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A constructive summer


Filed: Monday, 6th August 2018
By: Paul Walker


It grieves me to say this, and Iím sure many of you out there in the Irons nation will see my point, but one person has come out of this summer of love with a smile on his face, and thatís our beloved owner David Sullivan.

Well, not exactly a smile, but more like that usual cheesy little smirk as he crunches up his face like someone auditioning to play Uriah HeepÖ but heís not really ďever so humbleĒ is he, just the opposite in fact.

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Way back in the dark days of the marching season, you would have thought Sullivan and Co were on borrowed time, a vast sway of West Ham support were preparing to march to get them out, for a change of leadership and ownership. But we all know how that ended, with fansí groups distancing themselves from regime change, even suggesting that was never ever the objective. You could have fooled me and a few others.

Marches were cancelled because "progress had been made" and the board were listening. And meetings, secret or very public had taken place. By the time the summer of love had replaced the winter of discontent, the word íactioní had disappeared and fans were being asked to give the board a chance and work with them, because that was what they wanted.

So however way you look at it, Sullivan had seen off the discontent, with only a few(alleged) scratches from flying coins; there would be no marches to disfigure the image. And after a handful of angry fans had run onto the pitch in the Burnley fiasco, the corner flag wavers and Noble scufflers had been sought out, hounded even, fingered and banned.

I hear the calls for an amnesty, we all understood the anger. But laws were broken, fans were banned for life when two years was surely enough, and the FA have charged us. Now with a court case pending with the owners and the authorities over those extra seats, the last thing the club are going to do is to give the impression they have gone soft, either to their owners or the FA. Heaven forbid, thereís 10,000 more bums on seats to consider.

But the anger and the Ďactioní has dwindled so Sullivan, you win again. You have made it clear you are going nowhere, the boy Jack is still the heir apparent , so we can all lump it. We may have lost another 5,000 fans but have still reportedly sold 52,000 season tickets again. Stuff that doesnít cost much - the excellent flags, stadium gentrification and overall improvements - have or are taking place. There may even be claret pitch surround and WiFi.

And the money being spent on players? And who forced who to do it? Letís look at it from Sullivanís point of view. He had been talking to and all but employing Manuel Pellegrini way back in November, after Slav had been sacked and before David Moyes was appointed. He had already made the decision that times must change and he was fully aware of the £100m cost that Pellegrini would demand as a transfer budget starting point.

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All that before collective fansí groups started giving Sullivan and the board a proper kicking, Certainly concentrating a lot of minds and making sure the pressure was maintained to ensure change. All power to them because he certainly didnít like being forced to sit at the back of his directorsí box with his partner mopping his increasingly worried and angry brow.

Now any regular reader of my nonsense will know I have banged on about this time line for a while, because I just couldnít accept that Sullivan would ever be forced by fans into major changes in the clubís spending policy. Unless he wanted it too.

I have followed his career right back to early Birmingham days - I used to work there and have plenty of friends who are Birmingham fans or who used to have regular contact with Sullivan in those days. And I have never really encountered stories of him being anything but truculent, determined and positively defiant about how he spends his money.

And, at last this week, I happened upon a local radio show in Essex where one of their hugely respected bloggers, voiced the very same theory. The marches and the Burnley fiasco, took place around March time and by then Pellegrini was already on board, so to speak. What Sullivan surely didnít want was worldwide pictures of civil unrest on the streets upsetting those plans.

Sullivan knew what was going to happen at the end of the season, he knew Moyes was going to be given the tin-tack, who was coming in and at what cost. So, with all due respect, a lot of people had been íplayedí by the chairman and owner. What he had been wanting was a quiet life, no world-wide bad publicity that would damage Lady Karrenís famous brand, and a relegation fight won with a clear path to the normality of a summer and new season ahead.

And itís all gone swimmingly. We have spent more than ever before in a window, a higher quality of player has been purchased by a manager who has been at Real Madrid and Manchester City and doesnít take kindly to being messed around. Rush Greenís inadequacies, you may have noticed, got short shrift and a make-over.

But at last this last couple of weeks, a reality check has set in. In common parlance, we have done our money. Any more arrivals will have to be loans, frees or funded by sales. And do you remember the figure that various ITKs came up with as the original budgetÖbetween £70-£80m I recall, and that took in FFP and stuff.

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Now I hate to be seen to defend Sullivan, honest, but there is no point screaming "liar" at him and bellowing that he should put his hands in his pocket and spend, spend, spend. Whether he would anyway is open to debate, but the regulations do not allow it.

The whole point is that just because you are rich, you should not be allowed to throw money at a club, that cash has to be created internally, by commercial activity and sponsorship. Itís why PSG, Monaco, Inter Milan and even our own Leicester and Bournemouth have got into so much trouble. Even Manchester City canít spend more than they earn.

And it is something if a myth anyway that we have not spent on players. Every season we seem to max out on our FFP limit, and recent figures show that since 2014, only half-a-dozen big clubs have spent more on transfers. In that time our figure is around £190m.

So itís clearly not what you spend, itís what you spend it on. Look at Burnley, a vastly smaller club than us, but they are in Europe - where we want to be - and spend well within their means with a canny manager who knows what he is doing. Sullivan, I assume, sees that should be us.

But that is the point. We now have a DoF and a seriously savvy manager who are spending on better players, we can surely all see that. This summer has seen an organised, well planned pre-season. We have all been able to watch the matches too, now our media department have finally managed to drag themselves into the real world of gas and electricity and sort out a proper streaming operation.

The results donít really matter but the only pre-season friendly we have lost was the one where Andy Carroll played, scored, missed a penalty and managed to get himself injured. Surprise, surprise. Blink and you missed it, but he wouldnít want to deprive the missus and kids of those winter trips to Dubai, would he?

But we have been able to see the new signings bed in, we can see the tactics, the planning, and best of all the fitness of our squad. I even went to Preston to see for myself, like Jose Mourinho I donít like wasting my money of pointless friendlies. The rest I have watched on the iPad. (Yep, the real world has finally reached the Walker household too.)

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But now we are seeing a different approach. Sullivan has seen the budget spent, and if we want more signings people are having to be sold. And, with the rapid sale of Cheikhou Kouyate - a ridiculously low £10m for a seasoned Premier League player (just think abut the Jordan Hugill fee) - you will see that the net expenditure by Sullivan and co is now about £75m.

There was even a suggestion in an article in German newspaper Bild, their Sun, that we had already breached the FFP limit. They were talking about the potential of a Reece Oxford move back to Germany. That sort of smear/info could only have come from an agent. Whether true I donít know.

But even Roy Hodgson at Palace thought it was "surprising" that we sold so low and so quickly. Now I am not trying to decry what has happened, a brave move forward with serious intent to buy better and challenge higher.

Only five clubs in Europe have spent more, gross, than us. Juventus, Liverpool, PSG, Roma and Barcelona. The net spend figures are interesting, and underline the fact that we do not have much to sell.

Manchester City have spent £60m but pulled in £30m. Manchester United have spent £51m and clawed in £19m. Leicester and Watford are both in credit, clawing back £60m and £43m respectively. Only Liverpool, with a £155m spend, have pulled in peanuts, about £12m. But then they are still living off the Coutinho money.

And I donít quite go with the theory that we have not been here, or here abouts, before. Following the infamous Zaza window straight after the move from the Boleyn, we signed 13 players and spent over £50m. Next year it was around £60m for nine players, admittedly from two windows in 2017.

The problem beforehand is, as I said, not what you spend, but what you spend it on. I think that has finally sunk in with Sullivan.

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So the board had been clever here. Giving the impression the purse strings have gone for ever, but still working within a budget not too dissimilar to the previous couple of seasons. Yes, the are different, but with a club with or turnover whatís £10/20m here or there?

And we still have not solved the two obvious problems that have dogged us for years. We need a new striker and defensive midfielder. It has been pointed out that the reason that Pedro Obiang has not been sold is that Pellegrini has tried and failed to land the defensive midfielder(s) he has been chasing because they donít come in under budget. Hence, the rapid sale of Kouyate when a bit of wriggle room was needed.

Pellegrini wonít sell Obiang or Michail Antonio until he has got someone in to replace them. Hugill, Sam Byram, Oxford and Edimilson Fernandes can go, but what serious prices are we going to get for them. Everton, cheeky buggers, are suggesting £3m for Oxford, and I hate to say this but a young player who has been rejected by Slav, Moyes and now Pellegrini is not going to see a rush of money pouring in for him.

Pellegrini will want those two extra players, and there are plenty of options being suggested, including the excellent Bernard. It may look like we are still spending, but loans and frees are more likely now. And we will probably use the window extension which allows us to sell to foreign clubs until the end of August as the way to balance the books.

Your guess is as good as mine on the new faces. I spent 40 years of my working life dealing with agents, players, managers, etc in the transfer industry and when I persuaded the KUMB editor to let me write some nonsense for him when I retired (how Graeme must regret that decision now) I vowed I would keep right out of the transfer circus, and let the ITKs do all that.

I go a long way back with agents. I knew Dennis Roach when he was a rough old centre-half in non-league football for Barnet and Hillingdon Borough, that shows how old I am. Paul Stretford came across my radar when he was giving up selling hoovers door-to-door and trying to get his first client, Colin Hendry, a move to Manchester City.
 
Iíve had enough of all that, Now we have a few who do a decent job for our fans, including my esteemed editor! Got to say that... They are almost like old fashioned provincial evening paper sports writers, you don't get them in London where Ken Dyer is clearly the best around for West Ham.

These writers' only job it is to cover one club 24/7. Nothing else. They know everyone, can keep confidences and are able to be trusted. I can see three, maybe four, such bloggers covering West Ham now.

I can only implore folk to ignore 90 per cent of the stuff that pours out from Newsnow West Ham, because it is full of parasitic sites who steal and plagiarise every word they can find. HTC is the worst, just donít become click bait because they add nothing to the scene. Rely on our own, fans of the club who do know people and know what they are talking about.

And while all this is going on, Sullivan is more entrenched than ever. He has seen off the opposition, spent some money, employed a top manager and will now be able to sit back in the front row of the directorsí box again without having to dodge and bullets. Or was it coins..?


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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