The Barry Hearn Interview Part 1

On Monday I received an Email from Barry Hearn saying “I read your last piece on Leyton Orient which frankly I found a bit inaccurate. I think it would be fun for you and I to get together for a question and answer piece, so at least the West Ham fans can have the truth from our side.”

The article he was referring to was ‘the Double Standards of Barry Hearn’ article which can be found HERE

I took Barry up on his offer and on Tuesday afternoon I interviewed him for 75 minutes in his Match Room Sports offices in Brentwood, Essex. There is too much material for one post so I will cover the interview in a number of articles covering his Olympic Stadium challenge, the absurd ‘750 yards from Leyton Orient’ claim and whether he loves Spurs. In this article I will cover what Barry has to say about his deal to buy Brisbane Road, the money he made from selling the four corners, the ownership of the stadium and whether he believes Leyton Orient received state aid.

I started with the simple question “Are you going to European Union to complain about State aid for West Ham?”

Barry answered “No! I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it, the only way I would do it is if I got into a vindictive mode and I’d lost anything and I had nothing to lose”

I probed further asking “What conditions would you go to the European Union to complain about state aid?”

“That’s a really tough question to answer because I am not sure I can gain anything, it is tough because I am trying to be truthful. I am using the threat of Europe as a tactical manoeuvre at the moment but I want to be taken seriously”

Barry said he talked to European lawyers last week and their advice is he has a good chance of winning in Brussels.

He also had a meeting with Margaret Hodge Chairman of the powerful House of Commons Public Accounts Committee last Thursday. He claims Margaret said to him “We don’t want this to go to Europe do we Barry?” This is a new twist as he appears to be lobbying the House of Commons select committee which overseas value for money for tax payers to look into our deal.

It is obvious Barry considers the threat of a European investigation as his ultimate weapon of mass destruction, but like all nuclear weapons it might be a case mutually assured destruction for many in football.

Providing me more details of how he acquired Brisbane Road stadium which I still claim could equally to open of claims of state aid he proudly explained he got ‘the deal of the century’ when Waltham Forest Council sold him Brisbane Road Stadium for £350,000 after he threatened to leave the area because Leyton Orient were losing so much money. Barry added “I couldn’t believe they sold it so cheaply, unbelievable price. I gave them a cheque the same day.”

He confirmed he does pay £1 a year for ground rent but says that is immaterial as he has a 999 year lease so it is just a pepper corn rent and claims he effectively owns the freehold of the land. I challenged him on this to say if he effectively owned the freehold why did he have to go back to Waltham Forest council to seek a variation in his lease and why did he give the council a million pounds when he sold the four corners to property developers in a deal worth £7.5M?

In a classic Barry Hearn answer said “I gave them a million pounds because I felt guilty, I didn’t have to give them anything” but he admitted the council saw things differently.

He also confirmed his company Match Room Sports purchased the Brisbane Road stadium for £6m in 2009 and now offers a 20 lease year back to Leyton Orient with rent reviews every 5 years. He says the whole Brisbane Road area is zoned for residential planning which could fetch significant value if redeveloped but claimed he is only interested in getting his £6m back and any excess profit would be ploughed back into Leyton Orient if he became a tenant of the Olympic Stadium.

I am grateful to Barry for clearing things up but we disagree on the difference of how his deal with Waltham Forest, West Ham’s deal with the LLDC or Spurs £41m deal with Haringey which the Guardian covered HERE last month is any different!

If one is classed as state aid they all should in my opinion and Manchester City’s use of the Ethiad stadium now I come to think about it.

Further from the Barry Hearn interview soon.

Talking Point

Does Joe Cole Really Want to Leave?


On Saturday Joe Cole was subbed after 27 minutes and was so angry about it he went straight down the tunnel. The Sun reports that this has provoked him into deciding that his future is away from Upton Park and that he has had it with Sam Allardyce. They quote a ‘Sun Source’ as saying…

Joey has had it with Sam. He felt publicly humiliated at being hooked so early in the game against his old club and he wants out. Hopefully there will be a few takers in January. He was looking forward to a great season with West Ham but now it’s all turned sour."

That sounds like the words of an agent trying to engineer another move which the agent will make money from. But if this really is Joe Cole’s attitude it stinks. Perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s a made up quote, but let’s be honest and admit that he has hardly ripped up any trees this season. He’s been injured yet again but I can’t remember any game which he has actually played brilliantly in. If he did want to move, can anyone really imagine a queue of clubs eager to sign him? I’m not sure I can.

What Joe Cole needs to do now is to settle down, take responsibility for his own form and fight his way into the starting lineup. He still has the ability to change games. It’s up to him to prove it.


Remembering Trevor Brooking

The lad was born in Barking in October 1948 and was to go on to achieve 11 “O” levels and 2 “A” Levels, followed by two FA Cup final wins, five Hammer of the Year awards, 47 England caps, an MBE, elevated to a CBE, followed by a knighthood and a stand at the Boleyn named after him. Sir Trevor Brooking. Without doubt the best midfield player ever to play for the Hammers. Sir Trev played 647 games for West Ham over 17 seasons – 1967 to 1984 and scored 102 goals. Before signing for West Ham he was courted by many other clubs but the Hammers were the only ones that would allow him to continue his studies whilst doing his football apprenticeship. Despite better offers, in particular from Tommy Docherty at Chelsea, Trevor signed for West Ham on the 24th July 1965.

He made his debut nearly two years later against Burnley at Turf Moor. Whilst I am happy to say I saw Trevor’s only ever hat trick against Newcastle in 1968, I must also confess that whilst I have never booed my team or any West Ham player, I was amongst many who used to groan when Trevor’s name was called out just before the teams came out to play at Upton Park. In his early years Trevor was playing inside forward. He was weak and slow. Why was he being picked each week? Groan!

But in the early seventies a set of circumstances, Martin Peters sold to Spurs and Tommy Taylor reverting to a defensive position, allowed Trevor to move to a midfield position. And how he blossomed. The slow and weak inside forward became a midfield player of guile and grace – a truly World class player. The transformation was like an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. What we were seeing at Upton Park each week was mind boggling and it seemed like an age for the England hierarchy to finally catch on and pick him for the National team. Trevor eventually played 47 times for England and during that time he enjoyed a similar telepathic relationship with Kevin Keegan as he had developed at West Ham with Alan Devonshire. On the home front or the International stage, Trevor followed in Bobby Moore’s footsteps. He was a true gentleman of the game.

Sir Trevor Brooking was one of the last of a dying breed. The one club footballer. Despite being one of the best footballers in the World, when West Ham were relegated in 1978 he insisted on staying. Two years later he would head home the only goal of the FA Cup final against Arsenal and bring the cup back to the East End. It was the last time that a team outside the top flight were to win the trophy. To stand testimony to his love of the club he still attends many matches to this day – and this after two care taker manager spells where his presence in the dressing room alone saw the teams that played under him in difficult circumstances win 9, draw 4 and lose just once in 14 games. Trevor Brooking only ever lowered his head twice – to head home that famous winner in the 1980 Cup final and for the Queen to make him SIR TREV.

Talking Point


IF Sam Allardyce really wants to know the answer to West Ham’s current problems, he need only look in the mirror.

Instead of publicly blaming his players for failing to take chances (sorry, did I miss something in the Chelsea game?), he must shoulder full responsibility for the mess we are now in.

I know I sound like a broken record and, in truth, I might as well just cut and paste my last two pieces (from Sept and Oct) up here and be done with it. The all-our-eggs-in-one-basket approach to the ludicrous signing of an injury-prone forward for vast sums that must make us the laughing stock of football; the failure to sign another striker in the summer and then wasting another £5m of the non-scoring Downing; the embarrassment of recalling Carlton Cole (and, worse, not even playing him) . . . I stand by every word. Nothing has changed since my last gripes about Allardyce, except relegation is becoming a more realistic and worrying prospect with each passing game.

Depression deepens.

When Carlton Cole looked at the team-sheet at Norwich and saw he wasn’t starting against a poor team who had been smashed 7-0 at Manchester City the previous weekend, I wonder if he contemplated collecting his boots and selling them on eBay. He might as well give up.

Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . “we’d be mid-table now and chasing a European place if only Carroll had been available,” the sadly delusional pro-Allardyce brigade will try and argue. Give over.

His unavailability should have come as a shock to no-one. As I keep banging on, Carroll has a record of injuries worthy of a walk-on part in Casualty. He was injured when we handed over that £17.5m gift to Liverpool, so to lavish most of his summer budget on the big man was a very risky and miscalculated gamble by BS that could yet have dire consequences.

Still, in accordance with modern speak, we can at least take the ‘positives’ from this diabolical, shameful situation: Big Sham is another step closer to the exit door and, for me, that glorious day cannot come quick enough if West Ham United is ever to go forward as a club again.

BS swears by his stats, so here’s one for him to ponder: Our first shot on goal v Chelsea was recorded in the 93rd minute.

And another for him to mull over: The day after the Chelsea fiasco, Cardiff City had 14 shots against Manchester United and were rewarded for their enterprise with a 2-2 draw against the reigning champions. Allardyce should have looked at that performance and the ambitious tactics employed by Cardiff’s ex-manager Malky MacKay and been squirming with embarrassment. It’s not rocket science, is it? You play a forward (or two), go at the other team, put them under a bit of pressure and, hey presto, you bag yourself two goals.

Chelsea are not in the form of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. They are a team who, until last Saturday night, had been underperforming, winning just one of their previous five away league games and were very fortunate not to have lost their last home match to West Brom.

Yet compare Malky Mackay’s refreshing attitude to Allardyce’s ‘game plan’ for the Chelsea match.

*Start the game with NO strikers.

*See your team go 0-2 down.

*Make two substitutions in the 39th minute and put on a (useless) striker.

This man’s a tactical genius!

It must have been John Terry’s easiest game since he was playing for Senrab on Wanstead Flats.

Of course, it’s not results against top teams that will determine the fate of clubs scrapping at the wrong end of the table. It’s what we do against fellow strugglers which matters most. In this respect, the 3-1 defeat at Norwich (having taken the lead) was even more criminal and, ultimately, may prove much more costly.

The forthcoming ‘P45 Derby’ with Martin Jol’s faltering Fulham and the ‘Neckbrace Derby’ against Crystal Palace could have a huge bearing on West Ham’s season and the future of the manager himself. (Christ, the bloke at Sky who had the bright idea of showing the Palace game live next Tuesday should be shot, or forced to buy a season ticket at either Selhurst Park or Upton Park. He must be some kind of a masochist, especially now that the other anti-football merchant Tony Pulis has been inflicted on those poor people of South London. Still, the good news is Pulis is no longer a candidate to replace BS.)

It remains to be seen if the team will respond in the right manner but reading critical quotes in the media from their beleaguered manager is not normally conducive to a rallying effort in the face of adversity. To “waste chances”, as BS puts it, you first have to create them. And how the manager sets his team up inevitably affects their ability to create or otherwise. I shouldn’t think Joe Cole, for one, was over the moon about being yanked off before half-time, having been marooned on the right where he was never going to be at his most effective. Jack Collison was also humiliated in front of his home fans.

I fear, too, that Ravel Morrison, by far and away our best future prospect, will quickly reach the conclusion (if he hasn’t already) that he will never fulfil his obvious talent playing for a manager as negative as BS. How Mourinho and the Chelsea players must have relished seeing Morrison asked to play a role alien to him – backtracking and desperately trying to pick up advancing Chelsea runners, when he should have been running with the ball towards their goal.

In the last couple of days there is a growing change of mood among even BS’s biggest disciples. More and more sheep are removing their heads from the sand and waking up to reality. About time.

It’s one thing getting criticised by fans but if Allardyce loses the dressing room, then he will become a dead man walking.

So who would we replace him with? There are options out there: Di Matteo (a mate of Zola’s, so it’s doubtful that he would want to work for our board); Hoddle (England’s best coach, tactically clued up and puts out attacking sides, but is prone to paranoia and not popular with the media); Di Canio (fruitcake), Holloway (another fruitcake and his teams can’t defend), McLeish (no thanks), Curbs (no thanks), Coleman (just signed a new deal with Wales).

Whoever it is, the appointment should not be based on a quick fix, but one that will restore the club’s ethos and best traditions for playing entertaining, attacking football, while at the same time laying a structured foundation for the future. As at Barca and Arsenal and most other clubs, all the club’s teams beneath the first team should all be playing in fundamentally the same basic style, whilst allowing for tweaks to formations depending on the opponents and circumstances. How else can you expect continuity and progression of young players through the ranks? West Ham’s academy teams don’t hoof the ball.

Alan Devonshire has proved himself over many years in non-league football, so he would have to be a strong candidate. No experience above the Conference? So what.
Perhaps give him a go alongside a younger coach – Julian Dicks? – as his assistant. This way, Dicksy could seamlessly succeed Dev as No.1 when the time is right. And how about Alvin Martin as defensive coach and Tony Cottee to work specifically with the strikers?

These men have been there and done it for West Ham; they understand the history of the club and what it stands for (or used to). They know what most supporters expect for their heard-earned money.

Player Performance Results

Results: Player Performances v Chelsea

Not a pretty sight. But hardly a surprise. Not sure I can recall a set of results where only 1 player scored above 6.

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