Eggert Magnusson: Part Two
Filed: Thursday, 29th March 2007
By: Graeme Howlett
Welcome to the second part of our recent interview with Hammers Chairman Eggert Magnusson.
KUMB: I'd like to ask you about the threat of relegation. Four years ago Terry Brown infamously said 'there will be no fire-sale at this club', and that players wouldn't be leaving. Are we likely to have a wholesale clearout this time should we be relegated? How committed are you to holding on to our better players?
EM: First of all, let me say that we have Middlesbrough on Saturday - and I still think we can survive. We have said this for some time [laughs] and the more games we have lost, the chances are less. But I still think our side is far too good, there are too many good players to go down. So if we can win on Saturday, the confidence will come back. It's all down to us, we have to win some games. I'm very happy to see Charlton doing well because I think the more teams that go into this group fighting for survival, the greater our chances are.
But coming back to your question, if that was to happen and we were to go down. At the moment we have too many players so that's not a problem. I don't know what the situation was four years ago but we bought five players [in January] and sold none - so the squad is too big at the moment. So for sure, Alan has to decide if he wants to sell and to bring some others in, to change the group a little bit - but it's totally up to him.
But there will be no fire-sale. We are aiming to keep as strong a squad as possible [in order] to go straight back up. There's no question about that.
KUMB: The Championship is no cakewalk as we found out last time; we all know how difficult it is to get out of that league. Is there a point by which we need to come back to the Premiership? Obviously from next year the financial reward for Premiership status is that much greater - if we miss out next year will you still be around?
EM: Of course. Although I think it would be even more difficult if we were to go down next year because we have the new TV contract coming into force. The difference, if you go down next year, will be that much greater. And in my opinion, with the new TV contract salaries would go up. I think if you have to go down it's better to do it now than next year, or later.
KUMB: One player mentioned a lot even though he's not played this season is Dean Ashton. I appreciate that this is probably a question more for Alan Curbishley, but can we assume that the club will look to keep players of that calibre in the event of relegation?
EM: He's staying with us, for me that's clear. But no matter what Curbishley says, he's staying with us!
DF: I think a key point here, speaking as an employee that was here four years ago is that the mindset within the club is completely different.
KUMB: And obviously the main worry last time - the financial problem - doesn't appear to exist this time.
EM: There have been all kind of stories in the press that are coming from somebody that doesn't like me or what have you. These are stories that are coming out and I don't know why. But there's nothing behind them you know; that's the only thing I can say. I'm very surprised at how much is written in the English press that's pure rubbish. Whether it's right or wrong they just write it. That's the strange thing.
KUMB: Moving on to the Academy, how do you intend to boost the youth policy? Things seem to have dried up a little, I think in the last seven years we've only had Anton Ferdinand and Mark Noble come through.
EM: When the season is over we will sit down and get a grip on the Academy, chat with the staff at the training ground and so on. We are more likely to invest more in the Academy but first I would like to see how it operates at the moment. I've not had the time to sit down with the people there and discuss it seriously. But I think we need more contacts in the rest of Europe.
KUMB: To bring young players in? Like Chelsea and Arsenal have been doing?
EM: Yeah, also we need a greater overview of what's happening all over Europe and have contacts that can direct us to the most promising players. We have something in place but I think we have to strengthen this - so we are looking at investing more, if possible.
KUMB: And with your UEFA background, this is something you'd be able to exploit?
EM: I think so, yes.
KUMB: How personally involved do you get in the transfer deals? I'm thinking of the Ashley Young deal which you appeared to be keen on; will you recommend players or is it a case of 'you're the manager, it's completely up to you'?
EM: In the end it's totally up to Alan Curbishley who we buy and don't buy, but I was very much involved in January because the January window is so difficult. It's difficult to get players because nobody wants to sell until they have somebody in place. We worked very hard to get the players we wanted.
KUMB: There was a quote in the papers from Lucas Neill in which he said you had shown him a wish-list of players you'd like to sign in future. Can you give us any indication of the sort of names that were on that list?
EM: I think this might have been a misunderstanding! What I was telling him was what I told you earlier about where we are heading and that we would bring in the players needed to build a successful side.
KUMB: So there was no list?
EM: No list, no names and nothing of that sort that I remember!
KUMB: The players that came in - in the event of relegation - do you think they will stay? Are there clauses that allow them to leave in that scenario?
EM: I hope they will all stay. It works both ways, you know. But that's different from one player to another.
KUMB: The player that most supporters have been talking about this year is Carlos Tevez, a success in a season where there's been so little to cheer. He's a traditional sort of West Ham player ...
EM: And now he's started to score goals ... [laughs]
KUMB: Which is a bonus! If we stay up - is there any chance he might stay?
EM: Yeah, of course there's a chance but as I've said in the press before, it's not up to me because West Ham don't own the rights to Tevez.
KUMB: But if you made an offer for Tevez we could buy him outright?
EM: Yes, that's something we could do.
KUMB: What happened to the four year contract he was supposed to have signed?
EM: The terms were that he could be moved whenever, you know. In the transfer windows.
KUMB: Would you like to see him stay?
EM: Yeah, he has been a great success and he's fighting for our survival, so of course. No question.
KUMB: Javier Mascherano - can you give us any explanation as to why he was barely used after you came to the club?
EM: He was injured for a month or something ...
DF: He had an injury when Alan Curbishley first arrived but he'd not been used much by Alan Pardew before that, only sparingly. Then I think injury and illness over the Christmas and New Year period kept him out at that point.
KUMB: So at no stage was he deliberately kept from playing?
EM: No, no.
DF: I think he played in two of last three games under Pardew. He came on as a sub against Everton ...
KUMB: For the last few minutes ...
DF: That was his last game, at Everton, and then he picked up an injury around the same time that Alan Curbishley arrived ...
EM: But if you look at the history of players coming from Argentina it has taken them quite a time to get adjusted to English football, and some have not succeeded at all. Look at Veron who never made it in England but was a great player for Argentina and Italian clubs.
But you know the build-up is very different in Latin America. You start at the back, slowly pass into the midfield and the other team retreats. But in England you are all over the pitch, you know! You have no time on the ball, and this is why Mascherano and Tevez have taken a lot of time to adapt.
DF: Also the position he was playing in takes a lot of communication with the various parts of the team around him whereas with Tevez it's perhaps a little bit more off-the-cuff and not so disciplined within the structure of the team.
EM: I saw him play in the World Cup and he played very well for Argentina. But I also saw him play [recently] for Liverpool and he had a lot of problems there. It takes time, for sure - even in a great team like Liverpool which likes passing the ball, he had problems.
KUMB: We've seen a little bit of that with Tevez, although he's had his chances it's only now he's beginning to score.
EM: I think it's also a case of fitness. You need to be lot fitter in the Premier League than you do in South America, and it's obvious that it's taken Tevez quite some time to get properly fit. But now I think he is close to being fully fit, and I always said that once he starts to score goals he will score many goals.
KUMB: Moving on, I'd like to ask you about both of our managers this season, starting with Alan Pardew as he was here when you arrived. You were quoted in October 2005 as saying 'I think football is like any other business - if people who are paid very high salaries don't succeed you look for others to replace them'. Was that how you felt about Pardew? It seemed strange from the outside as you were backing him initially and then within a week or two he was gone, which could suggest it wasn't purely for footballing reasons.
EM: No, it was purely for football reasons. I cannot go into smaller detail, but it was my responsibility as the Chairman to make a difficult decision. Having been here for some time I felt this was something I had to do. It's not easy because it's all my decision, you know.
But you have to take responsibility sometimes and do things that are not always nice so that's why I did this. I felt it was for the good of the club's future, and that's why it was done.
KUMB: Were you aware just how bad things were on - and off - the pitch before you bought the club?
EM: No. One of the problems has been that too many people in the media have said West Ham are too good to go down and that things will turn for them. The problem is things never turn around by themselves, you have to do something about it. The players, all the people in the team, they cannot believe what these people say is the truth.
KUMB: So Alan Pardew went, a few days later Alan Curbishley came in. Obviously the results haven't been as good as we would have hoped for; are you happy with the general progress Alan Curbishley has made?
KUMB: And even if we are relegated, he will be here next year?
EM: For sure, no question.
KUMB: Okay. Moving on now to finances - how do you intend to raise the commercial profile of the club?
EM: We are working hard on that. One of the things that surprised me when I came to the club was that there was no business plan; now we have established a plan for the next three years. There are a lot of things from a business perspective that we can change for the better in this club.
That I knew before I bought the club - that was one of the reasons I bought the club. To be fair the club was run in an old-fashioned way and now we are trying to change that, to run it as a business should be run. So I think there are a lot of possibilities.
KUMB: You mentioned at the AGM [December 2006] that you would look into making shares available to supporters once again in the future; can you tell us any more on that?
EM: It seems to be very hard. We are still looking at it but it seems to be very difficult.
KUMB: So that's unlikely at this stage?
EM: It's unlikely but we will try to find some other ways to get the supporters involved. That's what we are looking at, at the moment.
KUMB: A couple of quick questions to end with. Firstly, regarding standing at matches. We have a campaign [Stand Up, Sit Down] which is lobbying to reintroduce safe standing. When you were at the Icelandic FA, and speaking about the requirement for all top flight clubs to have all-seater stadiums by 2009, you said that it was something that was 'long overdue'. Do you think there is an opportunity for some standing areas here - like they have in Germany?
EM: I think Germany will abolish that within the next two or three years. From a security standpoint we have to have all-seating stadia. I think we cannot turn the clock back on that aspect.
KUMB: Finally our new kit; you've confirmed that Umbro will be manufacturing it, when will that be ready?
DF: There's no specific date but it will be early to mid-June.
KUMB: And isn't there a new away kit this year too?
DF: The away kit will be launched later. It will be a new kit obviously because it's a new manufacturer. So there will be new home and away kits with the away to be launched further down the line.
KUMB: Well that's just about it. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us, it's much appreciated.
EM: It's no problem.