Filed: Wednesday, 14th January 2004
By: Ryan McGill
Once again last summer’s promise by the board of directors that only “three or four” players would have to be sold to cover the cost of relegation ring’s hollow, as David James joins the host of international players to walk through the Upton Park exit door this season.
While assurances that the sale will free up funds for reinvestment in the first team squad have been made, those who attended the AGM may remember the accounts showing a shortfall of £2M (close to James’ transfer fee) in the £20M of savings needed to offset the cost of relegation?
Whatever the motivation behind the move, the Hammer’s faltering promotion bid had made the club vulnerable to bids for the team’s remaining stars, and the incoming transfer fee coupled with the removal of James’ reported £1.7M a season salary from the wage bill makes good sense, at least economically.
David James joined West Ham for £3.25M in the summer of 2001 as the first of new manager Glenn Roeder’s signings. The arrival of the high profile goalkeeper was seen as a major coup, and a brave signing, given influential team Captain Di Canio’s branding of his new team-mate as a “cretin” following a run-in during the League Cup quarter final the previous season.
James motivation for the move was the boost to his England prospects that playing alongside Trevor Sinclair, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick could provide. It was ironic then that his West Ham debut would be delayed by several months due to a knee ligament injury suffered when playing for England in a friendly against Holland that August.
James returned to become a commanding figure in a previously porous defence as the club recorded the best home defensive record in the division, and surprisingly finished seventh in the table, one short of a UEFA Cup place.
James’ excellent form that season was rewarded with a place in the England squad for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea where he understudied established No.1 David Seaman. He would later go on to replace Seaman as Sven Goran Eriksson’s first choice ‘keeper for the majority of the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign, excelling particularly in the key matches home and away to Turkey.
While his international star was on the rise, his West Ham career went in the opposite direction during the 2002/03 season. Like fellow England man (and now Manchester City team-mate) Trevor Sinclair, James was unable to reclaim his pre-World Cup form as the team struggled at the wrong end of the table for most of the season before suffering relegation on the final day.
Despite stories linking him with summer moves to Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona, the No.1 reaffirmed his popularity with the West Ham support by acknowledging his part in the relegation fiasco and risking his hard won international place by remaining for the fight for promotion back to the Premier League.
Ironically this decision may well have protected his international place, as this season’s occasionally erratic performances have not been highlighted by the media as they would have been if he’d been playing in the Premier League spotlight.
Having suffered one unsuccessful fight against the drop last season, James appears to have joined a Manchester City team facing another relegation scrap, currently winless in their last 14 matches. One plus for City is their new No.1 has plenty of experience in playing behind a team that can score three goals while conceding four on a regular basis.
During his two-and-a-half years at West Ham David James made 102 league and cup appearances, and established himself as the first choice for the England national team.
Thoughts now turn to James’ replacement in the Hammer’s goal. While highly rated by the England U-21 coaching staff current understudy Steve Bywater’s reluctance to press his case for a first team spot may hint at a lack of confidence that is unlikely to be welcomed by Alan Pardew.
Current favourite is rumoured to be Icelandic international goalkeeper Arni Gautur Arason, who’d been training with Manchester City prior to James’ move north. The highly rated 28 year old has Champion’s League experience with perennial Norwegian champions Rosenberg, but has lost his place to newly capped Norway international Espen Johnsen and Rosenborg’s managing director Rune Bratseth admits "We have two excellent keepers and that might prove a problem for us". Crucially Arason is also out of contract and available to move to the East End without a fee.
Speaking yesterday Alan Pardew promised;
"The money from this transfer will fund the acquisition of players that I feel will increase our chances of promotion at the first attempt - and that is the sole reasoning behind my agreeing to it.
"I am looking to bring in another keeper, and I am also looking to strengthen the outfield to a considerable degree so we can move forward as soon as possible."
I’m sure I speak for the majority of West Ham supporters in wishing David James every future success for Manchester City and England, and hoping that the money from his transfer does indeed bring in the players needed to launch a successful promotion push.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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