Talking Point

It Is Not Just Sam

Guest Post by iRoNcOrK

I write this as a deeply concerned fan, in an effort to be constructive rather than critical. I have thought many times recently that the club really needs “sorting out” and currently everything is pointing to the need for a root and branch review of the whole organisation, top to bottom.

We all know there is a team management issue which has taken up miles of column space on here but I believe we have deeper problems so I don’t want to discuss the merit (?)s of Sam. One of the challenges in any organisation is keeping it fresh and competitive and there is every sign that our club not only has this challenge but is also at a turning point. The question is, will things turn for the better and make us a regular top half club capable, in time, of challenging for a place in Europe or do we face a future of being a regular bottom half club with the inevitable bouts of fighting relegation which the law of averages dictates that you will lose every once in a while?

A perennial problem for shareholders or CEOs is competitiveness. Good, solid performers in any organisation do get stale and though they may do nothing wrong, they often reach a comfort level where they stop driving the organisation forward. Sometimes they also get complacent, where they also start making mistakes, or less than optimal decisions, and the organisation goes into decline.

In the context of West Ham, let’s start at the top. The owners are the chairmen. They can do what they wish with the club and whether they stay or go is their choice. Whether we like them or not, that is probably how it should be in most circumstances. However, Karren Brady needs consideration. She is a very smart and capable lady who the owners have worked with for many years, but is she performing to her best ability now? If I owned the club, I would have to ask myself whether she has become involved in too many outside activities to be able to perform at her absolute maximum level in the interests of the club. If the role was perceived as a part time one in the past, it is certainly not now. A proper full time CEO is needed to get to grips with all the off-field issues which are affecting on field results.

Clearly too many contracts, playing and non-playing, have been entered into without full consideration of the likely effects in differing scenarios. Hence Sam’s compensation is too expensive to sack him, we will never afford Nolan or Carroll, given their contribution levels, in the Championship, together with players who seemingly hardly play. We also have players on contracts with “interesting” clauses,….interesting but not in our interest. A firmer strategy with scenario planning is needed for all contracts and older players.

Looking at some of the comings and goings over the last couple of years we should be forgiven for thinking that we have been regularly manipulated by agents and/or our own manager in the signing of new players. We have brought in far too many who have not played enough games, either because they were simply not good enough anyway or because they were not given a chance. Some of these have played but been paid far too much for their ability level and contribution. It has to stop. The manager, assuming he chooses the players, needs to be held accountable for those he signs. We need a review of our scouting organisation (do we have one to speak of?), so that we may successfully compete with (often smaller) clubs who seem to regularly discover relatively cheap but outstanding performers from both inside and outside the UK. At the very least we need to know much more about players before we sign them.

The club has three training facilities, Chadwell Heath, Rush Green and Little Heath. There needs to be a long term strategy in place to consolidate these in one location and bring the facilities up to modern Premier League standards. This is not visionary and it is not optional if we want to thrive and be successful. After all, the club’s business is the performance of professional athletes. Our performances, injury record and ongoing advances in technology dictate that we should regularly review our facilities, support personnel and treatment regimens. The Andy Carroll debacle alone indicates that. Obviously there is a serious debt issue to resolve before we could take on the costs involved but there should be a plan and there should be a measure of urgency.

We have one of the best academy coaches in the land but the throughput of young players has slowed dramatically so this is another area crying out for a review and new strategy, also linked to scouting, support personnel, facilities and actually giving the youngsters opportunities at the appropriate time.

The club has become something of a laughing stock in terms of its public relations and communications strategy, or lack thereof. The puerile nature of the club’s emails has come in for a lot of criticism recently. Also, delegating implementation of information dissemination to a dyslexic thirteen year old is not the hallmark of a professional organisation and it is quite clear that the club’s relationship with its fans is adversely affected by this on a regular basis.

If you will pardon the pun, these issues are not indicative of a CEO with her eye on the ball and there are no doubt other matters of serious concern. Often, and I would venture in this case, it is better to bring someone from outside the organisation to review current practices with fresh eyes. Maybe it needs a small team with both football and non-football experience to be brought in, for a limited time, to examine everything the club does – and how it does it – and then come up with recommendations to improve. Maybe it just needs a full time, hands-on CEO who is not trying to juggle too many balls at once in the wider society.

There will be many good things going on inside the club and these need to be not only reinforced but improved upon as well. However, it is quite clear that there are too many areas of the club not performing as they should and the organisational structure is a long way from optimal.

We have too many pressing issues. Karren Brady needs to refocus her attention on West Ham or step aside. The club desperately needs leadership, and leaders must be accountable.

Perhaps Messrs. Gold and Sullivan should appoint a competent and full time CEO to run the club and become less hands on themselves, sit back and enjoy being fans. It may increase their objectivity as their current approach is not working.

If we were flying high it would not be a problem. When we look at all the challenges that are now arising, together with the potential turmoil and indeed opportunities of the Olympic Stadium on the horizon, something has to change, and change fast.

Corky
COYI


Financial

West Ham Wanderers?

It has often been claimed West Ham have turned into a shit version of Bolton on the pitch since Sam Allardyce’s arrival as manager. Whether you agree with that sentiment or not the question now needs to be asked whether we are turning into a version of Bolton off the pitch in financial terms? Earlier this month Bolton Wanderers have admitted their debts have grown to a staggering £163.8m, with £50.7m haemorrhaging during the 12 months to June 2013. There are fears that the club may follow Leeds United and Portsmouth into financial armageddon.

In a statement Bolton’s chairman Phil Gartside, said…

“This year’s results show the difficulties faced in the football business when a club has enjoyed a sustained and successful period in the Premier League – in our case 11 years – then suffers relegation to the Football League Championship. The ever-widening gap between the two leagues makes the transition extremely difficult, even with the benefit of parachute payments.”

The club’s financial position underlines the dangers of overspending and dropping out of the Premier League as Wanderers did in May 2012. Bolton is dependent on a single benefactor, the owner Eddie Davies. Yet as £151.3m of the debt is owed to Davies through his company, Moonlight Investment Ltd. Gartside conceded the club’s future hinges on Davies’ continuing goodwill while admitting that financial fair play rules mean he can no longer support the club as before.

“However, [owners’] financial support is no longer possible in this league without severe penalty. We are responding to a changing environment … “ said Gartside.

Owner Davies’s decision to charge interest on loans to the club has been questioned. Although he ended the policy in July, Mohamed Al Fayed, for example, never charged interest on loans that left Fulham £193m in debt. Fayed sold Fulham to Shahid Khan last summer.

When West ham got relegated Sullivan & Gold injected £32.5m into the club as we made a loss of £25.5m during our season in the championship. They charge interest on their loans to the club.

David Sullivan was recently quoted as saying “If we go down we cannot afford to subsidise the club any longer”

Since our last relegation Financial Fair Play rules have been implemented in the Championship which change the landscape. Championship clubs are allowed to lose up to £3 million a season, which will incur no sanction or punishment. If a club loses between £3-8 million that season, then the owner of the club is required to cover the loss, which if done, then there are no further sanctions. If the owner cannot or will not cover the loss, then a transfer embargo is placed on the club until they can demonstrate an acceptable financial situation.

If the club loses over £8 million for that season, then the punishment depends on whether they were promoted or not. If promoted, the club will pay a Fair Play Tax out of the revenue produced from competing in the Premier League, with the proceeds going to charity. The Fair Play Tax was controversially applied to FFP in the Championship, with many clubs wanting the Fair Play Tax proceeds going back to the clubs that abide by the rules. Nevertheless, if a club has not been promoted, then the transfer embargo will be placed upon that club until they can demonstrate an acceptable financial situation.

Relegation for West Ham this season could cause our own financial armageddon without the ability to buy ourselves out of the championship like we did last time.


Financial

Chinese takeover anyone?

The Daily Mirror are reporting China’s richest man is poised to make a takeover bid at Southampton.

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, boss of the Dalian Wanda group, who could make any club he buys the richest club in the Premier League.

Wang’s property development company is worth £19billion and his own personal fortune around half that figure. Now, Wang, 59, wants to break into English ­football to add to the company’s growing portfolio and is believed to be lining up a £175million bid for Southampton.

Forbes magazine ranked him the 128th richest person in the world as he is worth US $8.6 billion in 2013. In August 2013, he was listed by Bloomberg as the wealthiest person in China.

No disrespect to Southampton but if the Chinese billionaire is willing to splash the cash wouldn’t a London club with the Olympic stadium be a better investment for him?

In 2012 West Ham co-owner David Gold has admitted he’d sell some of his stake in the club if he can find an Upton Park sugar-daddy. He was quoted as saying He said: “You have to be a billionaire to make a major difference and there aren’t many of them about. How many Roman Abramovichs are there?"

Well it appears Wang Jianlin is out there, he almost as rich as Roman Abramovich and he wants to buy a English premier league club.

David Gold went on to say “Of course, I’d welcome a Father Christmas. But then you look and discover that it might not be the real Father Christmas. And you know why? Because there isn’t a real Father Christmas. He doesn’t exist.In an ideal world, though, if you ask what I’d like to see happen, I would like a very wealthy person to come and join us. David and myself are wealthy by normal standards, but not by football standards.”

I wonder whether Mr Gold and Mr Sullivan would consider selling up to let the club experience the kind of financial investment Manchester City and Chelsea have enjoyed.

David Sullivan was recently quoted as saying “If we go down we cannot afford to subsidise the club any longer”

If they sold up for £175 million they would re-coup the money they invested and allow the club they say they love to move on to a new chapter.


Talking Point

Why aye man. Why I can't really dislike the Toon.

There are some defeats that are worse than others. Stands to reason that there are some defeats that are better than others. A defeat to Spurs scores higher on the pain and suffering scale than a loss to Arsenal, for the simple reason that I hate Spurs with every sinew in my body and I merely find Arsenal an annoyance. In that same train of thought, there are some teams that I don’t really mind losing to, for a variety of reasons. I genuinely don’t mind losing to Newcastle because I have a secret admiration for the giant of the Tyne. Listening to another defeat was obviously not on my to-do list for Saturday morning, but ultimately, it was a loss I can stomach.

Why do I have this love for the Geordies you ask? Firstly, it’s more of an absence of a dislike, rather than love. There is only one club I could love. They command a grudging respect at a push. Fundamentally, I see many similarities between us and them. Two formerly majestic clubs who have trophy cabinets gathering dust, two fan bases that could rival each other on loyalty and passion stakes and two histories littered with memories of the times we almost made it, or the times management screwed us over.

“What is a club in any case? Not the building or the Directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get out clauses or the marketing departments or the Executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city.” Sir Bobby Robson

Sir Bobby got it, and in one immortal quote sums up a feeling about football that is almost impossible to encapsulate in fewer words. St James Park will always be the centre of the world for many Geordies in a way that the Olympic Stadium will never be for current West Ham diehards. A Magpie mate of mine recently told me he didn’t know how I was coping with losing our home. There are plenty of shared values between the two clubs. They also know what it means to cope with loss and disappointment. On a continual basis. The club has more than a fifty-year domestic trophy drought, at least ours isn’t that bad. And yet, week in week out, the faithful fill the seats. Both clubs are based on the unwavering, unconditional love of generations of families of fans.

Another reason I’m quieting admiring of the Toon is that they have produced some of the greats of English football, and pride themselves on their homegrown talent as much as we do. I grew up in the Gazzamania and then Shearer-era of English football. There were always Geordies on the telly representing my country, and at their peak were the recipients of national adoration. I remember seeing Saturday’s fixture many seasons ago, when AS was at his physical prime. As the hormonal teenager I was at the time would tell you, the man had thighs like tree trunks. Everyone else looked scrawny on the pitch next to him. I spent most of the match transfixed. Anyway. Back to how Newcastle mirror West Ham’s commitment to further local talent that have gone on to do well for England. Or close enough. That was supposed to be the point of this paragraph.

And ultimately, the Newcastle fans in my life are some of the most genuine, passionate, hopeful fans I know. The only thing that would come between them and getting to St James on a matchday is their mam. They have a love for the game that I see in the West Ham diehards in my life. More of a religious zeal than a love actually. Sort of like they would turn on you if you spilt anything on their hallowed black and white stripes. Or said anything derogatory about Gazza – seriously, some of the most ridiculous defenses of his most extreme behaviour came from my Geordie mates.

So in conclusion, yes another defeat hurts, but this defeat hurts less that others. If we are going to lose (and we clearly are going to continue to do so) then I’m a little bit pleased it’s to a club that I have grudging respect for, and not a team that makes my blood boil.


Transfer Gossip

Alou Diarra wants out!

Alou Diarra wants out of West ham this January transfer window.

Diarra told L’Equipe: “When I talk with other Frenchmen, I would have loved to experience the same as them – but there is a whole world between us. The great excitement of the Premier League – I am not experiencing it at all. Since the very first day people wanted me to accept that I am second choice. I’m in a dead end. It was a bad career choice and I need a real challenge. A January departure? Yes it is very likely. To France? I’ve explored it all.”

Diarra added: “The fact I was back from broken knee ligaments after six weeks without having surgery? Some people could hardly believe it. Anyway my situation has not changed. I am not fooled. I quickly understood he (Allardyce) didn’t rely on me, as I am again confined to the bench.”

West Ham are believed to have paid a fee of around £2.5 million in August 2012 for Diarra from Marseille who were keen to get his hefty £60,000 a week wages of their books.

In January last year his days seemed numbered after he claimed he was lied to by West Ham & agents.

After just five appearances in a West Ham shirt, Diarra claimed he was deceived by West Ham when they tried to lure him to Upton Park..

‘The speeches were so positive,’ Diarra told L’Equipe. ‘I was told that I was a priority for the manager’ ‘At 31-years-old, I wanted to find another league, and Marseille needed to reduce their wage bill, so it suited everyone ‘It was England, London, West Ham, a popular club with a true identity. It was an opportunity to settle in the Premier League. I did not ask, I trusted. ‘After a few weeks, I realised that there were a lot of lies. This agent has fooled me. Some people have made money on my back. Admittedly, I have three year contract but I’m not unhappy financially, but I came to play, not to take an early retirement. I am positively at breaking point.’

Allardyce responded at the time saying “It is a fact of life, I look at the situation and play what I consider the best team, and because of Alou’s long-standing injury he has found it hard to adjust to what is needed in the Premier League. If he is unhappy, he just has to tell me what he wants to do and we’ll see how we go from there. We’ll have that discussion and we’ll make a decision after that on his future.”

Not long after these exchange of words in the media he was shipped out to Rennes on a six month loan and his West Ham career seemed at an end.

In pre-season training he seemed ready to make peace with West Ham. He told the club website “I want to fight this season with West Ham, I’ll give 100 per cent in training and I’ll wait for my chance.I want to give my best for West Ham and we’ll see. I’m ready to play in the Premier League now.Pre-season has gone well. We work hard every day, and we’ve only lost one game so it has been a good start for us”


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