Player Analysis

Ravel Must Start

I am writing this on the back of the Cardiff City Capital One cup clash, a game that we thankfully managed to win in the end, although it should have been more comfortable. There were a few good performances but no one came close to threatening Ravel Morrison for the Man of the Match award. This was of course achieved in 58 minutes before he was replaced by Diame.

This would suggest good things and that he was taken of as a precaution to insure that he was fit to start against Hull City at the weekend. I think that this has to be the case and unless there is a dramatic drop in his performances or form, he should be a permanent fixture in the starting eleven. Of course Ravel, given his history and age, needs to be managed carefully and there may be times that he needs to be rested in order to not burn out but he should be featuring from the start in most games.
Having had a season ticket for the last 23 years I genuinely think Ravel is right up there with some of the brightest talent we have seen emerge at this age alongside Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe and Michael Carrick. There have been much published problems in his early career and of course a few brushes with the law but he really does appear to have matured and moved on to a better frame of mind. It has also been well documented that at Manchester United he was seen as the most naturally gifted player to be produced from the youth team since Paul Scholes, a reference that does not get much better.

Against Cardiff, not only did he display skill, quick feet and an eye for goal he also showed an excellent work rate. He regularly tracked back and harried the opposition, often winning the ball back, when he seldom lost it. I also noticed him encouraging and motivating more senior players at times. There is more to Ravel then just tricks and skill, his creativity and eye for a pass among his many other attributes.

In my eyes he has given Sam a much needed selection dilemma and surely cannot be replaced in the team. Of course when Downing and Joe Cole return from injury (which they both could do this weekend) and Mark Noble having served his suspension, we really have a range of quality options in midfield. So the question is, if Morrison has to start who does he replace?!

I believe Ravel plays best as an attacking midfielder behind the forward. Where his direct running and creativity enables others to benefit and get into good positions and it is no surprise that Matt Jarvis, who rarely scores, got one from a Morrison run and pass to Vaz Te. I think as the season goes on we will see Ravel being involved, in some part, in most West Ham goals.

Saying attacking midfield is Ravel’s best position means to me that he has to start ahead of Kevin Nolan in that role. If we are to play 4-5-1, my centre three would be Diame and Noble with Morrison further forward. I am sure there will be many who disagree with me but for me Morrison will contribute more than Nolan.

I like Kevin Nolan. He is a superb captain and one of the best we have had in my 24 years as a season ticket holder. He is an extremely popular player with the management and players. I was told that Nolan was not fit to play against Cardiff having had a knock prior to Everton, which was then aggravated during the game. Even if all three central midfielders had been injured during the Cardiff match he would not have come on. He was purely there to be in the changing room and doing the captain role that he does so well, especially with Mark Noble also out. Anyone who has been the fifteen bar in Loughton and seen Nolan there, will know he is happy to buy any West Ham fan a drink and chat for ages about the club. I do believe he is a very positive personality to have round the place and is the player’s link, in some ways, to Big Sam.

Of course there are also the goals. He scored ten premiership league goals last year from midfield and of course that is a massive contribution. He is probably our best natural finisher at the club and is the one player I want the ball to drop to in the box. My real problem is, if Nolan isn’t scoring, he only really offers the role of captain to some games.

If we look at Morrison compared to Nolan on goals. Morrison was the top scorer in pre-season and already has three this campaign (Cheltenham, Everton and Cardiff) as opposed to Nolan’s one (Opening League game v Cardiff). So already the one thing you could probably argue Nolan was better at, isn’t the case this season. I don’t want this article to be a “slate Kevin Nolan piece” it is more a “praise Ravel Morrison article” but I do often think that Nolan contributes very little to some games. There are occasions when I struggle to think of things he has done and he often seems so off the pace. Whereas, despite his early years, Ravel is beginning to really dictate the games that he plays in.

You could argue that one of the other midfielders could be dropped instead and that Nolan and Morrison both play but for me this is not a good solution. I think their best positions are the same and Nolan cannot play as a central midfielder due to his lack of pace and stamina. Diame’s performances last year and this, mean he also has to start for me. He offers power, directness and a box to box midfield presence. He is beginning to show the form he did when he first joined us this season. Noble offers a defensive option, harrying the opposition, a calmness to midfield and of course an extremely reliable penalty option. I find it much easier to argue a case to drop Nolan than the other two. I also do not see Ravel as a winger so putting him out there is also not something we should consider when everyone is fit.

I genuinely believe now that Ravel has changed his attitude, for which we have a lot to thank Birmingham City for, we have a real quality player on our hands and we have to take advantage of that now. You pick your best team, regardless of age and he is our most talented player. Ravel was told in preseason that he had to prove himself and if he did he would work his way into the team. He has more than proved himself and I think it would be extremely demotivating for the player, if when other players are fit, he finds himself on the bench despite being our star performer this year.

One thing is for certain it is nice to have these midfield options. Of course I haven’t even included all our midfield options in the post, so when all are fit some will not even make the bench. If only we had this selection dilemma upfront! I expect Ravel to start against Hull City and for him to receive even more glowing references. COYI


West Ham's Debt Explained

In this financial article I will attempt to explore and explain West Ham’s remaining debt position. I believe many West Ham fans still believe we have debts of £100 million or we have to clear £70 million of bank debt before we can move to the Olympic stadium. That is the not the case as I hope to explain.

Net debt is just a metric that shows a company’s overall debt situation by netting the value of a company’s liabilities and debts such as bank loans with its cash held in the bank.

In 2010 David Sullivan after the take over famously revealed in a press conference that West Ham were over £100 million in debt.

Sullivan explained “We’ve paid down some of the debt and injected some working capital but there’s still more than £100 million of debt. In that there’s £50 million owed to banks, there’s £40 million owed to other clubs. There’s not a penny to come in, they (the previous owners) have borrowed against the next two years of season-ticket money.
The sponsors have paid 70% of their three-years up front. In addition there’s the club’s settlement to (former manager) Alan Curbishley, so the real debt is about £110 million.”

Of this non bank debt Sullivan spoke about Sheffield United is believed to have agreed £21m in an out of court settlement although Gold & Sullivan said they inherited around 75% that debt on takeover.

The Alan Curbishly settlement was believed to be £2.2m and the advance on season ticket sales were £7.7m the first year and £7.25m the second year. The SBOBET sponsorship was believed to be worth £1.2m per year much of which was advanced also.

A massive financial mess by anyone’s standards!

The 2009 accounts were the first to be released under Gold & Sullivan ownership showed which a net bank debt of £55.47m with a further £33.65m in other long term liabilities. These included £10m owed to a major shareholder, £3.8m owed to other clubs for transfers and £18m to be paid to Sheffield Utd.

In 2010 this quickly reduced to £33.5m of long term bank debt with an extra £24m in long term liabilities which were principally £7.7m of advance season ticket sales and £16m left to pay of the settlement to Sheffield Utd. In the company accounts Chairman’s statement David Sullivan confirmed that David Gold & himself invested £24m into the club which resulted in a reduction of £12m of bank borrowing and £22m of overall liabilities that year.

In 2011 Sullivan and Gold invested another £3m into the club on top of buying further shares. In his chairman’s statement of that year Sullivan revealed that Gold and himself had invested £29m of equity and loans to the club in the past 18 months. Despite this the bank net debt this increased by £8.1m to £41.6m. Long term liabilities added an £27m which included the remaining £10.5m due to Sheffield United, £3.1m owed to other clubs for transfers and £7.25m for second year of the Season Ticket advance.

In that same statement Sullivan said “Since 31 May 2009 bank debt has reduced from £44.9m to £38m while total net creditors have reduced from £112.7m to £91.2m. In addition during this period we have refinanced the bank debt and we are now on schedule to reduce bank debt to under £21m by 2013.” The figure quoted by Sullivan of £91.2M obviously included creditors due within 12 months which were offset by income that year.

In the latest 2012 financial year accounts revealed Gold and Sullivan invested another £32.2M of cash in the form of loans after West Ham’s turnover fell drastically to £46.2m in our drop to the championship.

This further increased our net debt to £70.7m although £35m of this debt is now owed to Sullivan & Gold through loans so actually it is only £35.7m of external bank net debt when you remove share holder loans. Although £16m of these share holder loans are owed to Sullivan’s property company Conegate Holdings.

Of this remaining £35.7m £5m was due in the year ending 31st May 2013 so should already be paid off wit the remaining £30m due more than 12 months.

Of this £30M longer term bank debt only £25M is secured against the Boleyn Ground as a mortgage so it must be paid off before we move to the Olympic stadium. The remaining £5M of loans are unsecured so do not have that same restriction.

I saw many papers published the £70M figure that West ham had to clear before moving to the Olympic Stadium. Well by my calculation it is more like £25M.

Outside of bank debts our long term liabilities mentioned by Sullivan back in 2010 are also vastly reducing.

We owe West Ham bond holders £611,000 since 1997 which we will pay back after 150 years of the scheme. By the time it is payable in 2148 I am sure £611,000 will be average weekly wage of Premier league footballer so it not a debt that should bother us too much.

We owe other football clubs £4.6M from player transfers from staggered payments. It will be interesting how this increases in 2013 with the Carroll & Downing transfers but more clubs want money up front now or within 12 months so staggered payments are now becoming a thing of the past unless they are desperate to get shot of a player.

In the ‘other creditors’ section of our 2012 accounts there is a sum of just over £5M, this is almost definitely the last payment to Sheffield United which David Gold confirmed we paid very recently.

We are now also finally free of the advance of season ticket money of £7.25M in 2011 & £7.7M in 2010. This like a new revenue stream to West Ham as the Icelandic’s banked 2 years of season ticket sales up front!

We also account for £2.5M from the Football Stadia Fund grant scheme in our long term liabilities even although I understand this is not repayable.

So with the remaining long term liabilities listed in the 2012 accounts we can add on another approx £5M to bring the total West Ham debt to around £37M or £72M if you include the loans from owners Sullivan & Gold.

The 2013 accounts are released early next year and I will update the overall debt picture as soon as they become available. The owners have certainly put their money where their mouth is and for that I am grateful.

David Sullivan speaks debts on takeover

Player Performance - Vote

Vote: Player Performances v Cardiff C1 Cup

Please click HERE to rate the players who played against Cardiff City.

Apologies for the late posting of this, but I have been, ahem, indisposed.

But from my state of indisposedness I was delighted to see that the Hammers did what they had to do and came back from being 2-0 up, if you see what I mean.

Match Thread

Match Thread: West Ham v Cardiff City (Capital One Cup)

Please use this thread to comment as the match progresses.

Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Cardiff City (Capital One Cup)

We need a cup run, seeing as we haven’t had a decent one in seven years. There was a time when we did really well in this competition, and it would be nice to do so again. Expect Sam to ring the changes, though. I suspect this won’t be the lineup, but I’m pretty sure Matt Taylor and Ricardo Vaz Te will start. Petric might not, although he is sure to feature at some point.

We beat Cardiff 2-0 on the opening day of the season, since when they have somewhat eclipsed us in some ways. Time to put that right.

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