Filed: Tuesday, 28th November 2006
By: Kit Robinson
The takeover is finally over and there are not many fans who are displeased with the way things have turned out.
But there were some difficult questions about identity and what we hold dear about football and particularly about supporting West Ham United that Fans asked of themselves whilst all of the wheeling and dealing went on. Furthermore, it looks as though both consortiums were interested in moving the club to the new Olympic stadium and it will be a big wrench for many fans to move.
There is a genuine relief from the vast majority of West Ham fans that Kia Joorabchian did not take over the club. Terence Brown in his new role as vice-chairman made the perception that he felt that consortium could have made West Ham like Chelsea or put us in the conference. Neither of which would have been liked by the majority of fans. Many fans did feel the same way but all sorts of similar questions were being asked and will be asked of the new owners too.
Many fans of West Ham began asking fundamental questions of what they like about football, what they like about West Ham but having to weigh up the necessary changes that need to be made to compete in modern football and to what extent they would be willing to see the club change in order to keep in touch at the top level. There were even some who felt that despite the clubs successes last season West Ham could be doomed to relegation this season, despite having an improved squad, and although this was a somewhat drastic view, many agreed that investment would be needed at some point in the not too distant future.
Some fans also believed that Carlos Teves and Javier Mascherano represented a possible revolving door policy of players that would have been introduced and subsequently the days of long term terrace heroes, or “local boys done good” and even possibly the academy would be long gone. Again this makes fans ask whether this is simply how the modern game works in replacing players you could identify with, with undoubtedly talented, but short term players.
Furthermore, are we to now accept that in order for any club to survive in the Premier league they must have investment in a bigger stadium? Overall, does this mean that there is no room for identity over money making? The question needs to be asked whether this is what fans want over retaining the West Ham identity of East End underdogs, who live at Green Street with a successful academy and local or long term players for whom fortune was always hiding. I would begin with the idea that the major difference to fans could simply be a change of what they think the club will be capable of in the future.
It is certainly already the case that West Ham are a Premier League club who hope to finish in the top half of the table and have a good cup run and maybe get into the UEFA cup. Alan Pardew has said that in the not too distant future after investment, maybe moving to a larger stadium and maybe after gaining some success, that the club should then be pushing on to getting involved in the Champions League. I don’t however think that many fans would think that such a goal is even realistic until such changes occurred.
The long running problem with the West Ham academy has always been that the club never made enough money to retain the services of the best players and that many such players started at the West Ham Academy under Tony Carr’s guidance for the simple reason that it was the best youth system outside of the top 4 clubs in the country. The problem is, none of those players ever seemed to want to stay at West Ham. So maybe only making the club into a bigger club by investment and moving to a larger stadium and having a larger European profile would tempt the youth players to stay?
The Boleyn Ground on Green Street at Upton Park is obviously what fans identify with the most. Ultimately it signifies the club far more than results or players. It is where the fans meet, celebrate and commiserate and for many it is their local East London area of which the club is an essential part. However, the ground itself has been almost wholly changed, with only the East stand showing any likeness to the stadium of the sixties glory days of Moore, Hurst and Peters.
The next step it would seem is a possible move to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford after 2012. Sad though any move will be, West Ham fans only need to look at Arsenal’s move from Highbury to see that a move is sad but possible and maybe essential. There is no denying that the Emirates stadium is not the same as Highbury but is very impressive and will in no time witness further glories for the club which will make it a decent new home for the Gunners. West Ham are lucky that the Olympic stadium is certainly still very local and within the current catchment area but also boasts much better transport links than either the Boleyn Ground or the Emirates stadium.
It could be that the reason many fans are happy with the Magnusson consortium taking over is that Eggert is a football man who it would seem has a better knowledge of the business of football. Joorabchian may well have simply looked at West Ham United being a simple business proposition, rather than football being a different entity with different values to normal business concerns. But to put is simply, although it pains many, particularly older fans to admit, the modern game of football dictates that these changes are going to have to be made.
Perhaps the biggest question about the takeover is not if change will occur but rather when and whether the club can retain its identity whilst being able to progress? When these changes occur we hope we have the right man in Eggert Magnusson to take us forward and make such changes seem easy and naturally occurring and simply the next step in the club’s development. Let’s just hope that being Egg-bound with Mr Magnusson has a different meaning to what your mum might tell you.
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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