kovac. But Faubert was moved to full back, the rest will be committed to the Rothmans Yearbook, or whatever it is called nowadays. Meantime Blackpool shipped 6 and Chelsea delivered 6 against hapless Wigan. I am sure Martinez will be sacked by the end of next week by way of retribution. Nothing changes.

It’s a mess and most people know it. I have many Man City mates and despite the hope, they all know that it will end in tears. Indeed they all know that deep down the failure does not kill you. The hope does.

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