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Scott Duxbury: Part Four

Filed: Monday, 29th June 2009

By: Graeme Howlett & Gordon Thrower


KUMB: Scott, one thing a lot of our members have asked about is the Craig Bellamy situation in January. Had we finished a couple of places higher I don't think this question would have even arisen, but we missed out on the Europa League by a fraction so here it is. Why was Craig Bellamy not effectively replaced in January, did we try to do that and do you feel that cost us a European spot?

SD: We had no interest in selling Craig because he'd just started [again]. He'd been injured for most of his career at West Ham and we'd finally got him back and he seemed to be back at his best, so we really had no intention of selling him. When it became clear that he wasn't going to stay I think Gianfranco was looking at two replacements, he mentioned Balotelli last week. We tried to move quickly but we couldn't do the deals.

Savio was not a replacement for Bellamy, he was somebody who we'd been tracking for several months. It just transpired that a few weeks before he scored two goals and everybody was talking about him back in Italy - I think Fiorentina were one club coming in with a big bid for him and it looked like we wouldn't be able to get through until the summer. So with the money that we got for Bellamy we decided to react quickly and get Savio whilst Zola was still looking for strikers to add to replace Bellamy, but none of the deals could happen so...

I think we were a striker down and it's no disrespect to the players that we've got. Unfortunately Cole got injured, Ashton obviously long term. You can't lose a player like Bellamy and it not affect you - it does, and we didn't want to. Who knows whether he would have been responsible for those extra points - but I'm sure it didn't help.

KUMB: On George McCartney and Anton Ferdinand. Did they express a wish to go to Sunderland - because they've both gone on record saying they didn't want to go?

SD: That's just bizarre. George signed a new five-year contract - any conspiracy theorists saying that we were trying to get rid of him, well it's a pretty risky strategy to put someone on a new five-year contract if you're trying to remove them! So George was baffling, he had his own personal problems with his wife who wanted to leave, we thought we'd put them to one side hence he signed a new five-year contract but they resurfaced a few weeks later. I was in the manager's office when he demanded that he wanted to go so at that point it was obvious.

Same with Anton; he wouldn't sign a new contract, he changed agents in between negotiations, he went to Pini Zahavi. Pini said yes, he would sign a new contract but on a level that was just ridiculous that we simply would not possibly ever entertain. So absolutely, they both wanted to go.

KUMB: What's the current situation with Lucas Neill?

SD: Lucas Neill has been given a contract that would make him one of our top earners, certainly slightly more than the established senior players that you see every week - but that's still there for him to accept.

KUMB: So he hasn't accepted it yet?

SD: He hasn't, no.

KUMB: Matty Upson and Rob Green; where are we with those two?

SD: Matthew's slightly more pressing, he's only got two years left on his contract so we'll start to sit down with his agent and try to negotiate an extension. We've made contact, I don't know when those discussions will begin - but they will begin. Rob Green, he's got three years left; we've had several discussions, we haven't finalised them.

Total respect for both of them. Rob Green has a level of expectation of the contract he should have, we're trying to meet that. Discussions have stopped but they'll start again. It's not pressing, there's no way Rob Green's going anywhere and I'm sure we'll meet an agreement on a new contract.

KUMB: You referred to three players in your recent interview with Bryan Swanson (Sky). If we say Jimenez and Mancini are two of those, how are we doing on the other one and is there any chance of that materialising soon?

SD: Well it's not just those, Gianfranco has quite a few targets that we're in discussion with. There's three or four at the moment, none of them really are close to being finalised within the next couple of days but one of them will come off because we're not putting all our eggs in one basket. Hopefully the second one will be sooner rather than later and the third one we'll just keep popping away at.

KUMB: There seems to be a policy of buying more foreign players at the moment. Is that because Gianfranco feels more comfortable, because he knows the players better or is just a question that the players he's liked aren't necessarily British?

SD: He's happy with his squad, the squad of 21 he's got he's really happy with. But he just wants three players of a higher level who will really raise the standard. It's just that one of the players he's identified plays for Inter Milan - so that's just the way it is. He is looking in England but from my experience, getting the English players out of top clubs is very difficult to do. We do have English players on the list where we've started negotiations and they haven't gone anywhere.

He's identified top players and if they're English and we get them, great - if they're not then it doesn't make any difference. But we have moved a significant number of foreign players on this year.

KUMB: Are we likely to sign any players on a permanent basis - or should we just expect loans?

SD: Not in this window, no. When I say no, we have to fund any player acquisitions from our own trading. So if Gianfranco decides that he wants to sell one of his players and then wants to reinvest that money to buy players then yes, we'll buy a player. But if he wants to keep his current squad as it is and simply add to it then unless certain fringe players are sold - which we hope to do - then we'll structure them as loans with an option to buy. But we will need to sell players before we can buy.

KUMB: Jason Burt, writing in the Independent today says that we'll accept £10million for Dean Ashton. Is that correct?

SD: No. I'm not selling him to Stoke and Dean Ashton is not £10million in any way. I want Dean Ashton here, I want him fit, I want him playing and it'll be nice to see him. So he is not being sold.

KUMB: Freddie [Sears] is going to Crystal Palace on loan. Are we likely to send anyone else out on loan next season?

SD: Freddie has a bright future here, that's why we want him to have competitive football. The way Gianfranco coaches, it's such a small squad of 21 to give that one-on-one that I don't really think we can afford to send too many players out on loan because we'd be pretty stretched. Obviously we've got the reserve team football as well so no, I can't really see it.

I can see certain fringe players being moved on permanently to reduce that squad. It's no secret - we've had Faubert out at Madrid, Davenport at Sunderland.

KUMB: I'm not 100% on how these loan deals work, but Sears is off for a year?

SD: Yeah.

KUMB: Is there any provision to call him back? My vague understanding was that if it was a year-long [loan] then you couldn't call him back.

SD: No, but up front we'll have Savio, Ashton, Cole, hopefully Mancini, Jimenez can play there ... and Terry Dixon.

KUMB: How is he by the way?

SD: He's fit. If he develops? It's a no-risk scenario.

KUMB: Rumours are that Daniel Sturridge wanted £50k p/w+. Isn't that ridiculous for a 19-year-old?

SD: It's crazy. He obviously knows Shaun Wright-Phillips as well - Shaun must be saying 'you're mad'.

KUMB: Scott - how are you going to keep Tony Carr working for another 30 years?

SD: [laughs] That's something we're looking at. We do need a succession policy in place and we're working with Tony to achieve that. But Tony's got a few more miles left on the clock yet, so we'll be ok!

KUMB: We see a lot of clubs that get in youngsters at a very young age - Arsenal [for example]. We've seen one or two come in - is that something the Academy are looking at a little more?

SD: Absolutely, we need to expand into Europe and that's where Gianluca [Nani] really, really helps. It's amazing - you touched on it before with Tony - we really are dependent on Tony's eyes, we don't really have any infrastructure of any sorts and that's part of the Technical department and what I've briefed Gianluca to do. Not just to restructure the medical department, but to give us a proper scouting department.

Chadwell Heath are having a building built with banks of TVs and DVDs so we can monitor every single game live around Europe and create a proper scouting network. We're just recruiting two senior people from top European football clubs. So, to create a proper structure that gives a little more objectivity about our scouting process both Academy and senior so we're not just relying on the excellent Tony Carr.

KUMB: The scouting network has always seemed to be fairly loose and informal.

SD: Yep.

KUMB: The chap who discovered both Anton and Rio happens to live locally to me; some of the stories he's come out with over the years... we get back to the fact that it's a multi-million pound industry that depends on bringing players through, to a certain degree...

SD: Completely.

KUMB: And we've got a bloke that goes and watches people in parks...

SD: We need to get more objectivity into it because Gianluca - and this is what he has been tasked to do - discovered Kaka and Jimenez, both at very young ages. Unfortunately the club he was at didn't have the resources to actually take them on so... He created this objective scouting process for the benefit of Brescia and this is what I want to have implemented here so we find the new Kaka and Jimenez. Then we'll be very happy.

When we signed Jimenez, Jimenez knew Gianluca and they were all very happy - but we've paid a considerable amount more than we would have done had we got him when Gianluca first scouted him. The players are out there - we just need to make sure we've got an objective structure that ensures we don't miss them.

We've also got connections with Ujpest in Hungary and there's a couple of Italian clubs we're looking at in terms of relationships. We've loaned [Tony] Stokes there [Ujpest] and took their goalkeeper so I think there'll be more of that with clubs across Europe and even further afield perhaps. Partnership agreements, loans etc.

KUMB: Scott. I want to ask you this otherwise I'll get accused of only asking you soft questions. What can you say to reassure those West Ham fans who fear that The Project is a fancy spin to cover up the sale of experienced players and a dependence on cheap kids; who claim that Bellamy was sold to balance the books of an otherwise bankrupt club and who mistrust both your motives and your public statements?

SD: I can understand why it might be seen as spin - and to a certain degree, it is. Because what we're trying to do is create a message to the fans and to the media of what we're trying to do. What we're trying to do, it's not re-invent the wheel but it's take every element of the football club and give it strategic direction. So we take the Academy, we take the medical department, we take the scouting network, pull it all together in one direction - and that's the Project.

When I met Gianfranco in Rome and convinced him to come to the football club I can assure you that that wasn't spin, he wouldn't have come. If I said 'here's a chequebook, we're going to go and do a Manchester City' he wouldn't have come. He believed in himself and where he was at his stage of his managerial career was taking young talent - the Italian under 21s - developing them, coaching them and making them better players, delivering sustained success over a period of time. That was his project.

The thought of coming to a club that didn't have huge amounts of money, but wanted to invest in the infrastructure of a new training ground, the infrastructure of a medical department and allow him to coach players and be on a training field, one-on-one with Freddie Sears for an hour, saying 'do this, do this, do this' and grow a football club without huge pressures on him to say 'here's £10million, spend this and deliver success' like that [snaps fingers] but grow, was attractive to him - and was the sole reason he came.

He had concerns about his Chelsea links, we had to have long discussions and in the end he said 'look, this is a team effort Scott - you've got to be with me, Gianluca's got to be with me and the three of us, if we're together and drive the football club forward with the project, as he kept calling it, then we can deliver success.

Yes, the term 'The Project' is spin - it's a digestible way of pulling all the elements together of what we're trying to do. But the actual work that the three of us are putting in and how we're moving this football club forward - which just works perfectly with what West Ham's about, which is the Academy, the young players - that's not spin, that has real direction.

The reality is, it was a time where money did dry up. The owner went bankrupt, the partners went into administration so yes, we had no choice, I agree - but it still took people to take the best of that opportunity, create a different vision and work with it. Gianfranco is the perfect, perfect ambassador for that vision and the perfect person to implement it and deliver success. And that's not spin.

KUMB: There was a poll on KUMB.com where we were looking at potential replacements for Alan Curbishley and Gianfranco polled just 4% - he came bottom of a poll of around six. Do you feel your decision to hire him has been vindicated?

SD: At the time there wasn't one person that was in support of it - and I'm not just talking supporters but within the club as well. But rightly or wrongly I was in a position where they had to back my judgement because it was my plan. I think we went seven games without a win and there was quite a bit of pressure being put on me from various people that this was a mistake and that I had to correct that mistake.

If you looked at those performances even though we weren't getting a win you could see the improvement, you could see what was happening and I think there was also a poll that said if the games were 75 minutes we'd have been top of the league, because we were always winning! So as soon as I'd had a drink with Gianfranco and explained to him that football is 90 minutes and not 75 we never looked back!

It's easy to say I never doubted it - but I didn't. Did I think we would have this success? Well, football, there's so many variables, so many things that can derail you but Gianfranco is a very, very talented individual, so's [Steve] Clarke and so's [Kevin] Keen. The three of them, if you could see them at the training ground...

The thing that encourages me is that I know now if we don't spend a penny, our team is going to be better than last year. That's because the three of them are coaching these players and making them better players - and that's a brilliant position to be in. If we can add players like Mancini, Jimenez or whoever - brilliant, instant improvement. But he, with a pre-season - which he hasn't even had yet - is improving that team.

The decision was the correct one, definitely. But through a variety of circumstances where you end up with the season we've had it's just really, really pleasing that for once the club seems to be all together.

That's the thing that annoyed me about the decision at the time. I didn't want the club to become fractured so I'm pleased that everyone seems to have bought into what we're trying to achieve. Because again, it's not spin but if the fans are on board with what we're trying to achieve - forget whether they like Scott Duxbury or not - but they're on board with what the club's doing, what Gianfranco is trying to do, what we're trying to do - then it's pretty powerful and we can achieve success and I think that's where we are.

KUMB: West Ham United have only finished in the top ten on three successive occasions twice previously. If we finish in the top ten again this year that'll be our third. How confident are you that we can achieve that?

SD: Absolutely. Gianfranco shares my optimism. I'm not one of these people that just does the party rhetoric - 'oh it would be great to be mid-table da da da'. 'Can you win the league?' Yes - we can win the league. 'Can you qualify for the Champions League?' Yes, we can. How long that will take I don't know, but if you don't have that ambition, that belief - what's the point?

I was with Gianfranco a few weeks ago and I said 'we're definitely going to finish seventh this year and qualify for the Europa League' - and he said 'only seventh?' So he's got absolute ambition. If we get the targets we've identified - we've got one of them - if we keep the players fit, yep, absolutely confident.

We're aiming for the Europa League next season and then beyond - because that's what we're all here for.

KUMB: Thanks Scott, we appreciate your time - and for going over time.

SD: No problem, thank you.