Filed: Saturday, 9th August 2003
By: Graeme Howlett
New Hammers striker David Connolly has sensationally threatened to quit West Ham - less than a fortnight after completing a £285,000 switch from Wimbledon.
Connolly - who scored the winning goal in this afternoon's 2-1 win at Preston - issued his 'quit' threat after being left on the subs bench for the game.
According to Connolly he was only told yesterday afternoon that he was starting from the bench - hours after the Hammers completed the loan signing of Neil Mellor from Liverpool.
According to Connolly, a clause in the Mellor agreement states that the young striker should start as often as possible - a situation understandably unacceptable for Connolly, who thought he would be starting the match until the late change of heart.
"I had been part of the starting line-up in training all week," an angry Connolly told the packed post-match press conference. "Then we picked Neil up at a service station on Friday and I was told he would be playing instead of me.
"It was a mind-boggling, terrible decision, a real kick in the teeth. I was very disappointed with Glenn Roeder and I told him so.
"You have to earn the right to play during training and in games, and I felt I had done that. It was unfair on Neil that he played, unfair on the team because they hadn't trained with him and unfair on me."
Issuing his threat to quit, the fiery Irishman added:
"I don't know if Neil is going to play all the time - but if he is I am going to look for another club. I didn't come here to sit on the bench.
"I don't mind competition, but you have to earn the right to play. The impression I got was that Gerard Houllier only let Neil come because he was guaranteed to start.
"When Glenn told me I wasn't playing I was in total disbelief. How can he pick someone who has only trained with us for an hour?
"He could have signed for other clubs but didn't because he wasn't guaranteed a start. So why did he sign for West Ham? I can't believe it. I will speak to Glenn again about this. I have to."
Connolly's outburst has left a stain over the vital victory, whilst his comments are more than a little disappointing. Whilst understandably aggrieved by the situation it seems unforgivable - given the current circumstances - that he has chosen to make his displeasure public, instead of dealing with it 'in-house'.
Glenn Roeder's reply was sharp, and to the point.
"No one is guaranteed a first-team place at this club, so I don't know where David is coming from on this one," he said.
"I gave him his debut when I was at Watford. He was an angry ant then, and nothing has changed.
"It's nice to know he is going to speak to me, though. After all, he has just signed a three-year contract."
* You can hear the BBC's post-match interview with Connolly by clicking here.
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