According to Uncle Google, a millionaire is defined as someone who has a “net worth of a million or more units of currency”. In the good old days it was relatively easy to become a millionaire – simply take a flight to Turkey and you could have a million Turkish Lira in your pocket for no more than one US Dollar. It also appears to be relatively easy to become one if you are a Premier League footballer.
Last week a strange email arrived in the TBIR inbox. Every day we are blessed with offers to become a millionaire by simply sending our bank details to the relative of an African prince or a long lost relative in dire need of my help to smuggle our long lost fortune outside of some 3rd world country, but this showed an easier route to making a million. According to this email, “leaked” by someone at the club, simply be an average journeyman footballer with a poor injury record and you too could soon be earning your million pounds per annum. Someone, obviously unhappy with the way the Circus are/were running West Ham had got the squad list and how much they earnt each week, and it certainly would have pissed off a few players who for the first time were seeing exactly how much their team mates were earning.
As of the end of March, West Ham, a team that was financially mismanaged according to our wonderful new owners only had 18 players who were earning more than £1m per annum. Yep, just 18 players. Included in this list is Kieron Dyer. Poor little Kieron. Plagued by injuries since he joined West Ham from Newcastle in August 2007. You have to feel sorry for the guy that in the past 3 seasons he has only managed 7 starts for the club. Do you still feel sorry for him when you see that during this period he would have earnt OVER £10MILLION! That equates to earning £17,333 per minute of playing time. Now obviously our new owners can’t be blamed for that one and should be as shocked as the rest of us, especially as Mr Dyer has now made the Sunday Times Top 100 Sports Rich List.
However, what defence do they have in signing Ilan or Bennie McCarthy for £1m and £2m respectively per annum when the club was in such dire financial straights. McCarthy has so far started 2 games for the club, and contributed nothing for his near £40,000 per week. And remember players get this irrespective if they are fit or not, picked or not. What other jobs give their workers such protection? I get two weeks paid sick leave. After that I go onto whatever the Government deem is inadequate enough. We all know the stories of players like Winston Bogarde at Chelsea who sat on his arse for 4 years just to collect his cash. But when was football comparable with the real world.
I read the list with interest. More £70k per week for the likes of Upson and Parker, yet England’s Number 1 and our best player for the past three seasons Robert Green was on just £30k per week – JUST I say but earning 50% less than some of the other players here who go through the motions is an insult on Greenie.
But spare a thought for young Jack Collison. Here is one player who has had a year to forget. From the highs of being voted one of Wales sexiest players, BBC London’s Young Player of the Year and finally last May as Hammers Young Player of the Year for his inspirational play in the West Ham midfield, the youngster endured the pain of hearing of the death of his father in a motorcycle accident whilst on the way to watch West Ham’s first game of the season versus Spurs. More recently a knee injury has kept him out of the side and further surgery means we wont see him back in a West Ham shirt until 2011. But the lad earns just £104,000 per annum. Just £100k I hear you say, but compare that to Dyer’s £3million, or another long term injury Boa Morte also on £3m, then I think it is an absolute insult. I hope he has seen the list and will be shortly banging his crutch on the little man’s door in the morning.
So why leak this now? Well perhaps with just one game to go the individual had been a victim of the planned “cull” of employees. After all, according to the Circus, every player was up for sale apart from Scottie Parker. Oh how that must have been a tricky moment for Scott, walking into that dressing room knowing he was almost “untouchable”. I bet the invites to the summer parties and BBQ’s will be flooding through his door. But this is where the problem lies. Who would want to take a player like Boa Morte, knowing he is on £70k per week? He is a fringe player at best, perhaps now at his age, suited to a Championship team. But which teams in his division could afford £70k per week? Clubs may offer half of that – so what would Boa Morte do? Move for first team football at half of his wages, or simply sit on the bench and say “thank you very much” until his contract ends? Footballers have no compassion or loyalty to the club.
And that brings us on nicely to the visitors for the last game of the season at West Ham, Manchester City. We could write pages about the club that now demonstrates so much that is wrong with football today. I would hasten a guess that Man City have few players on £70,000 per week unless they were sitting in the 3rd team! The club had hit the headlines for so many reasons this season, and few were positive. The sacking of Mark Hughes, the gaffs of CEO Cook, the last minute capitulations against Manchester United and finally simply ending the season with absolutely nothing to show apart from a wage bill nearly on a par with the Greek debt. The club had gone in the past few seasons from being many fans “2nd favourite team” to being one of the most hated, simply because of the obscene amounts of money that had been poured into the club to buy success “at all costs”. And nearly 2 years into this obscene project they have won absolutely nothing. So after losing to Spurs on Wednesday night, Roberto Mancini came into this game in a similar position to Gianfranco Zola – potentially facing their final 90 minutes in charge of their teams. I hasten to add that at least their fans had kept a relative level head whilst all around them people were losing theirs!
It was also the end of an era for the TBIR team. After a decade of being a season ticket holder at the club I had decided not to renew my seat next season. Ditto Lolly and Football Jo, meaning that the club would be losing around £1,500 next season. Our reason is that we expect more for the ridiculous price we pay each season. Would I miss it? Not at all. Our love for football at the lower level is no surprise to regular readers and for 80% less I can see some footballers who play for the love of the game, have a beer, have a laugh and generally enjoy the game again.
West Ham United 1 Manchester City 1 – Upton Park – Sunday 9th May
A few months ago we had moved seats to the opposite end of the ground. The reason? To be able to sit down for one. Also to try and avoid some of the more choice phrases from reaching the young ears of Lolly. Sure she knows the odd swear word but to try and explain what a “F@cking C$nting Sh1t W@nk” was took some effort. So we moved to the “family section”. And the difference? Well people sat down, but when five minutes into the game the woman behind me said to her daughter “At least that c$nt Bellamy isn’t playing. I wouldn’t let him sh@g me when I was on the blob!” I gave up.
Before the game we were treated to West Ham’s new pre-match entertainment. A close up of the ugly much of Jeremy Nicholls on the touchline reading out advert after advert for the club. “And now, some exciting news for next season. You took could be taking penalties on the pitch at half time. Just call 0871 444 0000 for more details. Want to watch the Boxing on Saturday for only £180? Then call 0871 444 0000” and so it went on for a good ten minutes. Then they told us that we could renew our season tickets with a “price freeze” for our loyal support this year. This is the same price freeze as we were promised a year ago then or a different one?
A win would have taken us above Wigan Athletic and at least a few pennies more, as well as some pride. But it was not to be in a game that had a distinct end of season feel about it surprisingly! It was good to see that £70k a week Boa Morte got a start although the absence of Dyer again just added a few hundred to his hourly rate for us. And it was Boa Morte to finally got a goal at Upton Park, running onto a smart Diamanti flick in the 17th minute and lifting the ball over Fulop, Man City’s controversial on loan keeper (after all they only had another 4 on their books!). He ripped of his shirt and threw it to the ground as a year of emotion poured out in his first game back after a serous knee injury.
But our lead lasted barely five minutes. The very impressive Adam Johnson waltzed around Faubert and his cross found the smallest man on the pitch, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and he outjumped England’s Matthew Upson and headed home – shocking defending. Apart from an Ilan shot that grazed the post late in the half that was our fill of excitement for the first forty five minutes.
The highlight of the second half was the introduction of former Hammer Carlos Tevez, who came onto a heroes welcome. Such was his impact (in more ways than one) three years ago that the law courts deemed he was solely responsible for saving West Ham from relegation, and we are still paying Sheffield United for it today. He was also welcomed by the unfurling of a huge Argentina flag in one of the Executive boxes. Why? Yes, he is Argentinian but unless the gentlemen in question also hailed from South America why would you do it? It is like people wearing Brazil shirts walking down Eltham High Street – why?
The most entertaining part was the banter between the two sets of fans. All very jovial and insults being traded were spontaneous and in good humour. A chant of “get your tits out for the lads” was met with cheers as the young lady obliged. Never thankful the West Ham fans started on “Did you shag, did you shag, did you shag John Terry” before a plea of “get your muff out for the lads”. At this point it appeared she declined.
There were few chances in the second half. Parker and substitute Franco were lively but neither team looked too bothered. And when the full time whistle went both Italian managers embraced and said a few words, probably along the lines of “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when”.
And so ended the season and for me an era. West Ham’s record of 35 points from 38 games was their lowest ever in the Premier League, some 7 points worse than the 2002/03 season that saw the club relegated. It would have also seen us relegated in 11 out of the past 15 seasons. I had no intention of waiting around and “showing my appreciation for the team”. After the poor performances against the likes of Everton, Liverpool, Bolton and Wolves surely they should be coming round to thank me not the other way round.
The Circus unfortunately was not leaving town. It was here to stay but as a paying member of the audience I am able to vote with my feet. Thanks for the memories but time to find a new love in my life every other Saturday.