Steve Lomas was pleased with his players' commitment in drawing 1-1 at Sunderland on Tuesday
Steve Lomas declared himself satisfied with the long day's work put in by his players in gaining a 1-1 Barclays Premier Reserve League draw at Sunderland. With the first-team squad away in Portugal, a youthful West Ham United team made the 18-hour, 550-mile round-trip to Wearside on Tuesday. The youngsters showed no ill-effects from their 4.30am alarm call by taking a first-half lead through second-year scholar left-back Callum Driver's superb individual goal. Sunderland hit back through John Egan's second-half header, but the Hammers quickly regrouped and could easily have been awarded a late penalty when the same player appeared to bring down Frank Nouble. Lomas told whufc.com he was happy with many aspects of his side's play, but conceded that there are areas of the game where they can and will improve in the future. "Overall, I think we've got to be pleased. It was a long day - five hours on the coach there and five hours back - so from the preparation side of it, it wasn't ideal, but it went as well as could be expected.
"The game itself was a positive. We probably should have won but then again one-all was maybe fair result. We should have had a penalty at the end, basically. "I was disappointed with the manner in which we conceded a goal from a set piece but sometimes that happens. In the first half we didn't pass the ball well enough, but we got better after the break and that is something we can do better in future. "I certainly can't fault the lads' application. They dug in and worked ever so hard for each other so, overall, I'm pleased but there are definitely things to work on."
Aside from their goal, Sunderland created precious few clear-cut chances - a fact Lomas put down to his players' hard work from front to back. "I think, even though they dominated the ball in the first 30 minutes, they didn't really create anything. "The big, big plus for me was our back four. I thought they were very, very good. Callum McNaughton played very well and the two full-backs got up and back for 90 minutes, which was probably the most pleasing thing for me. "I thought Frank Nouble worked hard up front on his own and showed a good appetite for the game. "I think the midfield know that they could have passed it a bit better. I can't fault their application and work-rate, but I think they were disappointed in themselves and that's a good sign when players know themselves whether they have played well or not. "We've got things to work on but, overall, to come away from home and get a point means you've got to be delighted."
Lomas spent an extended period with his defenders - full-backs Driver and Filip Modelski and centre-backs McNaughton and Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson - in the pre-match warm-up, discussing the need to communicate and maintain a good shape and discipline to their play, both individually and collectively. "I'd have loved to have got a clean sheet, especially after last week [a 3-2 home victory over Arsenal] and as it establishes you if you can't play in the next game. "That would have been a classic result if we could have got a clean sheet because it gives you a chance to nick a win even if you have not played well. "Unfortunately, we conceded and it didn't happen, so that is something I'd like us to work on."
While clean sheets are clearly one of the new manager's priorities, Lomas is also eager for his full-backs to get themselves heavily involved in the game at the attacking end of the pitch. Aside from Driver's goal, he and Modelski repeatedly overlapped their wide midfielder and, at times, even went past lone striker Nouble. "I like my full-backs to attack and for them to go down the flanks and join in and overlap. In the modern game, full-backs are almost like wide men. "I was pleased with the back four aside from the one set piece, but overall it was a long day and I was pleased with their appetite. "There are things we can improve on and things we can work on, like our passing and movement which weren't good enough at times, but those are things we can work on."
West Ham's reserves return to action next Tuesday evening, when Newcastle United are the visitors to the Boleyn Ground. Kick-off is at 7pm, with admission priced at £3 for Adults and £2 for Under-16s. Season ticket holders are admitted free of charge.
Positive progress in Portugal]
The Hammers are making the most of mild weather and excellent facilities on their training camp
West Ham United have made the most of fantastic facilities in Portugal this week to step up their training under Avram Grant's watchful eye before the FA Cup trip to Stoke City.
The Hammers are on the Algarve on a three-day training camp, and there has been the welcome sight of Jack Collison getting involved. Collison is coming back after a year out with a serious knee injury but has been able to take part in some of the warm-weather sessions, while Robbie Keane is stepping up from the light training he did at the end of last week.
Senior coach Paul Groves said: "Jack has joined in on the odd occasion and it has been good to have him involved. This trip has been the ideal opportunity for him. We will be cautious as he has been out for a year but it is positive to have him with us. We don't want to rush it, though.
"All in all, it has been a very positive experience so far. The weather has been mild and we have the perfect environment for training. We had a heavy thunderstorm overnight which made the pitch ideal and cleared the air.
"The grass is quick, slick and it is a superb playing surface. I'd say we have seen an increase in our levels of quality. The extra enthusiasm the players get from a good surface and new surroundings is plain to see and we have had some really good sessions."
In all, 27 players have made the trip, including Dylan Tombides - with the manager showing faith in the promising striker after some impressive reserve-team displays. It continued the manager's commitment to giving youth a chance - after several homegrown Hammers previously went on the summer camp to Austria - in the best traditions of the club.
Tombides took centre stage on Tuesday, and not just because he was celebrating his 17th birthday. More noticeable was that he was the only squad member to succeed in a training crossbar challenge - hitting the bar from the halfway line - in a skills test filmed by Portuguese television.
"It is a great atmosphere," added Groves. "We are making use of the fantastic facilities and great accommodation. It has been good to get everyone away and it will help the younger ones to develop. Dylan will benefit from it but also the likes of Mark Noble, James Tomkins and Scott Parker who have been training non-stop will get as much of a lift as well."
The manager has also taken the opportunity to push the positives in Portugal, with special mention of two established names rising to the challenge. Mark Noble has been recognised for adding several assists in recent weeks - he had a hand in all three goals at West Brom, two against Burnley and the first against Stoke City on Saturday - while Carlton Cole has hit a rich vein of scoring form with six goals in eight games.
The Hammers' four winter recruits - Wayne Bridge, Gary O'Neil, Demba Ba and Robbie Keane - have also had their first taste of being away with their new team-mates. As well as the use of the gym and pool facilities, there has been a chance for some to have a round of golf. In the evenings, there has been a quiz and even an impromptu karaoke night to lighten the mood.
"It has been a big plus to help integrate the new players even more," added Groves. "They have come into the fold without a pre-season and this has given them the opportunity to blend in even more. All the little bits of the trip have added to the atmosphere.
"It has bought the group together and solidified the team spirit. Just simple things like eating together and mixing together has made the group even stronger. On the back of the good form, it has kept everything moving forward. The win on Saturday has gone a long way to making this trip as good as it has been."
Jack on the way back
A chance to get back in the thick of the action has left Jack Collison in high spirits
Jack Collison was busy in the gym as he talked about a "positive few days for everyone" as West Ham United continued the hard work at a three-day training camp in Portugal. The young midfielder was delighted to be able to join in some parts of the team's training sessions in the Algarve after a year-long recovery from a serious knee injury. And the work was not over for the squad when they left the perfect pitches, as they carried on inside the gymnasium and training facilities. "As I am talking to you now, I am on the exercise bike," he said. "I have some of the other lads in here with me as well, so we are all working hard. "People often think that these trips are just days away but I can assure you we are all being put through our paces. It is nice for everyone to have a bit of a different scene, be together 24/7 and also for us to get to know the new boys who joined us recently as we haven't really had a chance to do that."
For Collison himself, after an often solitary haul in the past 12 months during his rehab, the chance to be part of the group again was also a massive boost.
"When you are out for a long time and are doing rehab, it is a lonely time. Everyone has been really good to me and you still feel part of the team, but you are often doing stuff on your own and can't just go and join the rest of them out there on the training pitch. "So for me, this is great and to be back properly amongst the banter as well - as you can imagine that is flying around in plenty supply. To be moving forward in what I am doing training wise, and getting towards the goal of returning to play football again, is great. "The training has been sharp, we are all working hard and it's been really good."
The spirit was already boosted by three wins in the last three matches for the Hammers and Collison said the few days at the training camp had only strengthened that. "We have had a good spirit all season to be fair, despite it being a difficult season on the pitch, but we have had a good few positive days here and there's a real bond. It is nice to have come here on the back of the wins we have had lately, but everyone has in mind the next game and the massive games we have coming up. "For me personally, it has been about stepping up what I am doing and taking it all as it comes. I will continue to take each session as it comes and work my way back. I want to be ready to play my part again for the team."
While Collison is still one of the younger members of the team, he was able to put his experience gained so far towards young team-mate Dylan Tombides, who joined the first-team at the camp. "Dylan has settled in well. We all know what a good little player he is and he is grabbing the chance to show what he can do in training. I have done exactly the same as him, started in the youth team and made my way through and remember joining the first team like this, so we are making sure he is OK. "He is rooming with Freddie Sears and myself, and the likes of James Tomkins and Mark Noble and all the senior lads, who have all shared the same experience, have been helping him. He is a good lad. "It is nice to see the next generation of Hammers coming through so hopefully we will see a lot more of Dylan for the future."
The young striker who has turned 17 during the team's stay at the training camp, was wished 'Happy Birthday' by all and managed to eclipse his team-mates by being the only one to hit the target in a crossbar challenge after training. "Yeah, he was good on that," Collison added. "He can't have a beer or anything to celebrate though, as he is still too young at 17."
While the hard work continued in preparation for Sunday's game at Stoke, the team were treated to a few hours on the golfing green and an enjoyable evening was spent on the karaoke microphones - of which it seems a few musical stars have been born. "We did have an evening of karaoke and we were led in that department by the man we are calling Mr Bombastic - Carlton Cole! He was pretty good. "Pablo [Barrera] has a new nickname of 'Snake Hips' for his moves, but you can't say quite the same for Gary [O'Neil] who was a bit stiff. Still he made the effort! "It was good and as I say, there are some new faces, changes have been made since the start of the season, so it was good to get together like this. "There are some massive games coming up and we want to win them. We have a great momentum from the last few games and we want to keep that going. We have nine league games left and a chance to get into the FA Cup semi-finals if we beat Stoke on Sunday. "There is a lot to go for and everyone, after what has been a positive few days here, is ready for the challenge. "For me, my aim is to just get back playing and hopefully, if I can, play a part in helping us finish the season on a positive note."
'It really does give you a boost'
The Joint-Chairman David Gold has personally said 'Thank you' to those who have sent him goodwill messages
David Gold has personally thanked fans for continuing to send their best wishes to him via the club and fan websites. He has been at home this week as he continues his recovery from cholangitis - an infection of the common bile duct - and septicaemia. The club has been inundated with emails and phone calls from concerned Hammers fans, as well as receiving kind words from supporters of other clubs. In a personal message, the Joint-Chairman said: "I have been inundated with an incredible amount of good wishes and it has made such a difference. What with winning two vitally important games and having people think of you like that, it really does give you a boost. It is of course great that people care and it is very nice to receive such kind words.
"I do genuinely thank everybody that has shown concern. It has been a difficult couple of weeks but I am over the worst. I have got a bit to go but I hope to be back for the Manchester United match early next month."
Chairman thanks well-wishers
Filed: Wednesday, 9th March 2011
By: Staff Writer
David Gold has sent a message of thanks to all those wishing him well during his recent illness. West Ham United's co-chairman, who has been absent from both of West Ham's last two games - the wins against Liverpool and Stoke - said: "I have been inundated with an incredible amount of good wishes and it has made such a difference. "What with winning two vitally important games and having people think of you like that, it really does give you a boost. It is of course great that people care and it is very nice to receive such kind words. "I do genuinely thank everybody that has shown concern. It has been a difficult couple of weeks but I am over the worst. I have got a bit to go but I hope to be back for the Manchester United match early next month."
Gold was released from hospital last week having spent several days being treated for septicaemia (blood poisoning) and cholangitis, an infection of the common bile duct. Having recovered sufficiently, the 74-year-old - who managed to watch both of the recent victories from his bedside - has now returned to hospital where he will undergo a planned operation within the next few days. West Ham's next two games are both away - at Stoke (13 March) and Tottenham (19 March) - before title contenders Manchester United visit the Boleyn Ground on 2nd April.
It's all about the confidence
Filed: Wednesday, 9th March 2011
By: Staff Writer
West Ham first team coach Wally Downes is looking ahead to the remainder of the season - and insists that the importance of two good cup runs cannot be underestimated. Downes, 49, joined West Ham last November following the departure of former assistant manager Zeljko Petrovic. He will once again be alongside Avram Grant in the dugout at the Brittania Stadium this weekend as West Ham take on Stoke in the FA Cup quarter final. With West Ham's recent resurgence lifting them into the higher echelons of the Premier League's current form table, United go into the game as slight favourites - a position the popular coach credits to this season's successful Carling and FA Cup runs.
"Confidence is all important when you are struggling, so winning games is all important," he told thefa.com. "This season I have no doubt that winning cup games has instilled confidence and a winning mentality that will be vital on the run-in. Long may it continue."
For the winners, a trip to Wembley awaits as both semi finals are once again being held at the national stadium. And for Downes, the game represents a second opportunity this season to eradicate one of his biggest disappointments - leaving former club WImbledon just weeks before they pulled off one of the Cup's greatest shocks of all time when beating Liverpool 1-0 in the 1988 Final. "I wasn't getting a game under Bobby Gould so I decided to get away after the Watford win in the sixth round," he told thefa.com. "I'd left [Wimbledon] and gone to Sheffield United; I was in a hotel in Bristol awaiting a play-off game when the final was played. "Looking back I'd like to have stayed and been part of the day as that would have been the last page on a magnificent story for me. But it was great to see all my friends for all that time top off all the hard work with the win."
West Ham face Stoke at the Brittania Stadium this Sunday; the game kicks off at 2pm and is being broadcast live by ITV from 1:35pm (UK only).
JT: we fear no-one
Filed: Wednesday, 9th March 2011
By: Staff Writer
James Tomkins says that he and his team mates should fear nobody as they look ahead to a string of difficult fixtures. West Ham travel to Stoke this weekend for the FA Cup quarter final clash ahead of a trio of daunting Premier League fixtures - Tottenham (away), Man Utd (home) and Bolton (away).
However the young centre half feels West Ham are more than a match for anybody since the squad was boosted by the return of several injured players and January's arrivals.
"The team's full of confidence at the minute. There's a good team spirit and a feeling that we can get out of the situation we're in," he told West Ham TV. "Everyone's up for the task, we proved it [against Stoke] and if we keep scoring goals the way we are we're going to be a hard team to beat. "I think the last few games has made us not fear anyone at the minute. Any team that we come up against now, we feel we can give them a game - especially at home with the way the fans are. They've been unbelievable and if we can keep that going, keep playing the way we have been then I think we can give any team a game.
"It's good to see all the players coming back from injury, the team's looking really big and strong. That's what we need with the situation we're in, we need players around us and players that can come off the bench and change the game. They're doing that at the minute and if we keep scoring goals and keeping clean sheets at the same time we're going to be a good force."
Lessons in life
Filed: Wednesday, 9th March 2011
By: Ian Sherman
In my previous article, I discussed how being a fan of West Ham United has taught me lessons in how to live my life that I wouldn't have learned by supporting a more successful team. It sounds like I'm obsessed but I get upset when people tell me that football is 'just a game'. Actually, I have been more than upset on occasion and almost flown into a rage, swear words pouring out of my mouth. I stand by my convictions though – it is more than just a game.
I don't say this just because it means so much to me and influences my mood so heavily. I say it because I also believe that football (and many other sports) can help develop positive character traits. This takes me back to an essay that I had to write at university on the social history of sport (I studied and loved history and needless to say, I really enjoyed writing that particular essay). I won't bore you with too many details but one section of that essay focused on how the better-off Victorians thought that they could help decrease the violence and alcoholism of the working classes by organising sports teams. They could use sport as a tool for teaching social skills, while keeping people active and off the streets. It is no coincidence that so many English football teams started off as church teams or workplace teams, including my beloved West Ham – the Thames Ironworks F.C.
So, just to reiterate (in case I wasn't clear enough earlier) football is and always will be more than a game to me. Without meaning to marginalise the outstanding efforts of my parents in raising me, football – and West Ham in particular - helped to form part of my character as it is today. Actually, my dad can take credit for that too because it was him (and my brother) that introduced me to the sport in the first place. The lessons that I have learned are certainly not all totally from the school of football (again, my parents take most of the credit) but football has definitely reinforced those lessons through the years. Anyway, what have I learned?
Lesson 1 – all the talent in the world will only get you so far. Without hard work and a sense of teamwork, you can still fail. Just look at the West Ham team that got relegated in 2003 – how can such a group of talented individuals get relegated? OK, injuries played a part in that (Ian Pearce, a defender, as our only available striker for several games??) but clearly that group of players was not a team and did not work hard enough until it was too late. I see so many similarities this season and that is why I have resigned myself to the fact that we will probably be relegated again this year. We have a decent group of players but at times they have looked like they have never met each other. Some (although not all of them) look like they are just going through the motions and forget that they have to work hard for the whole game (a momentary lapse of focus has cost us dear on several occasions this season). There are recent signs of improvement but it needs to be consistent for us to stand any chance of survival.
Lesson 2 – you can't always get what you want but as long as you give it your all, you can still hold your head up high. The season of 1985-86 was remarkable for West Ham – to finish third and so close to an all-conquering Liverpool side that season was a great achievement. We didn't get what we wanted – the dream of a championship – but those players all left everything on the field that season and it is obvious that they are still so proud of their efforts. West Ham fans are realistic in their expectations of trophies (i.e. we don't expect any) but always expect the players to give everything to the cause. It is no surprise that Billy Bonds and Julian Dicks (two players that epitomised that attitude) are such heroes at West Ham.
Lesson 3 – be magnanimous in victory and honorable in defeat. My brother used to have (and probably still has) a fondness for Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If' and it resonates with me too – it's a pretty good guideline for how to conduct yourself. The following extract in particular is of relevance here: "… If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same …" I have to admit that this lesson is one that I am yet to fully learn. It is one that I know I should learn but I just can't resist taunting friends when West Ham have beaten their teams, and given that I go into a sulk when West Ham lose, I'm probably not all that honorable in defeat either. I should know better by now but the taunting always comes back to haunt me. West Ham will inevitably be humiliated the next time we play that team and then the shoe is on the other foot. Damn you karma!
Lesson 4 – enjoy the good times and put the bad times in perspective. Hard though it might be, I do have to try to accept in the bad times, that it is "just a game" and that life goes on. Disappointment experienced as a West Ham fan does somewhat prepare you for handling disappointment in other aspects of life. It also makes the good times that much sweeter and I have learnt to cherish them as they arise. Be careful how much those moments are enjoyed otherwise you run the risk of falling foul of lesson 3 above.
Lesson 5 – try to see the humour in situations. Brits have a great sense of irony and tremendous self-deprecating humour. I have learnt to appreciate this even more while living in the United States. Terrace chants and songs are a wonderful example of this humour. West Ham fans have made me laugh on many occasions when my other option was to cry. At times when West Ham have been trailing games, such chants of "Let's pretend we scored a goal" (followed by celebratory cheers) or "6-5; we're going to win 6-5" have lessened the sinking feeling. My wife (who was upset at not getting a mention in my last article – here you go honey, here's a mention) is the best person I know at making me smile and has a knack of knowing the right thing to say to make me laugh when I'm feeling down. West Ham fans follow her in second place in that category.
Lesson 6 – it is important to be passionate about something. Paolo di Canio is one of the greatest players to have graced the Boleyn Ground - a complete headcase but there is no denying his talent. But it's more than just talent that made him stand out to me. It's not just hard work, team work and commitment that set him apart either (see lessons 1 and 2). It was his passion. Before he even played a game in a claret and blue shirt, that was obvious to me. How many players have been sent off because, in the heat of the game they have argued about a throw-in and received a yellow card for it, argued some more and received a second (as Paolo did for Sheffield Wednesday)? And then there is his infamous push on the referee (and the ref's comedy tumble) that earned him a ban. Pure passion. My passion is football; my wife's is shopping. Others get their kicks from stamp collecting, train spotting or bird watching. Whatever it is, it is important to be passionate about at least one thing in life. Being apathetic about everything must lead to such a depressing mundane life.
Lesson 7 – Chelsea, Millwall, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United and anything associated with them should be classified as scum. That last lesson is vitally important … OK, it's not but I'm always suspicious of fans of those teams until they are proven trustworthy. Perhaps I've taken it too far there; perhaps not.
Filed: Wednesday, 9th March 2011
By: Staff Writer
Reserve team manager Steve Lomas admitted that he was pleased with the draw that takes his side within touching distance of league leaders Arsenal.
Lomas, taking charge of only his second game maintained his unbeaten run as his young charges picked up a valuable point at Sunderland yesterday afternoon - a result that leaves them seven points behind the Gunners - who Lomas' side beat 3-2 last week - but with two games in hand. "Overall I think we've got to be pleased. It was a long day but it went as well as could be expected," he told whufc.com. "We probably should have won but then again one-all was maybe fair result. "I certainly can't fault the lads' application. They dug in and worked ever so hard for each other so I'm pleased but there are definitely things to work on. To come away from home and get a point means you've got to be delighted."
Lomas' contentment was shared by Sunderland reserve boss Keith Bertschin who replied: "It's definitely the most competitive game we've had for a while - although the wind did spoil it a little. But that happens and sometimes you just have to tough games out. "After going a goal behind the lads kept plugging away, and we made a few changes which gave us a lift. I thought we might have gone on to win after we equalised, but we couldn't put the chances away. But we've kept our unbeaten run going and that's pleasing."
West Ham took the lead when full-back Callum Driver finished from 12 yards with some aplomb. However the Black Cats equalised with just 17 minutes of normal time remaining through John Egan, who converted a Billy Knott corner.
Premier Reserve League: Southern Group (top)
1. Arsenal P15 Pts28 GD+6
2. Aston Villa P14 Pts23 GD+15
3. West Ham Utd P13 Pts21 GD+4
Collison - We have momentum
Hammers youngster progressing on return from injury
Last updated: 9th March 2011
Midfielder Jack Collison believes the momentum is with West Ham United as he nears a return from injury. The 22-year-old Wales international has been sidelined since March last year but is hoping to make a comeback from a long-term knee problem. Avram Grant's Hammers have won three games on the bounce and are out of the Premier League's relegation zone, as the race to avoid the drop hots up. Collison admits there are some big games coming up but is confident his side have the momentum going forward. "There are some massive games coming up and we want to win them," he told the club's official website. "We have a great momentum from the last few games and we want to keep that going. "We have nine league games left and a chance to get into the FA Cup semi-finals if we beat Stoke on Sunday."
West Ham are currently training in Portugal as they look to build up steam ahead of one last push before the end of the season. Collison reveals that the last 12 months have been difficult on the sidelines but he is optimistic that his return will come sooner rather than later. "For me, my aim is to just get back playing and hopefully, if I can, play a part in helping us finish the season on a positive note," he remarked. "It has been about stepping up what I am doing and taking it all as it comes. "I will continue to take each session as it comes and work my way back. I want to be ready to play my part again for the team."
Collison added: "When you are out for a long time and are doing rehab, it is a lonely time. "Everyone has been really good to me and you still feel part of the team, but you are often doing stuff on your own and can't just go and join the rest of them out there on the training pitch. "To be moving forward in what I am doing training wise, and getting towards the goal of returning to play football again, is great."
Pulis considering shake-up
Stoke boss may change side for crunch cup clash with Hammers
Last updated: 9th March 2011
Stoke boss Tony Pulis is considering changes ahead of his side's crunch FA Cup quarter-final clash with West Ham on Sunday. The Potters go into the last eight tie on the back of a 3-0 reverse to the in-form Hammers at Upton Park in the Premier League on Saturday. Keeper Thomas Sorensen, who has played in every game in the FA Cup run so far, will replace Asmir Begovic between the posts. But Pulis is also considering whether to recall Andy Wilkinson and Danny Higginbotham at full-back among other changes. The Stoke boss told The Sentinel: "I've got an open mind on what we do and what we don't do on Sunday. "Of course, those players come into the equation, along with one or two others, but for the moment the only change for definite is Thomas in goal.
"That is no reflection on Asmir (after he gifted West Ham their opening goal at Upton Park on Saturday) that would have happened anyway. "Asmir is going to be a fantastic goalkeeper, but even young players with talent make mistakes. "Thomas, meanwhile, will give us massive experience." The Stoke squad were given a boost ahead of the tie at the Britannia Stadium with a trip to a go-karting circuit on Tuesday after being given the day off from training.
Pulis added: "It's something we arranged last week. This is a long week as we play on Sunday and it can do the lads some good to relax a bit. "You're not going to change their physical fitness at this stage of the season, but mental fitness can be an issue. Hopefully, this will help."
West Ham's Olympic Stadium move will happen 'as quickly as we can'
First phase of Olympic Park regeneration is launched
'Phenomenal response' from developers over new housing
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 March 2011 10.38 GMT
The chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company has revealed there should be no impediment to West Ham moving into the Olympic Stadium as it enters final negotiations with the club and launches the first phase of its regeneration programme for the surrounding park. Margaret Ford, the OPLC chair, said that following last week's decision by the government and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, to rubberstamp the decision to award the stadium to West Ham and Newham council after the Games it was "pressing on with that as fast as we can". She added: "There's nothing that will stop us moving as quickly as we can to get to a financial close there. I'm not expecting anything from the Newham or West Ham side that doesn't allow us to press right on."
The OPLC and Johnson have invited submissions for a "master developer" to build the first neighbourhood of 800 homes in the north-east end of the park near the velodrome. Ford said it was the first of up to a dozen phases of 8,000 new family homes that will be built on the park alongside new schools, health centres and commercial businesses.
The development will be a mixture of flats, mews houses and town houses, with 35% reserved for affordable housing. The first homes will start being built in 2013 in the northern area of the park, which will be marketed as a green, leafy area criss-crossed with canals. The south end of the park, near the Olympic Stadium and the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower, will have a more urban feel with plazas that will host concerts and events.
The development will be put out to market in the next couple of weeks, with planning consent due to be granted before the Games and building scheduled to begin straight afterwards. Developers of both the family housing neighbourhoods and the 2,800 apartments that will be converted from the athletes' accommodation, currently being put out to market by the Olympic Delivery Authority, are likely to begin marketing them to the public during the Games.
"It is the only area in London where this quantum of family housing has been developed for a really long time. I'm completely determined that this will be housing that will stand the test of time," said Ford.
"We don't want this to look like Amsterdam or Hong Kong. We want terraces, squares, all the things people love about London."
Ford, who is in Cannes with Johnson at an international property fair to market the homes, said there had been a "phenomenal response" from developers.
"This is a huge milestone. This first neighbourhood is the realisation of the promise made to east London for affordable family housing with front and back gardens in a beautiful Olympic Park with all of those great facilities on their doorstep," she said.
Olympic outcome casts shadow on Tottenham's Champions League dream
Daniel Levy has been forced to examine all options to try to make Tottenham's glory nights a regular occurrence
The Guardian, Wednesday 9 March 2011
Grand old White Hart Lane may be anticipating a magical European night but Tottenham Hotspur's chairman, Daniel Levy, remains sore about losing the bid to move to the Olympic site and is still giving serious consideration to challenging the decision. Spurs' lawyers are understood to be poring over the circumstances that led to West Ham United being handed the Stratford stadium, to advise whether there is a case for legally contesting the decision by judicial review.
Spurs are declining to comment on their thinking now, but a challenge is understood to be still possible. Levy warned persistently before the Olympic Park Legacy Company finally plumped for West Ham, who committed to keeping the athletics track permanently in a 60,000-seat stadium, that he would mount a challenge if advised the process had not been genuinely objective. In particular Levy told the Guardian in advance of the decision that the OPLC had to consider only "objective criteria" and it "shouldn't be a political decision".
To succeed with a challenge Spurs would have to show the "appearance of bias" in the process followed by the OPLC or by Boris Johnson and the government, who approved it. Those public authorities have insisted the decision was made solely on five objective criteria set out by the OPLC, but Spurs will weigh whether it was influenced by emotion, or political considerations to do with retaining the running track or having West Ham, the local East End club, as the occupant.
The intervention by Lord Coe, who had no responsibility for the outcome, undoubtedly had an influence with the public when he supported West Ham as the OPLC was deliberating, arguing London had a "moral obligation" to keep the track. A question for Spurs is whether Coe, a former Conservative MP highly influential with the government and in London politics particularly over the Olympics, influenced either the OPLC or Johnson.
Spurs will also examine statements Johnson made last Wednesday after approving the OPLC's recommendation, when he effervesced about the track and keeping the stadium's "iconic design", neither of which were in the five criteria. Coe and his fellow former members of the Olympic board commissioned the stadium to be 80,000 seats for the games in 2012, then to be reduced to 25,000 seats, with no roof, and no tenant, after the Games. Johnson described that legacy, whose design has cost £490m of public money, as "a dust bowl staging occasional athletics events".
Spurs argued that keeping the track permanently was unsuitable for football and athletics, which is unlikely ever again to attract anything approaching 60,000 spectators, so planned to in-fill Coe's "dust-bowl", build a new stadium with multi-sport and community use, and refurbish Crystal Palace for athletics.
The OPLC, knowing throughout it was vulnerable to a legal challenge by whichever Premier League club, hungry for the site, ultimately lost, says it was meticulous about the objectivity of the process. It was clear that the five criteria – producing a "viable long‑term solution"; securing a partner; re-opening the stadium as quickly as possible after the games; remaining "a distinctive physical symbol"; and "allowing flexible usage"– were not ranked in priority.
The OPLC stated repeatedly their decision would be made by taking the five criteria "in the round". However in Johnson's official decision approving the OPLC's recommendation, the five criteria are listed "in order of importance". Spurs may consider whether that contributes to an "appearance of bias", with Johnson not weighing the criteria "in the round".
The club will not reveal what factors it is examining, and there is a mountain of detail that the public never saw. Johnson's office declined to comment on Tuesday. An OPLC spokesman said: "We ran a robust, fair and meticulous process. We have no concerns about any potential challenge."
Spurs, though, under Levy and their Bahamas-based owner, the currency trader Joe Lewis, are desperate for a move. White Hart Lane, home for 112 years, has a 36,534 capacity, similar to Highbury, which their north London rivals Arsenal left for the 60,00-seat Emirates Stadium in 2006. Last year Arsenal's turnover, £380m, boosted by sales of flats in redeveloped Highbury, dwarfed that of Spurs, who made £120m.
Spurs invested heavily to build Harry Redknapp a squad capable of Champions League dazzle, spending £64m net in 2008‑09, a net £24m in 2009-10 and a further £18m last summer, with Rafael van der Vaart the stand-out signing. That has bought nights such as tonight but at a cost – a £23m profit in 2008‑09 became last year a £7m loss.
In November 2008 Levy first presented plans for a new 60,000‑seat stadium close to White Hart Lane, with housing and retail, describing the Northumberland development project as "a world‑class scheme". Remaining at Spurs' "spiritual home in Tottenham" was, he said "the fans' favourite", which it probably still is. Levy said it was chosen following "an extensive review of suitable sites and viable alternatives".
Levy argues the Northumberland project has now become "unviable" at a cost of £450m. Without a viable alternative, then, it is little surprise Levy is spending a relatively small amount of further money on lawyer's fees, to inspect forensically the Stratford process, before giving up all possibility of moving there. Without a larger stadium, which would enable Spurs to keep up with the neighbours, Levy knows nights such as tonight will remain floodlit treats, not regular Champions League outings.