Filed: Sunday, 19th December 2010
By: Paul Walker
Those 2,000 hardy souls who did get to Blackburn at least saw spirit, effort
and a point from a game few expected to survive the shocking weather. We
must be thankful for small mercies, but if this was one step forward there
is no point in turning in a decent performance and then failing to build on
it in the next few crucial games. Avram Grant rightly saw fit to thank the
travelling support, who it must not be forgotten are the fans who never see
us win a league game this days as a reward for legging it all over the
country. It's a shame that the club didn't think of the away support when
they put Carling Cup semi-final, second leg, tickets on sale on Saturday
morning. Most of us were stuck in snow, struggling with cars, coach and rail
trips and clearly unable to keep ringing the ticket office to sit in a queue
for tickets. These are the fans who deserve to be at Birmingham to see us
get to Wembley. Mobile phones tend not to work properly on trains, motorways
and while you are driving.
Why couldn't the club put those tickets on sale on Monday morning so
everyone who travelled to Blackburn could have the chance of at least trying
to get one? But 3,800 tickets were sold during the day, something I only
discovered when I'd battled back from Blackburn. But just for a change, the
day had been rewarding. We deserved to win, had more chances and worked for
the shirt. Players like the much maligned Boa Morte, worked his socks off.
He gets plenty of stick, sometimes rightly, for poor pass selection and
losing possession, but he could not be faulted in the cold and snow of Ewood
Tomkins is growing with every game, while Parker once again ran himself to
exhaustion. And Carlton Cole was actually seen smiling following the
snowball fight with Paul Robinson. The side looked better balanced when he
and Stanislas came on and nobody shirked their duties. It is , though, just
one step in the right direction. We need to do it all over again at Fulham,
and get results against Everton and Wolves. In any other season we would be
hopelessly adrift by now, but the nature of the Premier League this season
is that there is still hope. Wembley, even, could be around the corner.
Shame me and my mates on the frozen steppes on Ewood Park are unlikely to be
at Birmingham to see it happen.
Grant talks transfer targets
Hammers boss focused on winter window, not his future
Last updated: 19th December 2010
Avram Grant has again played down fears regarding his future and is looking
to strengthen in January. Reports have suggested that the West Ham boss has
been given just three games to save his job following a torrid first half to
the season. The first of those fixtures came at Blackburn on Saturday, with
the Ewood Park clash one of few to beat the big freeze. The Hammers were
able to avoid defeat against Rovers, but a 1-1 draw was not enough to lift
them off the foot of the table. They will now occupy 20th spot at Christmas,
which historically means they are destined for the drop. Grant, though, is
refusing to give up hope and insists he has been given no indication that he
will be given the boot should results fail to improve.
Instead, the Israeli coach claims he has already opened talks with his board
regarding possible New Year recruits. "Nobody said it to me and I'm not busy
about these things," Grant said when pressed again on the claims that he now
has only two games in which to avoid the axe. "I only care about what I talk
about with the owners. "We speak only about how to make this team stronger
in January and they give me full support in this. "They try to do their best
but they bought the team with big debt, more than £100million. It's not easy
but we need to do the best for the team."
Harry cools Parker talk
Spurs boss admits O'Hara could depart club
Last updated: 19th December 2010
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp does not expect to make a move for Scott
Parker in the January transfer window, although he believes Jamie O'Hara
could depart for West Ham. Spurs have long been linked with a move for
combative midfielder Parker who has been a shining light for the Hammers
this season, despite their perilous Premier League position. O'Hara,
meanwhile, has been absent with a back injury this term and is now
struggling to get a look in at White Hart Lane. The 24-year-old linked up
with West Ham boss Avram Grant at Portsmouth during the last campaign and
could make the switch to Upton Park in January. On Parker, Redknapp told the
Daily Mirror: "We haven't made any move for him. Midfield is the only area
where I don't have many options, we are really short there.
"I like Parker, but he belongs to West Ham. He will be 31 next birthday and
they will want £15million. "Daniel (Levy, chairman) wouldn't buy players of
that age, on big wages with no sell-on." Redknapp did concede, however, that
O'Hara needs to get games under his belt. "O'Hara needs to play. He would be
better off playing somewhere that not playing," he added. "He would do a
good job for someone in the Prem."
You're Av-ing a laugh Grant
By MARTIN BLACKBURN
CRACKERS Avram Grant thinks he deserves the same backing as Alex Ferguson
and Arsene Wenger despite being bottom of the Premier League for two
Christmases. The West Ham boss finds himself as the turkey for the second
Christmas running with his team propping up the top flight. But stats show
the Hammers' predicament is one point WORSE after 18 matches than it was for
his Portsmouth flops last year. Owners David Gold and David Sullivan are
getting twitchy and Grant knows he must pick up some points over the busy
festive schedule. Saturday's 1-1 draw at Blackburn was well and good but it
is wins the Israeli needs now so it is not surprising to hear him urging
boardroom patience. The Upton Park chief said: "Since the big money came in,
since people came in who didn't have a football background, they think they
can push a button and everything comes good. "Football management today is a
mad job but we knew that from the start. It's still exciting but not good
all the time. We need to respect David Dein and Arsenal. "Despite the first
year with Arsene Wenger, they gave him a chance and things changed. The same
with Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. "If Alex and Arsene were starting
now I don't know what would happen. We could have missed out on the two best
managers in the world. But it doesn't change anything. I need to do my job.
"I believe in the future of West Ham - but we must do it step by step. We
can get through this difficult time. "We must do our best for the team and
deal with the problems."
West Ham have 13 points with just one game to go until the season's halfway
stage. Yet Grant is convinced their hopes of survival are better than
Pompey's last year even though history is against the bottom club on
Christmas Day. He said: "This year is different as I see the performances
we've had until now and the points gap. "Portsmouth could've stayed up
without any problems off the pitch. "Here the decisions are made on the
field. I can't say they're easy times but it's easier than when decisions
are taken off the pitch. I'm confident we can do it. "You saw today, despite
injuries, we came to a tough place and were a better side."
Reports last week suggested Grant needed to win one of his next three games
to save his job - so now he has only two left. But the ex-Chelsea chief
said: "I spoke with the owners and they didn't tell me this. We only spoke
about how we can make the team stronger in January."
Hammers target grand-Stan d finish
WEST HAM saviour Junior Stanislas insisted the players remain fully behind
under-pressure boss Avram Grant. The Upton Park board reportedly told the
Israeli last week he must win one of the next three matches to save himself
from the axe. But there was no suggestion he has lost the dressing room as
West Ham responded well to going behind early in the second half. Stanislas
rescued a point and, when you have only taken eight from a possible 75 on
your travels, anything is gratefully received. The winger said: "Everyone is
fully behind the manager. People might think the team spirit is not the best
because we're bottom of the league. "But everyone is pulling together, just
trying to stick together and get out of it. "Being bottom at Christmas
doesn't sound good but the belief is there and it has to be if we want to
get out of it. "It's not a mood of disappointment because we've come away
from home to a difficult place and got something from the game. "The manager
just said go on and try and get a goal and I got us a point near the end.
"But we really felt we could have had all three."
Hammers chase Ade on Loan
By ROB BEASLEY
WEST HAM are lining up an amazing January swoop for Emmanuel Adebayor. The
Hammers want Manchester City's wantaway Togo striker on loan to spearhead
their fight for Premier League survival. And owners David Sullivan and David
Gold are ready to bankroll the move to bring the former Arsenal star back to
the capital. An Upton Park insider said: "It's no secret Adebayor is unhappy
at City so we want to try and capitalise on that. "Obviously there'll be big
clubs after him in the summer but we have a chance of getting him here on
It is a dramatic plan to save the Hammers from the drop but it may be too
late for underfire boss Avram Grant. He has got just four games to save his
job with Gold and Sullivan demanding at least six points from the upcoming
festive matches. On current form that appears unlikely. They have managed
just 13 points from 18 games so far this season. But they do have a chance
as the games are against fellow strugglers Fulham, Everton and Wolves before
a trip north to face inconsistent Newcastle.
Grant determined to better Baggies' Christmas record and keep West Ham up
Published 14:51 19/12/10 By MirrorFootball
Avram Grant is determined that by May 2011 West Brom will no longer have the
claim to fame of being the only Premier League team to have been bottom at
Christmas and escaped relegation. Yesterday's 1-1 draw with Blackburn at
Ewood Park ensured the Hammers will have the unwanted distinction of
propping up the table next Saturday, two points behind Wolves and three
points adrift of safety. Bryan Robson's Baggies achieved the feat in the
2004/05 season despite only having 10 points at Christmas, three fewer than
West Ham, but in the 17 other years of the Premier League, there has been no
way back. Grant, though, believes his team's position is in no way
irretrievable, and said: "We don't want to leave this team alone. It's time
there will be one more team. "If it was two months to the end of the season
with this difference of points, nobody would think we cannot do it. We can
do it. As long as we show this spirit, I'm sure we can stay in the league."
The Hammers are yet to win away this season but they were entitled to feel a
touch unfortunate yesterday. A scrappy opener from Ryan Nelsen gave Rovers
the lead but the visitors responded well and probably deserved more than
Junior Stanislas' well-taken leveller. It was at least something to take
away from snowy Lancashire for Grant at the end of a week where he has faced
yet more speculation about his future at Upton Park. He again denied he has
been given an ultimatum by owners David Sullivan and David Gold, saying: "We
speak only about how to make the team stronger in January. "I have full
support about this. They're trying to do their best. They bought the team
with big, big debt and it's not easy but we need to do the best for the
The first priority for Grant, though, is to ensure his team show the same
character in Boxing Day's trip to Fulham. He continued: "It's very
encouraging because we will have a long way until the end of the season. Our
target is very clear, to stay in the league and more, and you can build it
only if you see in the difficult times spirit and character. Everybody saw
that from all the players."
In the opposing dug-out to the Israeli yesterday was Steve Kean, taking
charge of his first game as caretaker manager of Blackburn following the
shock sacking of Sam Allardyce. The decision by new owners Venky's has drawn
condemnation from across the football community, and Kean, who has already
expressed an interest in taking the role permanently, admitted he has no
idea how long he will be in the hotseat. "I've had a little bit of contact
with the owners," he said. "Hopefully we can open up the dialogue over the
next few days and get an idea of how we're going to take the club forward.
"I've just been told it's an interim period. There hasn't been a number of
games put on it or a period of time."
The 43-year-old, who was assistant manager to Chris Coleman at Fulham, Real
Sociedad and Coventry, certainly did not have the easiest of starts to his
management career, with boos at the final whistle and injuries to three key
players. Christopher Samba's ankle knock should heal quickly but Jason
Roberts is likely to miss nearly two months with a hamstring strain and,
worst of all, teenage defender Phil Jones faces the rest of the season on
the sidelines after sustaining suspected knee ligament damage. The
18-year-old, who has been playing in midfield this season, was set to have
an operation today, and his absence could force Rovers' hand in next month's
transfer window. "We've got long-term injuries," added Kean. "If Jason's out
for six or seven weeks, he's going to miss a lot of games, and Phil Jones
could probably be out for the season so we've got to take those injuries
"If we don't have any midfield players coming back quickly then we certainly
need a midfield player to help the lads."
Vinny's Blackburn Report
Vinny - Sun Dec 19 2010
West Ham Online
Blackburn Rovers 1 West Ham United 1
Despite an equalising goal from Junior Stanislas this was another poor
performance which continues to leave West Ham bottom of the league. The
positive to take from this game is that we did not lose and had chances to
win the game but lacking in quality as we are this makes this near
impossible to achieve.
Usually when we score an equalising goal late on in a game I would come away
pleased with the point but given our peril it really did little to raise my
spirits. Avram Grant has apparently been given three games to turn the
season around and whilst people may dislike ultimatums such as this he
surely didn't need someone to tell him this to work out that time is running
out as relegation looms. Much like against Sunderland there was very little
between the two sides but it just went to show how poor the Premiership
really is. With the snow falling all over the country this game was very
lucky to go ahead. I had been sure that the message that the game has been
postponed would come with just about every other game falling to the weather
but this was one of two Premiership games which were able to go ahead.
Avram Grant made a number of changes to the side who were well beaten
against Manchester City last weekend. In goal Robert Green was missing
through injury and with Marek Stech out also the goal keeping position was
taken up by Belgian Ruud Boffin who was making his debut for the club.
In defence, Danny Gabbidon returned in place of Julien Faubert who dropped
to the bench. This saw Gabbidon go to left back with Ben Haim on the right
hand side. In midfield Junior Stanislas was dropped to the bench in favour
of Luis Boa Morte. Valon Behrami had been due to start but injury in the
warm up forced him out and Jonathan Spector continued in the centre of
midfield alongside Scott Parker. In the forward positions Victor Obinna was
missing and replaced by Kieron Dyer. The substitutes bench saw Under 18 Goal
Keeper Jake Larkins named due to the lack of fit goal keepers and Benni
McCarthy was also on the bench hoping to make an impact against his former
With only a few minutes on the clock Blackburn won a free kick after a
clumsy challenge from Gabbidon. Whilst replays show that he did not make
contact it was still a still tackle to make. Stepping up to take the free
kick was Gamst Pedersen but the shot was deflected away for a corner. Our
first half chance came after a long ball from Boa Morte into space which
Piquionne kept in play the French forward showed good skill to beat his man
but instead of picking out a team mate in the area he attempted a shot from
an impossible angle and it went over the bar.
Another long ball forward saw Piquionne nod the ball down for Spector to
strike but his shot went way over the bar to the delight of the Blackburn
It was a poor half with both teams giving the ball away at every
opportunity. There was no flow to the game and neither side could claim they
were on top. We did have the ball in the back of the net midway through the
half after Piquionne had put Kieron Dyer through but he was about a mile
offside when he really didn't need to be. This would be a theme of Dyer's
Another clumsy tackle from Gabbidon gave Blackburn a free kick in almost the
same area as they previously had taken it from. Pedersen again was the taker
and he got it up over the wall but Boffin was equal to it making a flying
save and caught the ball in the process. With half time approaching we
should have taken the lead when Boa Morte played a quite sublime pass
through the Blackburn defence to Piquionne who instead of going across the
goal as most normal strikers would do he hit a shot which didn't even hit
A similar opportunity would follow with Piquionne turning provider for Boa
Morte who hit a left foot shot which was saved by Paul Robinson and away for
a corner. As the half had gone on we had definitely improved and going in at
half time I think most of the West Ham fans could sense that this game was
there for the taking if we could get our final ball sorted out. I had been
puzzled at what sort of formation we were playing because whilst it seemed
that it was a 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 Dyer had been playing all over the place and was
frequently finding himself in a central area.
The second half began with a reckless tackle by Ben Haim on Mame Diouf which
saw the Israeli booked by referee Mike Dean. Our attacking game was all
about the counter but when we did find space and had players running forward
the final pass would often be so poor and this was shown when Piquionne had
a number of players in space but his pass was straight to a player in a
Blackburn shirt much to the frustration of the fans.
With only six minutes on the clock during the second half Blackburn took the
lead. A corner was not dealt with as Boffin came and flapped but the danger
seemed to have been averted as Barrera was in possession and all he needed
to do was clear the ball but he failed to do this gifting the ball back to
Brett Emerton who turned Barrera and put in an excellent cross which fell to
the Blackburn centre half Neilson whose initial shot was superbly saved by
Boffin but he managed to bundle the ball over the line.
Avram Grant immediately made two changes with both Junior Stanislas and
Carlton Cole entering the field of play. Coming off was Pablo Barrera and
Jonathan Spector. Cole would have a chance to score just after the hour mark
when Kieron Dyer played a neat exchange of passes with Parker and his cross
found Cole but he didn't seem ready for the ball and the ball just seemed to
bounce off him and go wide. At this point we were the only side doing the
attacking with Blackburn happy to let us have the ball and come at them. The
equaliser should have been found when Stanislas played a good cross into the
area and the ball bounced off the defender for Upson to hit a left foot shot
which bounced off the post and wide.
Players and fans had hands on their head for what was a glorious opportunity
to get us back into the game. Everyone seemed to be cursing out luck at this
point and maybe there is some truth in what people say about luck when you
are down the bottom. An excellent pass from Parker put Cole through down the
right hand side but he was easily brushed off the ball and into the snow by
the Blackburn defender. From the resulting corner from Stanislas the ball
was planted directly on the head of Piquionne but his header went over the
bar when he should have hit the target.
We were having lots of the ball and I was just hoping that we could get that
bit of luck which would see us get a goal that on the balance of play we
deserved. The goal did come with twelve minutes remaining and it did see
luck and a good finish play a part. It was another brave skilful run from
Scott Parker who with his quick feet burst into the area for the ball to be
deflected out to Junior Stanislas who curled a right foot shot past the
keeper to make it 1-1. It was a good finish from Stanislas and now we were
all hoping that we could go on to win this game.
Space was still being found but when you have players like Carlton Cole who
cannot do anything but play a comedy game it is always going to be
difficult. Cole had the ball with space to run into but his pass just hit
the heel of Stanislas in another farcical Cole moment. Blackburn thought
they had scored when a corner was eventually put into the net by David Dunn
only for the referee to blow for an earlier found much to the relief of
everyone connected to West Ham.
Kieron Dyer was replaced by Benni McCarthy with under ten minutes to go. The
South African was not greeted warmly but the Blackburn fans but the reaction
was little different to that of the West Ham supporters who have still yet
to see anything positive from him. He did have a chance to get a shot in on
goal after a counter attack saw Parker play the ball into his path but he
trod on the ball and it was cleared. This was a clear indication of a player
who is out of fitness and way out of form. We did have a chance to grab the
winner when another counter attack saw Piquionne in acres of space and he
burst forward with Parker running back post and Cole dragging the defenders
away but as Piquionne hung the ball in the air the Blackburn defender got a
touch on the ball to head it away from Parker.
As injury time approached it was Blackburn who had come back into the game
and looked more likely to get the winning goal especially when Boa Morte
fouled Emerton on the edge of the area with a stupid tackle. This saw Boa
Morte booked and by my calculations this was his fifth booking of the season
which would see him suspended for the next game. The resulting free kick had
nails bitten off by myself but despite having the power the shot from
Pedersen went wide. So the points shared and we come away from yet another
away game without a victory. Bottom at Christmas and a performance which
doesn't give me too much hope that things are going to change any time soon.
Like many younger keepers he was suspect at coming for crosses but his shot
stopping seemed of good quality. Was unlucky with the goal in the respect
that he made an excellent point blank save but when down at the bottom you
get little luck and it was bundled over the line.
Tal Ben Haim
I don't like Ben Haim. His passing is awful, his behaviour on the pitch is
questionable and whilst he likes to give the opposition players a kick his
overall performance was poor.
Won a number of headers throughout the game and was dominant in the air.
Should have scored in the second half with a shot that hit the post.
Not for the first time over the last few games I thought Tomkins put in a
good performance and it looking a lot more confident. He was stronger in the
challenge than he has been previously and seemed to have a lot more
aggression to his game.
Awkward at left back but without a recognised left back we have little
choice but to play him there with Ilunga missing. My problem with Gabbidon
during the game was the silly tackles and lack of judgement which is odd for
a player of his experience.
At this moment in time Barrera is way out of his depth and should not be
starting for any Premiership team.
Had a decent first half and kept working. For me he and Parker as a midfield
duo will not work as they will both try and play the same game. That said,
Spector has shown that he can be a reasonable stop gap in the event Parker
does get injured or suspended.
The heartbeat of the team once again and without him I do not know what we
would do as he just makes everything happen. He made so many interceptions
in the first half and seems to always be the player to drive the team
Luis Boa Morte
A patchy performance from Boa Morte which is not unusual. He will do some
good things like make a strong tackle or play some brilliant pass through
but then he will give away free kicks, give away possession cheaply and
frustrate the fuck out everyone.
Not sure where he was playing but he had little impact on the game. Only in
the second half did we see glimpses of his ability but he kept getting
caught offside and he didn't seem to know where he was meant to be playing.
A extremely frustrating performance from Piquionne who made wrong decisions
throughout the game. His shooting was off, his passing was poor and to stay
up we need more in the striking positions.
Junior Stanislas (on for Barrera 56 mins)
Was brought on to make an impact and he certainly did that. Always looked to
get forward with the ball and play a positive pass and of course he scored
Carlton Cole (on for Spector 56 mins)
Poor on the ball. Poor off it. Never looked like scoring and every time he
gets the ball you expect him to fuck it up. I believe he believes the same.
Benni McCarthy (on for Dyer 82 mins)
A waste of space and would have made no difference if we were playing with
Subs Not Used: Larkins, Reid, Faubert
Bookings: Ben Haim, Tomkins, Boa Morte
Man Of The Match : Scott Parker
Blackburn Rovers: Robinson, Salgado, Nelsen, Samba (Jones 57), Givet,
Emerton, Duff, Pedersen, E-H Diouf, Roberts (Benjani 10), M-B Diouf
Subs: Bunn, Olsson, Hanley, Hoilett, Kalinic
As mentioned last week, if we do not start to win games how exactly are we
expecting to stay up?
It was good that we managed not lose another game and that we battled to the
end to get the point but our lack of quality is startling.
In fairness you can point to the injury list and having players such as
Noble, Collison, Behrami, Obinna, and Hitzlesperger on the sidelines will
have an impact as all those players would walk into the side at the moment.
The question on everyone's lips at the moment is can we survive and I don't
know about anyone else but I cannot see how we are going to do so playing
like we are playing.
Next Game – Fulham (a)
If there was ever a game to finally get an away win then surely it is this
one against a Fulham side who are struggling themselves. It is vital that we
come away with all three points and a defeat here will surely see the end of
Avram Grant as West Ham manager.
We need to go there and fight and show quality on the ball and make sure our
final pass is to a player in a Claret & Blue shirt.
I can't predict because I feel we are going to lose every game at the moment
and I have no confidence in the team or the manager that we can get out of
We all need something to show us that this team isn't that bad and can
produce results. I hope this is Boxing Day.
I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and here is to West Ham serving
up some wins as the perfect present.
The View From Avram
"It's a good point, It's a draw away from home. We deserved more than this
but we had to come back from one-nil down. I'm happy with a point."
"I'm very impressed with the supporters. If I could give them something I
would give them the point and they could take it home with them! They were
behind us and their support when we were 1-0 down was superb. They respected
the effort that we gave and we also respect their effort and if I could give
them the point I would because they deserve it.
"I think the last two weeks have been the worst weather since I arrived in
England five years ago."
"The spirit was very good and I was very impressed with this. A lot of the
players have given everything even when things were not going well at the
beginning of the season. The substitutes did well, too."
"It was a good performance and the save before the goal was a good save. We
know from the training that he is a good goalkeeper."
Redknapp won't move for Parker in January
December 19, 2010
Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp has ruled out a move for West Ham star
Scott Parker in January - although he admits that he rates the player
highly. With Tom Huddlestone a long-term absentee, Redknapp is set to pounce
for a central midfielder in the January window, with Parker reportedly top
of his shopping list. But Redknapp, who has taken Tottenham into the first
knockout stage of the Champions League, does not believe that chairman
Daniel Levy will be willing to stump up the cash for Parker. "I like Parker,
but he belongs to West Ham," Redknapp said. "He will be 31 next birthday and
they will want £15million. Daniel [Levy] wouldn't buy players of that age,
on big wages with no sell-on." Despite Spurs' paucity of options in central
midfield, Redknapp is willing to let Jamie O'Hara, who impressed on loan at
Portsmouth last term, leave the club. "O'Hara needs to play. He would be
better off playing somewhere than not playing," he said. "He would do a good
job for someone in the Prem."
West Ham United Facing £40 Million Fire-Sale Of Players If They Are
Relegated From Premier League
Dec 19, 10:15 am EST
The West Ham board believe that Parker is one of their biggest assets and
could bring in as much as £8m to the club. Other players likely to leave
Upton Park would be Liverpool target Carlton Cole, England goalkeeper Robert
Green and midfielder Mark Noble, who are expected to fetch at least £15m for
the struggling London side. The problem for chief executive Karren Brady
will be to generate the remaining cash from highly-paid veterans of the
squad such as Kieron Dyer and Matthew Upson. Central defender Upson is out
of contract in the summer and expected to leave Avram Grant's side on a free
transfer, while Dyer is unlikely to attract many suitors given his high wage
demands and poor injury record. The Premier League's 'parachute payments' of
£30m, which the Hammers will receive if they are indeed relegated, are
unlikely to ease the financial burden on the club. The precarious financial
situation has come about thanks to West Ham's previous Icelandic owner's
willingness to spend big money on wages in order to chase success on the
pitch. However, due to the economic slump in 2008 and poor performances in
the Premier League, that ill-starred strategy has come back to haunt the
East-London side, whose current tenure in the top-flight has so far lasted
five-and-a-half seasons since they gained promotion in 2005. Co-owners David
Gold and David Sullivan have worked wonders to bring down the spiralling
debt in their short time at the club. However, the challenge may prove too
great even for them to overcome without a mass sale if the club do indeed go
Hang on to Avram? You may as well save Green Shield stamps
By MARTIN SAMUEL
Last updated at 7:42 AM on 20th December 2010
Avram Grant says he manages each game at West Ham as if it is his last.
There is a reason for that. It should be. Grant has three games to save his
job, apparently. That was after the three games he had to save it earlier in
the year. And the Save Our Season match at home to Wigan. Who knows what
they will be saving next at Upton Park? Green Shield Stamps, maybe. They
would be about as much use. Meanwhile, as the club continues its seemingly
inevitable journey towards the Championship, Grant maintains the
chuckle-headed mantra that fortunes are on the upturn. It is said you can't
fool all of the people all of the time, but he has cleverly succeeded in
fooling the two that matter: David Sullivan and David Gold, joint owners of
a club they will surely steer over the precipice unless change is made.
At this rate, West Ham will be relegated quite early. They have taken 13
points from 18 games at an average of 0.72 points per match. Multiply that
through the season and West Ham finish on 27.4 points, a total that would
mean demotion in every one of the Premier League's 18 seasons, take bottom
spot in 11 of them and 19th place in six more. The highest 27 points would
have taken any team is 18th in 2002-03, when West Bromwich finished with 26
points and Sunderland with 19. With the revelation that without Premier
League football there is a £40million black hole in West Ham's accounts —
and that is a conservative estimate, allegedly the figure is nearer £50m —
the cost of relegation appears devastating. Actually, it is even worse than
imagined. The more West Ham dwell in the shadow of relegation and a perilous
financial future, the less appealing it becomes to hand them the keys to a
national project, such as London's Olympic Stadium. That leaves Tottenham as
the only game in town.
West Ham could end up in the Championship, their best players sold, with a
Premier League-Champions League club in a new 60,000 capacity stadium on
their doorstep. The fallow ground of London's east would be surrendered,
with West Ham as the poor relations. Unless Sullivan and Gold's big idea
was to reinvent the place as an upscale Leyton Orient, this is catastrophic.
Put simply, relegation this season could have the most far-reaching
consequences of any setback for a major football club in modern times,
changing its dynamic, perhaps for ever. Leeds dropped two divisions but
will return one day — perhaps next season — as a significant force in a
one-club city. West Ham risk losing not just their Premier League status,
but influence over their traditional territory. It seems incredible that
Sullivan and Gold would speak of owning West Ham as a lifelong dream and
then allow this to happen.
Are these men fools? Or is there some other factor motivating them to hang
onto a failing manager All because they are determined to show loyalty to
their manager — or are too mean to pay him off. What other reason is there
to persevere with Grant when better men are available? Sam Allardyce,
recently sacked by the new regime at Blackburn, has a fine track record in
adversity. Grant, too, has experience of relegation battles, but not
Taking his time at Portsmouth and West Ham into account, he has been bottom
of the Premier League for all but three weeks in the last year and, even
without the 10-point deduction, Portsmouth would have been relegated with
him in charge. No wonder Grant asks to be judged on factors beyond league
position, as if with an established system of meritocracy tried and
available we should now be looking at the unquantifiable for clues. Yet
even if we do, the evidence mounts up against him. Are West Ham playing
better football than last season? No. Have transfer dealings improved
greatly? No. Is the future brighter? No. Has Grant introduced and improved
young players? No. Has he made the club more appealing? No. Is he getting
more out of the first-team group? No.
Prized asset? Will Scott Parker fetch a hefty sum if West Ham go down? Then
what are these elements that Grant believes will state his case? Maybe he
cuts a lovely orange at half-time or always lines the team bus up nice and
straight in the car park. Maybe he is a master of deadpan comedy like Max
Whatever his talent, it is in a field that is not immediately visible to the
neutral, because in what there is to be seen, he is a bust. There is almost
charming naivety in the speculation over how West Ham will resolve their
financial difficulties in the event of relegation. A fire sale of top
players is predicted, but that never generates the money that is expected.
It is not a sellers' market when a club needs to balance the books, as West
Ham discovered the last time they fell from the Premier League. After a
season in Division One they were forced to cash in on Michael Carrick,
receiving £2.75m from Spurs. After two seasons at White Hart Lane, he was
sold to Manchester United for £18.6m. So forget the idea that West Ham will
happily trade Scott Parker, Rob Green or Mark Noble; they will get the going
rate for a club facing financial oblivion. West Ham's best player when the
club went down in 2003 was Joe Cole. He was 21 and regarded by some as the
most naturally gifted English midfield player since Paul Gascoigne. He went
to Chelsea, as one of the first money-no-object signings of new owner Roman
Abramovich. The fee was £6.6m — so how much can West Ham hope to accrue from
the sale of the uncapped Noble, or from Parker, who will be 31 in October?
Even Chelsea have grown wise to the wiles of the market place. What are they
waiting for at West Ham? It will not cost ostensibly more to remove Grant in
the summer than it would now, except in real terms, with a bill of £40m, and
Tottenham's tanks parked permanently on a Stratford lawn.
At which point it will be too late to change anything at all.
Pulling a Rabbit (or Three!) Out of the Transfer Window Hat!
West Ham, Till I Die
The Blackburn Rovers match was yet aother that we should have won. Once
again, the team played well, without having the quality to put Blackburn to
the sword when they got the chance. If Upson and Piquionne had taken their
respective chances it is 1-3 and a valuable three points. It has been that
way all season and there is a real danger that West Ham could just slide
out of the PL at this rate. The Board need to wake up and stop this drift
into oblivion before it really is too late. Forget about the being bottom
at Christmas statistic, that's all it is a statistic. Men make their own
history and decisive action can still see us avoid the nightmare of
relegation. If that means the board owning up to making a mistake and
spending c.£5m to save £40m plus, further down the track, then so be it!
The speculation about the vulnerability of Avram Grant's position continues
to circulate, without any signs of decisive action. The West Ham Board
appear to have be caught between 'the Devil and a hard place' on this
issue. They are clearly loath to admit that the appointment has been
unsuccessful, while the probable compensation payout is almost certainly an
key issue in their decision-making. But you cannot keep drawing and
re-drawing a line in the sand. A points tally was allegedly specified for
the Birmingham, WBA and Blackpool matches and we now understand that a
victory is required over the next three matches (as if that is likely to be
good enough return in our current position!).
Perhaps these stories are all inaccurate, a media invention? Perhaps the
Board genuinely believe in Grant's appointment and are consequently
resisting the calls for his head. Regardless, they must get this key
decision right or there will be a massive supporter backlash if we find
ourselves in the Championship next season. But I am sure they know that
already! They should look at Spurs in 2008-09 for instruction, they acted
decisively to replace Ramos with Redknapp and the ultimate proof that they
got it right is a top 5 place in the PL and inclusion in the last 16 of the
Champions League! I wonder if Spurs would be in a very different place if
they had vacillated in their decision-making at that crucial juncture?
The management situation is constantly in the background and it is difficult
to separate it from the club's plans for the forthcoming winter transfer
window. However, whether the status quo continues or there is change
afoot, the fact is that West Ham have got to pull out all the stops in
January. We need some inspired signings to help boost the quality of the
squad and turn things around. Think of the purchase of Keith Robson, Billy
Jennings, Bobby Gould and AlanTaylor in 1974-75; or Hartson and Paul Kitson
in the 1990s; or Lucas Neill in 2006-07. All pivotal signings that 'saved'
the seasons in question! Somehow, somewhere we need to find some similiar
Easier said than done I know, but we have to try. It is no good lapsing in
to resignation that good quality signings are impossible and that we are
consequently and inevitably doomed to relegation. We are only three points
from safety and we have got to try to make the changes, and put in the
performances, that will really 'save our season. Because all talk of
relegation not being a massive threat to the club is complacent. This is
not 1978-79, where a club could step down, retain its best players,
re-organise and come back stronger. The financial and other consequences of
relegation are likely to be massive. As a club, in our recent history
(post-1958), we have always bounced back fairly quickly from relegation, but
it is not a foregone conclusion. We are all aware of the fate of the
Wimbledons, Charltons and Leeds Utds and we must not go done that route.
We must avoid the initial fall, to stop all possibility of it degenerating
in to a total collapse.
The whole club needs a lift. And the Board must try to pull out the stops
to provide it in January. Most of us are not certain about the nature of
the financial constraints or the policy of the banks, that continue to hold
our debts, regarding investment in the transfer market. But there must be a
way of generating the funds to make a splash in the market and it is the
sole responsibility of the Board to find it. Full stop! Yet, even if they
do it, there is still the question of using those resources to the best net
effect in a tough transfer market. This then brings us back, full-circle,
to our the managerial situation and the list of possible transfer targets.
Oh, how we could do with one or three of the rabbits that Harry Redknapp
used to periodically pull out of the transfer hat in days gone by (i.e.
Bilic, Reiper, Dani, etc)!
Yes, I know about the difficulties in bringing decent players to a club
engaged in a relegation struggle; I know how difficult it is to do business
in the January window; and I know about the alleged financial constraints on
the club. But the fact is that the club must not be paralysed and defeated
by the obstacles that confronts it. The club must ultimately find a way to
circumvent them to secure their goal(s). That's the key and the challenge
to the people that currently control this great club of ours!
Forget the Easter Bunny! We need a rabbit or three pulled out of the
transfer window hat in January! If we can do that and our existing players
also start consistently delivering the goods, then survival is still
possible. But it has to happen soon. Once we pass in to the New Year then
time will be increasingly be against us!
In the mean time the existing squad could improve our situation markedly
this Christmas period. We face Fulham (26/12), Everton (28/12) and Wolves
(1/11) in a sequence of crunch matches. Can this group of players dig deep
and pull out the performances that the club so desperately need? I really
hope so? We all recognise the need for quality additions in January, but
let us not forget that in the 'great escape' of 2006-07 the 'coming good' of
existing players was also a decisive factor in our survival. The likes of
Tomkins, Stanislas, Obinna, et al, can still play an important role in the
relegation fight, ahead of the arrival of any possible reinforcements in the