Talking Point

To Buy Back or not to Buy Back?

Blind Hammer looks at the Pros and Cons of Buy Back Clauses

Our early summer interest in Manchester City’s KELECHI IHEANACHO has apparently hit stumbling blocks over the player’s wish to include image rights in his deal and Manchester City’s desire to insert a Buy Back Clause in the contract.

Whilst the resistance to Image rights should be indisputable given our recent damaging scrape with the Tax Authorities, the situation with a Buy Back Clause is not so clear.

Buy Back Clauses are an increasing feature of Football transfer business. They are attractive to selling clubs who are reluctant to completely allow young talent to depart, in case they flourish to an exceptional extent elsewhere. The deals are normally proposed from a bigger selling club to a smaller buying club.

So Barcelona have been early adopters of the legal mechanism in their transfer dealings and apparently they rarely allow young talent to depart now without a pre-determined Buy Back clause in the event that they “come good”.

So for example Gerard Deulofeu transfer to Everton and Adama Traore’s move to Aston Villa were both made with Buy Back agreements in place. Traore’s subsequent move to Middlesbrough was only arranged after Barcelona did not execute their Buy Back Clause.

Manchester United sold Memphis Depay to Lyon during the winter transfer window but again inserted a Buy Back clause in case the 22 year old came good at Lyon. Manager Jose Mourinho even went so far as to say that the door was “wide open” for Memphis to return to Old Trafford one day.

So in reality inserting a “Buy Back” clause into a transfer actually makes the deal resemble a loan rather than a permanent departure from a club. On the face of it the advantages lay all with the bigger selling club and there is little benefit for the smaller buying club. What the bigger clubs are doing are “having their cake and eating it”.

Before the emergence of Buy Back Clauses All transfers involve an element of risk for both selling and buying club. There was a risk that the buying club buys a player who does not settle into a new setup and does not make the grade. This failed transfer drains resources out of the club. The risk for the selling club was that actually a player would flourish beyond expectations after they depart. For example close to home, famously Ray Houghton did not succeed as a young player for 3 years at West Ham but won multiple medals in the famous Liverpool side for 5 years between 1987 and 1992.

Buy Back Clauses remove a large part of the risk for selling clubs but does nothing to restrict the risk for buying clubs. With a loan at least a buying club has the ability to return a non-performing player.

In the new world of Buy Back contracts dynamics between player and buying club will be changed. If the player does well the buying club will hope that the player will have no interest in moving back to the selling club. This would be an ideal result. In theory a player could love playing for West Ham and resist any temptation to return to a selling club like Manchester City. All could be harmonious. In reality though, it is more likely that this player would have the whip hand in any wages negotiations around contract extension. Any unhappiness with wages is likely to trigger the transfer request which could trigger the Buy Back clause. Buy Back clauses will create hot potatoes for buying clubs to handle.

The temptation then is to avoid dealing with “Buy Back Clauses” on principle if you are the buying club. Although the Buy Back will normally allow a greater fee than that paid initially, this may not provide realistic compensation. Football transfer inflation is rampant and fees are paid for even average players today which would appear absurd only 2-3 years ago. We were in January apparently considering a purchase of a Championship Striker, Brentford’s Scott Hogan, for a fee similar to that which we paid Liverpool for an England International Striker, Andy Carroll, only a few years ago. Thankfully we refrained from this investment, leaving Aston Villa to stump up £15 million to Brentford.

So can we hold this principle and avoid “Buy Back”?

The problem is that the mega rich clubs across Europe are hovering up most of the World’s outstanding talent for themselves and managing this talent through a multitude of loan arrangements, waiting to cream off any outstanding performers which emerge. Chelsea are particularly notorious for this. West Ham had to pay top dollar to them in loan fees and wages for the services of Victor Moses for example. A more experienced Moses was able to slot into Chelsea’s Premiership winning team after development at West Ham and other clubs.

The “having your cake and eat it” benefits of a loan system for bigger clubs will become even larger if Buy Back now becomes the norm. My own view is that this legal clause in transfers structures disadvantage unfairly for smaller clubs and FIFA should outlaw it.

However we operate in a world where to avoid dealing in Buy Back may not be in our best interests. There is a crisis for striker recruitment at West Ham. This is a structural weakness at the club. In 40 years we have only developed Cottee and Defoe as first team strikers of any repute. Martinez may be a bright light on the horizon but is clearly not ready yet. If we are to transition from a smaller to bigger club we may have to bite the bullet and accede to Buy Back as a reality in today’s transfer world. What may be the only issue is to try and ensure the best deal we can with Buy Back.

This may cast an emotional shadow over any recruitment. We may never feel a player under these terms is ever really “one of our own”. However as Payet proved this belief is often an illusion anyway. If KELECHI IHEANACHO scores 20 goals for us next season it might be a price worth paying.


David Griffith

Talking Point

Welcome to the West Ham Disabled Supporters Advisory Board

Blind Hammer welcomes a West Ham Initiative in relation to their Disabled Supporters.

Regular readers of my posts will have seen how I have already highlighted issues which emerged from the inaugural meeting of the West Ham Disabled Supporters Advisory Board.

I thought I should now introduce this Board more generally. This Board was established in April so that West Ham could receive detailed feedback from its Disabled supporters to help them organise the most inclusive service possible.

Disabled Supporters were invited to apply to join the Board and from over 50 applicants 16 were chosen by Cathy Bayford and Trevor Bright. Cathy and Trevor are Disabled Supporters who are also on the main West Ham Supporters Advisory Board.

They used criteria which included representation from as wide a range of different impairments and expertise as possible. They are committed to regularly reviewing membership in the future to ensure that necessary voices are heard.

The seriousness that the club are attaching to this initiative was indicated by Karen Brady’s attendance and chairing of the Board. A whole range of issues were discussed at the Board Meeting and it is clear that the club has work to do to continue to improve and fine tune the service it provides. It is also seems clear that the club are committed to meeting these improvements.

The club use facilities at the London Stadium which are superior to most other clubs.

This means
• London Stadium is accessible on all levels?
• 14 shuttle buses run from Stratford to and from the Stadium.
• A shuttle bus is also available for away supporters.
• The stadium has the highest number of Wheelchair Accessible spaces in PL – 253
• One of only six Premier League clubs, and the only one in London, whose number of Wheelchair spaces exceed the minimum requirements set out in Accessible Stadia Guide.
• No limit to number of seats available for ambulant disabled supporters
• There are 45 accessible unisex toilet facilities
• Also meets requirements for number of Amenity Easy Access Seats – 613

The club also provide a Headset service for Blind and Visually Impaired Supporters.

Despite this undeniable progress there remains an enormous amount to do but the most positive development is the fact that this Board has been established. At present the Disabled Supporters Advisory Board is scheduled to meet at least twice a season.

Much more extensive and detailed information is available from the full minutes of the meeting which can be downloaded from HERE

Well done to West Ham for showing the commitment to taking the voice of its Disabled Supporters seriously.
David Griffith

Transfer Gossip

Kelechi Iheanacho: Could He Be Our Best Signing of the Summer?

I wrote last week that the priority for West Ham in this transfer window is to only sign players who would add to the quality of the team and that it was quality we should be searching out rather than signing a whole host of average players like we did last year. Well we got off to a good start with the signing of Pablo Zabaleta, and if reports are to be believed we head the race to sign Kelechi Iheanacho, the Manchester City striker.

Iheanacho is only 20 years old, but looks to be a real star in the making. He’s made 46 appearances, scoring 12 goals, but most of those are substitute appearances. He’s also scored five goals in eight senior appearances for Nigeria. It’s worth looking at his Manchester City career in its totality. This is from Wikipedia…

In July 2015, Iheanacho was included in City’s pre-season tour team in Australia. On the tour, he set up the first goal for Raheem Sterling and scored the second goal in the win against Roma in the 2015 International Champions Cup. He also set up Sterling for the fourth goal in City’s 8–1 victory against the Vietnam national team. In City’s last pre-season game, against VfB Stuttgart, he came on as a substitute, scoring late on in a 4–2 defeat. Due to his impressive pre-season, Iheanacho was promoted to the Manchester City senior squad. On 10 August 2015, Iheanacho was included in a first-team matchday squad for the first time in a competitive fixture, however he remained an unused substitute in their 3–0 win at West Bromwich Albion in their first game of the Premier League season. Nineteen days later, he made his competitive debut, replacing Raheem Sterling for the final minute of a 2–0 win against Watford at the City of Manchester Stadium. He scored his first competitive goal on 12 September, replacing Wilfried Bony in the final minute in a match away to Crystal Palace and scoring the only goal of the game.

Iheanacho scored his first career hat-trick on 30 January 2016 against Aston Villa in the fourth round of the FA Cup, also setting up City’s fourth goal, scored by Raheem Sterling.The following month, he was put in City’s UEFA Champions League squad at the expense of the injured Samir Nasri.26 During February, Iheanacho scored against Tottenham Hostpur in a 2–1 home defeat for City.

Iheanacho’s next goals came on 23 April 2016, where he scored twice against Stoke City in a 4–0 victory.28 He followed this up with a Champions League semi-final substitute appearance on 26 April 2016. Five days later, on 1 May 2016, he scored two again, albeit in a 4–2 defeat at the hands of Southampton.

Iheanacho ended the 2015–16 season with eight Premier League goals and had the best goals-per-minute ratio of any player averaging, a goal every 93.9 minutes. In all competitions he finished with a record of 14 goals and 5 assists from 35 appearances, although he only started 11 of these games. His goals total also meant he ended the season as City’s third-highest scorer.

On 10 September 2016, Iheanacho started in the Manchester Derby. He recorded an assist and his first goal of the season in the 2–1 win. Five days later, Iheanacho came off the bench to score the final goal in City’s 4–0 home win in the Champions League, against Borussia Mönchengladbach. This was his first European goal for Manchester City. Three days after the 4–0 win, Kelechi scored the second goal, also assisting the third, in City’s game against AFC Bournemouth. That goal took his tally in the Premier League to 10, allowing him to join an exclusive list of players to have scored 10 Premier League goals before the age of 20. This list includes players such as Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Nicolas Anelka, Michael Owen and Romelu Lukaku. In October 2016, Iheanacho was nominated for the FIFA Golden Boy award, which was eventually won by Bayern Munich’s midfielder Renato Sanches.

Iheanacho’s next goal would come in the Champions League, against Celtic, in a 1–1 home draw on 6 December 2016.

Iheanacho has represented Nigeria at youth levels from under-13 upwards. His first experience of a major international tournament was the 2013 African U-17 Championship in Morocco. For Iheanacho, the highlight was a hat-trick in a win against Botswana. He dedicated his goals to his mother, who died two months before the tournament. Nigeria reached the final of the competition, where they were defeated on penalties by the Ivory Coast.

Iheanacho played a significant role in the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup, where he won the Golden Ball award for player of the tournament. Nigeria won the competition, in which Iheanacho scored six times, including once in the final, and provided seven assists. In the run-up to the 2014 African Nations Championship, Iheanacho trained with the senior Nigeria squad but was released from the squad in order to travel to England to sign with Manchester City. He was part of the Nigeria squad for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, and featured in two matches.

He was selected by Nigeria for their 35-man provisional squad for the 2016 Summer Olympics, but failed to make the final 18. Iheanacho made his senior debut as a substitute in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Swaziland in which Nigeria drew 0–0. His first start for the senior team was on 25 March 2016, a 1–1 draw with Egypt in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match.

Kelechi Iheanacho was selected by Nigeria in friendly games against Mali and Luxembourg in May 2016. He scored in the two games providing an assist against Luxembourg. His performance in the friendly matches inspired further confidence within football circles in the nation and was invited to make his competitive debut against Egypt in an African cup of nations qualifying series where he provided an assist for Oghenekaro Etebo in the home game. Despite the change made in the coaching personnel in August this year, he distinguished himself again as one of the most important players in the team when he scored two super goals in the two matches against Tanzania in Uyo and Zambia in Ndola.

Well I don’t know about you, but that’s got me salivating. £24 million seems a reasonably fair price given his potential, but the stumbling block could be a buyback clause.


The HamburgHammer Column

The PZ seal of approval: Welcome Pablo Zabaleta!

I never thought I would post my column this early already. Usually the summer period, for football fans more commonly known as the silly season, is a tedious one for West Ham fans, a time characterised by a severe lack of football, a plethora of frantic and ridiculous rumours from pundits, ITKs, IKFAs, bloggers and football fans behind a keyboard or at least owning a mobile phone, having the ability to type a sentence or two.

Add to that West Ham’s usual modus operandi in recent years when it comes to transfer windows and I thought my next column would probably come out four or five weeks from now, but lo and behold. We have the first new signing in the bag, and a quality one at that, even before the transfer window has officially opened:
Welcome to West Ham Pablo Zabaleta!

For me this is already the most important new signing we will make all summer – and this is before we have signed a new striker! Which, as we all know, is another position we will desperately need to upgrade in the coming weeks. But Pablo Zabaleta is a quality fullback, experienced, impressive physique, great awareness on the pitch, ready to lay his body on the line for the cause. A warrior. A fighter. An Argentinian version of the Ginger Pele, with less Ginger of course but a lot more of Pele about him than Collins.

Having Pablo Zabaleta at West Ham will do two things for us: We finally have a right back in the true sense of the word playing at RB again. Quality wise you have to go back to the days of Lucas Neill as the last time we had a proper right back in the side on a regular basis.
I hear some of you asking: “Hang on! How about young Sam Byram? He’s a right back!”

You are right of course, but in my view Sam Byram will benefit massively from Zabaleta’s presence in the long run. Short term Zabaleta will take a lot of gametime away from Byram, and rightly so. Byram right now isn’t quite ready, he is quite rash in some of his challenges which may come from trying too much or being not quite in a position yet to read a game and anticipate moves by opposing players.

Zabaleta will be like a beacon to Byram in terms of learning how to be a top level defender. And he will also be a glowing example to every other West Ham player how to be a great professional footballer. The following Youtube clip has already been shared on WHTID, but I will put it on here again, because it truly shows us why Zabaleta even at his age (he’s 32 for crying out loud, that’s probably 20 years younger than the average WHTID reader!) is a great signing.

Zabaleta is held in such high regard among the Manchester City fanbase (who were extremly sad to see him leave) which tells me that not only does he leave a lot of blood (quite literally), sweat and tears on the pitch, but that he must also be a great character in the clubhouse and fantastic in bonding with the fans too. Zabaleta appears to really have a lot of love for life and football in Britain (I don’t blame him!) and what’s even more important: In this day and age of crazy transfer fees, TV money and players spending more money on a car key than people earn in a year or two, Zabaleta hasn’t lost touch to the world of the great unwashed, the little man in the street.

I read that a few days ago he donated a week’s wages (90k) to the victims of the recent Manchester suicide bomb attack. I doff my cap to that Mr.Zabaleta!

I feel very happy that this man will be a West Ham player for the coming few seasons and I also expect him to add a lot of stability to our back four which is most welcome.
If he helps us with his experience, reading of the game and passion on the pitch in such a way that we will concede just ten goals less next season this will automatically translate into more points and a better league position. A more solid defensive unit will obviously help our goalkeepers and the entire team.
Good teams build and improve from the back – so in that respect having Zabaleta at West Ham is the most important bit of business we had to do.

That we have done it this early (the deal must have been in the pipeline for weeks, if not months) gives me hope that we will indeed see a more positive approach in the upcoming transfer window. Do your scouting, your negotiations in the background, wrap up the deal, announce it, Bob’s your uncle!

But we also need new additions in the striker department and by the looks of it we seem to be willing to strike early in that department too (pardon the pun)!
Kelechi Iheanacho is a 20year old great prospect, funnily enough a Man City player too (probably not a bad idea to foster good relationships with a club like Man City for future transfers in both directions).

It’s hard to say at this point how likely his signing is. If a fee has been agreed between the clubs. If Iheanacho would be willing to come to West Ham. I’d love to see us sign the lad. Yes, he won’t come cheap. And he hasn’t been a regular starter for Man City which is why we actually even have a chance to sign him in the first place.
If he was banging in 20 goals a season for Man City they wouldn’t sell and we wouldn’t be able to afford his fee.
I have also read Man City might insist on a buyback clause. Which may be a bullet we just have to bite at this junction.

For me it is important to quickly secure deals for two new young strikers, maybe even Batshuayi. First of all because I think we urgently need new strikers we can rely on to feature for the vast majority of games. But secondly to put pressure on the likes of Carroll and Sakho. Both of them simply haven’t featured enough for us (for various reasons), yet they could expect up to now to still feature regularly whenever healthy again because of their wages and because there were no credible alternatives.

Maybe two new young strikers added to the pecking order at West Ham might “convince” Carroll and/or Sakho to get their act together and get/keep themselves in top shape throughout the entire season (including looking after yourself in the summer break). If they don’t feature much anymore, apart from as impact subs, maybe they will be more inclined to look out for a transfer, that is if they still have a genuine desire to play football week in week out.

I am prepared to be pleasantly surprised by our board when it comes to our upcoming transfer business. Zabaleta was a very promising start indeed and if Gold and Sullivan were to continue in a similar vein now when wrapping up deals for new strikers I will happily breathe a sigh of relief first and heap praise on them next.

I’m sure most of you know that season ticket renewal deadline is coming up fast on Wednesday, May 31st, a date I remember so well because it’s me brother’s birthday.
I know a few on here are still mulling over whether to renew or packing it in next season. I wouldn’t dream of trying to tell other people what to do, it’s a deeply personal decision for everybody, same as it was for me.

But maybe you can let us know in the comments once you’ve made that decision and also what your reasons were for renewing or not doing so.

I expect us to make another signing as early as this week. Please continue going to bed though. You will still get the hopefully positive news a bit later, either the next morning or during the day. COYI!

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Guest Post

Life in the bus lane - Away Days with the Infirm City Crew

Guest Post by the Voice of Reason

Not all members of the Infirm City Firm went to all of the away games we attended but the organisation (I use that word very loosely) was represented in some form or another at 13 of the matches during the 2016-17 season.Of the 13 games we went to we won 3, drew 5 and lost 5. That works out at more than a point per game and any of you who have spent more than 10 minutes supporting our club will realise that, by our standards, that ain’t half bad as we have never been the most solid away team around. Not as good as the previous season but that was an exception.

The birth of the Infirm City Firm:

Infirm City Firm

It’s actually the previous season when the green shoots of the Infirm City Firm started to sprout.

I had been going to away games regularly but over the years the guys I went with drifted away. I say drifted but that’s not entirely true. One drifted (or his wife drifted him), one moved abroad and another had the audacity to pass away. This meant that for the previous few seasons I had mostly been going to games on my own from what was then my base in Gloucestershire.

BSB had, in years past, been a rabid away fan but had not been for some time and was now just rabid. He got the flavour back, however, when he went to the FA Cup game at Blackburn (Emineke’s finest hour) and decided that he would like to start going again.
Safehands was also keen to go (when filming permitted) and, as I had by now moved back to London, the three of us went to some games in the second half of the season.
The games at West Brom, Stoke and Manchester United in the Cup passed without incident and we just managed to keep Safehands out of the massage parlour opposite where we parked at Leicester, dodging certain mayhem.

So we decided that we would go to away games on a regular basis and it was the three of us who started off although Original Russ (previously an Away Virgin) soon became the fourth full member. It was the branding and marketing expertise of BSB that developed the Infirm City Firm name, although he hasn’t come up with a logo yet.
The full time members fell easily into positions of responsibility:

Director of TravelBSB

BSB bus

Deputy Director of Travel – Russ
Ticketing and Logistics – VoR and Safehands
Executive Distributor of the Mints and Smoked Salmon Rolls – Safehands

We also picked up some Associate Members who attended one or two games with us over the season. These include Chicken Run Boy, Irons 1959, Tom and his son and my mate Stuart.

We were even honoured with the presence of the Earl of Canning Town, Nigel Kahn, on one occasion as well as a state visit to Liverpool with Hamburg Hammer.
It was HH’s first away game and I will never forget the looks of awe on the faces of the Liverpool fans as he strode purposely towards the burger stand. “Isn’t that Hamburg Hammer?” they whispered to each other. “Wow, we are in the presence of greatness”.

HH on food counter

They might have been in the presence of greatness but, by the time HH had had his fill at the burger stand, they certainly were not in the presence of many meat-based snacks.

The Good:
From a football point of view the three away wins we saw (at Palace, Middlesbrough and Southampton) were all obviously good days but there were also good performances / results in the draws at Man United and Liverpool and the only times we were truly under the cosh was the first half at Man City and the second half at Arsenal where, having defended well in the first half, it all went the shape of a well-known fruit once they scored their first goal.

Another really positive happening came at Bournemouth where, inside the ground, a member of her Majesty’s Constabulary spoke to Safehands by name which, at the time I found unusual. This was actually a rozzer from West Ham who attends away games so there is prior knowledge of any trouble makers. Once I realised this it all fell into place as Safehands would obviously be known to many of the boys in blue. Made me feel safe being with our own inbuilt security and having the police touching their forelocks in recognition.

The Bad:
I still think that the way the club sell away tickets could be improved. I fully understand the points system and it’s right that regular attenders are first in the queue for tickets. The system that means you have to go online on a particular day at a particular time must cause problems for some people as they have to work and cannot guarantee being able to do it at their allocated time.

We were fortunate that one of either Safehands or myself was always available at the right time and, with the exception of Bournemouth, we were able to get tickets that we wanted. The Bournemouth issue was due to the small away allocation but, due to a couple of Liddy’s friends being unable to go, Safehands and myself went on their tickets.
Unfortunately, we had tickets for two games that we were unable to get to due to unforeseen circumstances. Swansea, where they unfortunately went to waste, and Burnley, where the tickets were taken up by the Leader Elect of the newly formed Northern Branch of the Infirm City Firm, a man, David Murray, who is suitably qualified due to both age and experience. I guess that this last bit of information could be in the “Good” section instead of the “Bad”.

The Ugly:
Like every other club we have our share of ‘Erberts following the team, although it has to be said that the vast majority are fine. There is, however, a group of young guys who get perverse pleasure in chucking their beer in the air on the concourse (and, at West Brom, in the seats) and soaking anyone who happens to be in the vicinity. I guess we just have to hope that they grow out of it eventually and become miserable gits like the rest of us.

There were also cases of “doubling up” in the ground when someone had not got a ticket near his mates so goes and stands with them. This almost always means someone’s view is interrupted and happened notably at both Palace and Stoke. An indication of a complete lack of awareness of the people around them.

The 2016-17 Infirm City Firm Awards (made with no discussion with anyone else):

Best Away Performance: Any of the three wins we saw could win this but my view is that the 1-0 at Crystal Palace was the best. They had been playing well and we had been struggling but we turned in a very good professional performance.
Best Individual Performance: Andy Carroll at Middlesbrough. I’m not his biggest fan but he turned in an almost complete centre forward’s game that day.
Best Stadium: For me it is Liverpool. A proper football stadium with a great atmosphere. Others may plump for Old Trafford, I guess.
Best Car Park: Bournemouth. Right by the ground and £1 entry – plus the politest car park attendants you could meet. “So where exactly would you like to park sir?”……
Best Pies: From a Pie Shop in Middlesbrough, discovered by Russ when he went hunting for change for the car park. Homemade, proper pies for £2.40. What’s not to like?
Best Pre-game Location: Longton Rugby Club at Stoke. Easy parking, bar, food, table and chairs, carpets on the floor, football on the TV, fans from both teams, nice people, 15 minute walk to the ground.
Best Medical Support: Sunderland. Those there with us will understand. The rest of you don’t need to know.
Most Patient Law Enforcement: Two policemen on the train between Watford Junction and Watford High Street who resisted using their tasers in the face of severe provocation from one of our number (clue: huge person, likes cake).
Least Legroom: A tie between Man United and Everton where you can only just get your knees between the seat when you are standing up!
The Fat Fingers Award for Sat Nav Operation: This goes to BSB for taking us on a tour of rural Staffordshire and ending up in a farm gateway 15 miles from the Stoke ground. He claims it was a malfunction by Google but I am not so sure. And he claims to have done the Knowledge!

Next Season?
Who knows, but we will probably go through it all again.
I would imagine that there will be a big demand for tickets at Brighton and Newcastle coming back up is good news as that is one of the best away fixtures in one of the best weekend cities.
I can’t say that trips to Middlesbrough or Hull will be greatly missed but all away games are good, sometimes in a masochistic way.
If you are at an away game next season, look us up.

Infirm City Firm Sign

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