Overly long writings about West Ham United FC. This is the kind of thing you might like, if you like this kind of thing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gold, Frank Talking And No Mirth

It was EM Forster who once described God as "the Friend who never comes but yet is not entirely disproved", and for some time now I think I have been subconsciously agreeing with this whilst pondering the mythical new owner of West Ham. He who will swoop in with a golden chequebook and rescue us from the roiling sea of incompetence and mismanagement upon which we currently sail.

The sad thing, of course, is that every football fan in England has at some point uttered the immortal phrase "...{insert club} just needs some investment and we will really go places..", oblivious to the fact that the best way to make a small fortune in this country is to start with a large one and then buy a football club.

So it was with some trepidation that I awaited the announcement of the new ownership group to follow on from the nightmarish Straumar stewardship, that has seen the life sucked out of the Club. Contenders were David Sullivan and David Gold, Tony Fernandes, Massimo Cellino and the mysterious Intermarket Group. Whilst Straumar maintained there was no need to sell, it was clear that the future of the Club was going to be largely dependent upon a sale in this window. I say that, because no change of ownership would certainly have seen player departures and with the squad already smaller than Victoria Beckham's IQ, this would undeniably have led to relegation.

As you know by now, Sullivan and Gold were the victors, taking on a 50% share, and most crucially the day to day running of the Club. Their immediate strategy was to lay bare the full horror of the Club's parlous financial position, which is no doubt a chance to immediately temper expectations in the face of a fanbase desperate to believe that someone will mimic Abramovich in the East End. Which isn't going to happen here.

Some of their maths seems a little wonky to me, and I don't doubt that they are overegging the pudding somewhat, but in fairness they probably deserve some leeway in light of their commitment to the Club.

The certain thing about Gold and Sullivan is that they are clearly astute businessmen. They ran Birmingham adroitly enough to pocket a substantial profit when they sold to Carson Yeung, and their immediate aim will no doubt be to wrest control from Scott Duxbury and start to run the club along more thrifty lines. They appear a less sexy, but ultimately more stable option than Fernandes who never really seemed to be a serious enough bidder, and who didn't have the funds anyway. I also didn't appreciate finding out about his thoughts via the medium of Twitter ("Just seen the accounts - LMFAO").

In truth, I don't really care what they do in the short term. The threat of insolvency as a result of relegation appears to have been staved off, and if we go down now it will be due to incompetence on the pitch which at least puts us level with all the other shit teams in the League.

Investment in the team is less important at this point than the fact that we no longer have to sell, as David Gold pointed out yesterday. If today's rumours are true that we have offered £1.5m for Benni McCarthy, then I think we are pitching our transfer policy at the right level, by looking to pick up solid Premier League players who won't break the bank and have the required experience of this level. Very few significant players change clubs in January and it would be foolish to think otherwise. We need this years equivalent of Les Ferdinand from 2002/03, and McCarthy is a good start in that direction.

In the longer term Gold and Sullivan are likely to be dull, safe owners. They don't have the huge funds available to invest heavily into the squad but they will run the Club prudently, pay down the debts and presumably leave it in a better state than they found it. Since the experience with the Icelandic owners I am hugely wary of anyone who comes into a football club and promises investment,as most appear to saddle the Club with their debt (see United, Manchester). It seems to me that there are very few philanthropic types who are prepared to write of their millions in the pursuit of happiness, as evidenced by the fact that we are still paying off the debts incurred by Eggert Magnusson in his crazy tenure at the helm.

A Club like us can probably afford to spend £6m on a player every once in a while, as shown by the fact that we had only ever done this once before Magnusson arrived at the Club (Dean Ashton). We then did it four times in the space of 6 months (Upson, Bellamy, Parker, Dyer) although it turned out these were financed by loans, which later contributed greatly to the current shitfest with the accounts.

As for Karren Brady - well firstly, that's not how you spell Karen, but she proved herself a thoroughly competent executive at Birmingham, and given the utter fuck up that Duxbury has made of the last few years, I don't think anyone should have any qualms about her ability to run the business. She has had some cutting words for the Club over recent years regarding Tevez, the Millwall affair and various other incidents, but in truth I doubt she was saying anything that didn't contain at least a grain of truth.

So what next for the Club? I pray it is stability, and of course, survival. I don't hold out a great deal of hope that the Club will really spend significantly in the future, but anything that lifts us away from the awful incompetence and fuckwittery of the last few years is alright by me. Remember that our youth system has been good for one new player a year at least in recent seasons.

So embrace tedium and stability folks. It ain't so bad. Off the pitch, at least...

1 comment:

  1. Not my choice but I have a feeling the only choice.