According to Elvis Presley “wise men said, only fools rush in”…well as a fan of West Ham United I can certainly say that I have fallen well and truly out of love with the whole Premier League circus.
After just two months of watching our “saviours” I have seen them belittle the club, undermine the manager, wash our dirty laundry in public and then produce a number of wild statements about the future of the club, the stadium and the players without once displaying any substance behind anything.
At the first game under the new regime we had “the world’s biggest bubble machine” and a banner strategically placed in the Chicken run directly opposite the directors box welcoming the “Two David’s”. Yet I am still to find a fan who actually welcomes their presence after just a short period of time.
“You just watch” said a Blue Nose friend of mine “They will do four things in the next six months. One – they will complain about the state of the club they have bought. Two – they will complain about the ground, and how they need to move. Three – they will claim they are going to sign the best players in the world, then deliver hopeless centre forwards no one has heard of or wants. And four – David Sullivan will appear at every opportunity in a claret jacket”
And how right he has been. We’ve seen a range of headlines, all apparently, “exclusives” from Sullivan, and all with his lovely Claret jacket on.
- “It makes no commercial sense to buy this club”
- “We have £110million in debt”
West Ham owner David Sullivan says the wealth of Chelsea and Manchester City is bad for football and a salary cap is needed to avoid financial meltdown and then in the transfer window, he said he was prepared to offer an unnamed player £100,000 per week (rumoured to be Ruud Van Nistelrooy), but ultimately the club ended up signing Benni McCarthy from Blackburn (who has so far played about 7 minutes), and taking Mido (rumoured to be only on £1,000 per week – but I can only assume that we are also picking up his ample food bill judging by his expanding girth) and Brazilian striker Ilan on loan (the player no one had heard of).
According to initial reports Sullivan and Gold had paid £50m for a 50% share of the club. Due diligence suggested that there was £38m debt, but a week later Sullivan told every man and his dog that actually CB Holdings had not opened any bank statements for a while as the debt to the banks was £50m alone plus there was another £40m owed to other clubs (but declined to say for what players as we have hardly bought anyone in the last couple of years). So that still leaves £20m unaccounted for right? Sure but Sullivan and Gold had paid £50m so some of that went to reduce the debt…er no because last week they announced they were seeking £20m of city investment to help the financial situation. Deputy Chairman Karren Brady launched one of her famous quotes at this point:-
“Although this fundraising is initially aimed at professional investors, I would love to be able to bring in our loyal and fantastic fan base as investors further down the line so that they can share in the club’s great future, on and off the pitch,” she said. Thanks Karren, we all have a spare £1m behind the sofa. And then David Gold publically stated that we would “lend” Portsmouth £10million to “help them through their financial crisis”. I.e, if you do not go under then we will not lose 4 points that we won off you this year and thus plunge us into the relegation zone. But surely this is classed as investing in another club which is against the whole “ownership” thing?
But this was nothing compared to Brady’s statement in the Sun a few weeks later:-
“Maybe our way is a short-cut to a new West Ham headquarters but to disqualify the stadium’s only viable future that I know of is to make a bonfire of the dreams of thousands and thousands of people in our under-privileged area. I love the idea of calling the club West Ham Olympic“
Empty seats at Upton Park
The Olympic Stadium. You could write a whole chapter on this one. I found it very worrying that one of the first statements the new owners put out was the potential in the Olympic stadium as a home for the club. Why? What is wrong with Upton Park? Transport links work, although they could be easily improved if someone convinced National Express to open the train platform at Upton Park instead of having trains run straight through. Sure we need a new East stand and may be 40,000 would be nice instead of 35,000. Having seen the piss-poor away support from the likes of Wigan, Blackburn, Birmingham City and Fulham (difficult 11 mile journey across London that one) and the high matchday ticket prices, we have seldom sold out at the 35,000 level. So what is the point of moving to a 50,000+ stadium? Is this some mad plan to hijack the 2018 World Cup bid? IT WONT HAPPEN – GET OVER IT!
Interestingly enough, below is a quote from Sullivan in the Birmingham Evening Post from 2008:-
“Birmingham needs a City of Birmingham Stadium. Villa Park (current capacity 44,000) is not good enough or big enough for the World Cup or the Commonwealth Games. We (Birmingham City) want to be central to the scheme, we are happy for it to go ahead and happy to be an anchor tenant.”
If we do get the 2018 World Cup, hands up who thinks Villa Park WONT be on the list? So just you Mr Sullivan then.
So there we have it. All of the four prophecies have come true less than a month into the relationship. In that time we have played two home games. Has anything changed? Well we have installed a new giant bubbles machine to greet the teams; we have seen “Thanks David and David” banners planted in the crowd and we have seen the generous sale of our home and away shirts for just £9.99 (so a new sponsor will be announced soon then). We have also seen an online petition to bring back the Hammerettes, probably staffed by models at Sullivan’s daily “paper”.
But other things haven’t changed. Asked whether our season tickets (the second most expensive in England and dearer than anything on offer at Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich) would be reduced next season, we got some bollocks about cash flow and players. Trying to contact the club on such issues as asking what the club are doing about persistent standing in the area where I sit (I pay to sit not to stand. If they want to introduce standing then fine – give people the choice where to sit) has fallen on deaf ears for weeks. Of course this is in breach of the Stadiums act, brought in after the Taylor Report, the same report and act that makes it illegal to drink in your seat, yet they will be quick to act on that one.
Hull players wonder who will be next to leave early
Results on the pitch have started to improve. Is this due to our new owners? Er no – I think you will find that the return of Carlton Cole and Franco has had a lot to do with the TWO wins this year, so don’t get carried away by their PR machine rolling out the crap that their speech about cutting salaries at the end of the season was “motivational”!
This week we have seen more PR stunts. Despite offering kids tickets for a £1 for the re-arranged Wolves game, sales were so poor that the club were forced into new tactic . “Simply spent £50 in our club shops this weekend and get a free ticket for the Wolves game”. Another cheap trick that alienates the season ticket holders even more. And as if we hadn’t hear enough of their spin, Joint Chairman David Gold announced his desire to “Bring home Becks“…yes, West Ham would be interested in signing the 34 year old, not as a valuable asset to the squad but as a “sensational ambassador to the club”. So let’s get this straight….all of the players are going to have to take a pay cut, we have shed “non-essential” staff yet we can still potentially afford to bring in one of the world’s most expensive players. As with the £100k a week player story earlier this year I expect to see Lee Sharpe instead of Becks take to the field in August as our new “great signing”.
So am I likely to pay £750+ next year for a seat that I cannot sit in at a club that is determined to plead the moral high ground yet continue to wash our dirty linen in public? Well so far this season I have seen games at 29 other grounds. 29 Other grounds where my SEAT has cost significantly less and where the atmosphere in the most part is much better (such as the 331 fans at Bishop’s Stortford versus Lewes last Saturday). I think not….What was it the Villa fans used to sing? “There’s a circus in the town, in the town.”