Scott Duxbury: Part Three
Filed: Monday, 29th June 2009
By: Graeme Howlett & Gordon Thrower
KUMB: You mentioned Mancini earlier; where are we with him?
SD: We're pretty much there with Milan. I'm flying there tomorrow to see the player.
Jimenez was never an issue, he's totally behind West Ham United. Gianfranco, when I was signing him in Milan phoned and I handed the phone to him [Jimenez] and they were talking tactics, where he's going to play in the diamond. He hadn't even signed, it was fantastic; we were still arguing over the last 100,000 - we won that one!
Mancini's a different story really because he's got lots of offers and lots of options - so it's down to Gianfranco really. I'll get the deal done, I know where we are with it so that won't be an issue - but I'll do my bit about the project, what the club's about but it's down to Gianfranco. If Gianfranco and Mancini can hit it off and Mancini wants to come then I'm 80% sure it'll happen.
But it's just such a good way to work. I'll give you the background. The way we worked with other managers, it was 'how much money have we got?' - and from that basis they would then decide which players they wanted to go for. We never talk about money with Gianfranco, it's always 'which players do I want?'
He has a system - I want Jimenez, I want Drogba, I want this and that - and then he leaves it to me and Gianluca to try and get these players. Obviously when we're discussing [it and] money is a problem then we try and find a solution. But all he gives us is players that he wants.
There's three other players if we don't get Mancini that he's absolutely happy with to fit that bill. Again, we've had good discussions with those people as well so it's just such a healthy way to run a football club. He's not concerned about money, he just wants the various players and the finances are just left to me and Gianluca to worry about.
KUMB: These possible alternatives - are they all overseas players?
SD: Yes. And Sturridge was one, but he's gone.
What Gianfranco wants to do, we've got a real good core of young British players - Collison, Noble - he believes that by getting Jimenez and Mancini he can really raise it to the next level. He's identified these three players, all of whom are above what we've got and will raise us to that next level. I think there's something to be said for a continental influence, it allows the young players to see different techniques.
I think that Jimenez is absolutely huge for us - a massive, massive signing. You go to Inter Milan's headquarters and he's a top drawer player, he's exactly what we've been missing. He's Yossi Benayoun, he's everything.
KUMB: What's the situation with Alan Curbishley?
SD: The second part of the hearing I think is mid-July and I think the decision will be in September. That's just a dispute as to whether he feels entitled to compensation for resigning. Our view is that he wanted to resign, that's your decision and compensation shouldn't follow.
KUMB: There's been a few rumours about BG retaining an interest in the club through Straumur or one of it's creditors. Is there anything in that?
SD: No, he's got no financial interest. I've invited him back to games and I think what he did for the club was good, he has moved us on and he's a massive fan so I'm hoping he'll still come next season. But he has no interest.
KUMB: When he turns up the conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day...
SD: Yeah. But he deserves it, he's been through Hell this last year and I think he's been to a handful of games and at his time of life I think he deserves to be remembered for it. Because he did make a good contribution to the club, it's not his fault that the financial world collapsed. The intentions were good.
Generally there's a policy at the moment to re-engage with the people that helped make this club what it is.
KUMB: So Terry Brown's got his seats back now?
SD: Yeah, I think he was suing about a year-and-a-half ago but the Icelandics settled that and gave him his seats back.
KUMB: One last question on financials, and it goes back to something Eggert Magnusson told me two years ago that got blown out of all proportion.
What's the average salary of a West Ham fan these days..?
SD: [laughs] I think in this climate there isn't an average salary or an average fan - I think the world has been devastated. But on a serious note I've got no idea why Eggert said that, from my perspective it's the wrong way to look at it - it's almost saying there's a pot of money in fans and seeing each fan as a pound sign and what we can get from them.
I think you've got to turn it on its head and ask 'what can we do for them?' That's why we've reduced the season ticket prices, that's why the focus group for the kits is a good idea. It's not about average income, it's about if creating an environment and a football club that fans want to come and be a part of then yes, they will financially engage which benefits the football club as the football can grow.
But it's not about average incomes, it's about everyone being together and wanting to be a part of this club. That's how I see it, it's not about average incomes.
KUMB: That's a very good answer.
SD: So I've had one good answer in the past hour!?
KUMB: [laughs] The thing about Eggert was that he was really enthusiastic and had a real passion for football. You could see he loved it.
SD: If you take away the financial disasters of the past three years every single development has been so important because we had a faceless Chairman, a sort of lack of direction. Eggert came along and gave it a face, a sense of direction and enthusiasm and suddenly wow, there was a media focus. It was fantastic.
Then BG came along and by the end of it Eggert was a little bit of a circus. BG came and gave us this austere, dignified, respected Chairman figure, moved the club forward again and gave us stability. He said 'right, we're not going to spend recklessly and we're going to have a business plan'. Everybody's played their real part in moving this football club to where it is.
KUMB: What exactly was BG's role in that first year? Eggert was appointed in pretty much the same role as you are in now to run the football club.
SD: The budgets didn't add up. When we were signing Matthew Upson we said 'we haven't got the money to do this'. He just picked the phone up and said to me and Nick [Igoe] 'it's alright, I'll sort it. It's an owner purchase, don't worry about it'. This is where BG blames himself, I think - Eggert was informing BG but at the end of a phone and he'd say 'yeah that's fine'.
I had dinner with Asgeir [Fridgeirsson] last week and he said BG thought he was so wealthy that and that he was untouchable. It's a shame that he didn't use his own money to purchase, it's a shame it was all bank loans because he went and we're saddled with those loans. We would be so strong now.
KUMB: But didn't Terry Brown have us pretty much back on an even keel?
SD: This is one of the issues and I try not to worry about it. Had Terry not sold us after the FA Cup we were so strong. The debt was the lowest it's ever been - all he had to do was sit tight and just do nothing, let us grow the football club.
Ownership issues do worry me - but what can we do?
KUMB: It's kind of funny in retrospect, he was quite conscious - publically, at least - of ensuring the club went into the hands of someone who could take it on and move us forward. Kind of the opposite has actually happened; does he have any involvement these days?
SD: I speak to him on match days to say 'hello' to him. He's delighted that the team's doing well again but I don't really have a relationship with him.
KUMB: The Tevez affair. Why did the club settle out of court with Sheffield United?
SD: All the lawyers told us that we couldn't possibly lose Sheffield. Their claim was flawed on many levels. One that it's impossible to argue that one player over the course of a season can be responsible for three points let alone you don't actually analyse Sheffield's own conduct. Had they not sold Unsworth and he hadn't come back in the last game of the season and scored a goal they would have stayed up. Had they not fielded a weakened team against Manchester United... so there's so many factors during the marathon of a season that it's impossible to argue that one player is responsible for three points, let alone the fact that the Premier League's charge against West Ham was never that we fielded an ineligible player. He was always eligible.
So - you can't lose, it's just a nuisance factor and we'll get through it. Then, there was the absurd judgment of Lord Griffiths; I think my views on him have been well documented. Then the owner goes bankrupt and the financial situation of the club means we're self-sufficient and it became clear to me we simply couldn't risk an absurd decision by Lord Griffiths that says the full £40million that Sheffield United are claiming is payable, and it's payable within seven days - which would be the award. So at that point I made a decision that you've got to actually put personal feelings to one side and realise that if we can negotiate a settlement - no matter how unpalatable.
How I accounted for it was that the increase in the TV money that we got, that little increase we’re actually giving to Sheffield, so it doesn’t hurt us as such. But it safeguards the future of this football club, because I didn't have any external funding that would allow us to take a further ridiculous decision of Griffiths’ on the chin. So I had to make a decision, put it to bed, swallow that bitter pill. But we're in the Premier League prospering; I was at the play-off final and unfortunately, they are in the Championship.
KUMB: You were wearing claret and blue, presumably?
SD: My best friend is a Burnley fan so I was in the Burnley end! But I just take the view that I think it was the right decision, settling a ridiculous decision. The next day I was at Gianfranco's house having a glass of wine celebrating [because] nothing can derail us now. That's gone and we can now just look to the future so I don't think about them, I don't know what goes on in the Championship; I don't propose to find out.
KUMB: So we were willing to contest it right the way up until Griffiths made that unfathomable decision?
SD: I can only speak for myself and Nick [Igoe] but if we had had owners that had the ability to actually defend it so the consequences of a wrong decision wouldn't had destroyed this club then yes, we would have defended it because everybody was saying it's ridiculous. But even at the damages hearing our lawyer were saying the damages should be zero because nobody in the Premier League makes a profit.
When you've spent all the money on players, to stay in the Premier League you've got to spend money and have an operating loss. So yes you've won - but your damages are zero, but given the absurdity of Griffiths we simply couldn't risk it.
When you’re making decisions in life … I just couldn’t get past paying that money and I wouldn’t settle, but if you look at the consequences had we not done it – the possible end of the football club – and the ability for us just to get on. You saw how productive we were in the January window, what we did; it just put it to bed.
KUMB: I'd like to ask you about the way you're perceived by the supporters. You're the one who's born the brunt of all this right through from Terry Brown's initial negotiations [to sign Tevez and Mascherano] to Eggert's negotiations. You've been called a liar and Christ knows what else; how do you feel about that?
SD: I used to be concerned. I know the whole politics behind it but I just take a really pragmatic view now, that I'm the one through all of it - Brown, Eggert, BG - I'm the one that's guided the club through it. So I'm actually proud of everything that I've done because… I'm of the firm belief that if I wasn't here then the club would be in a worse position. The moment that I feel I'm not helping or assisting the club, then I'll go.
But I think we've had issues - not just Tevez, although Tevez was a big issue I had to guide us through. The negotiations with Sheffield, the collapse of XL; I think I've guided us through it and the moment I've not had external pressure from whether it's Terry Brown, BG and I've been allowed to run the club and make the decisions - which manager I want, how we're going to implement the business plan, the football project - when I've been allowed to run unhindered the last year-and-a-half I think that it's been good.
I believe in myself, I believe in the business plan and I'll continue to implement that business plan and deliver success because I've never doubted myself.
KUMB: I should add that I wasn't accusing you of anything(!), but I wanted to give you the opportunity to answer that as it's something that's been levelled at you.
SD: Yeah, absolutely. In the early days it was worrying but it's a massively, massively political issue and I think the truth will never come out. But what the supporters should glean from it is that through all our issues - and there are massive political issues, as I keep saying - through all of this timeline the various chairmen - Terry Brown went, Eggert came in; Eggert went, BG came in; Asgeir and now Straumur - every single one has given me their absolute, unequivocal support and said that they completely back me.
They know the truth behind all of the issues and they've seen it absolutely fit that they back me 100% and have never doubted me. I've brought the club through it and I'm now moving the club forward to what should be a better future. But I think the fact that the variety of chairmen and the variety of owners have absolutely backed me shows that there must be something in there.
Part Two | Part Four