Farewell, Jermain

Just before the transfer window opened, I started a debate on the forum of KUMB*. My starting point, because I knew that Old Man Brown was salivating at the prospect of cashing in on Jermain, was that there was no sense in a sale.

What followed was a very lively debate -- largely in good humour -- where the main battle lines were drawn between those who wanted him to stay and those who wanted him to go.

Now that the dust has settled, following Monday's rather sordid 11th hour deal with our friends in North London, I am going to state my case one final time. I do accept that it is time to move on, but you'll forgive me if I just go through what is a bit of a cathartic exercise.

When it all comes down to it, the debate about Jermain was on two levels. The first level revolved around the commercial wisdom or otherwise of selling now rather than at least holding onto him until the summer. The second level, which exercised the minds of the majority was whether there was a footballing case for keeping the player.

The commercial arguments

The core of the argument here was whether we would be shooting ourselves in the foot by holding onto him, and subsequently losing a large amount of money. It was said that since Jermain's contract had only 18 months to run, then we would lose out if we had to sell him in the summer.

Various arguments were put forward as to how much we would lose if we held onto him. This was an inconclusive debate as some said that there was a great risk that failure to perform would knock millions off his value. Others said that there was the possibility that his value could in fact increase if stuck away loads of goals. It was also pointed out that Joe Cole was sold at a point when he had only one year left on his contract.

The real risk, which I am sure that this whole issue turned on for Old Man Brown was the risk that a buyer might not eventually emerge for the right sort of money. Fresh in the memory of our chairman, I'm sure, was the sheer fortune of the emergence of Chelsea's man from the Russian steppes to get him out of the post relegation quicksand. I reckon that his worry was that was not going to happen again.

This turned out to be critical as we got towards the end of the transfer window. I have no doubt at all that Brown was expecting a bid from a top five club. It did not appear. You can almost imagine the desperation.

The plan had in fact been hatched at the AGM of West Ham when Brown made his infamous "not right in the head" comment about Jermain. I know some people believe this was a cock up rather than a conspiracy, but I believe it was crudely calculated to destabilise the player and show the market that Brown was open to offers.

The reality of our club post relegation is that we have substantial debts and creditors that are seeking prompt payment against a background of severe uncertainty in the footballing industry. As we all know, the last person that is going to put his hand in his pocket, is the Chairman. Our club is run on a hand to mouth cash flow basis. I have to concede that this has been done rather well if you accept that this is the way our club should be run. The small-business mentality of our chairman is the overriding basis of our modus operandi.

But West Ham is Brown's little cash cow, too. After a relatively modest initial injection of cash many years ago, he has been coining it in, year after year. As I have suggested previously, one of the questions that I would like to see posed to Brown in the second part of the Hammers News interview is this: "How much money, have you put into the club since becoming chairman, and how much have you taken out?"

What everybody needs to understand is that West Ham is not a football club. Has ESM finally flipped, I hear you say? No, West Ham is a company that trades in professional football players. We nurture them. We develop them. We then, harvest them. Perhaps a more accurate description of West Ham is that we are a greenhouse which never ultimately grows for its own consumption. Whenever the financial position becomes tricky and the continued position of the chairman threatened, our move is always to sell our best assets.

Under this climate there is never really any prospect of continuity or defence against clubs turning up with their credit cards at the West Ham check-out. Maybe this is the way that modern football has become - the biggest clubs doing what they like. Some truth in that, I concede, but we have absolutely no defence mechanism at all while Old Man Brown runs the show. In fact, like the holiday village owner he is, he positively wants to see punters turning up to buy from him.

This is why during the good-natured debate with my many virtual friends that I was absolutely clear that any cash from the sale of Jermain would not in fact be used to reinvest in new talent. It may have escaped your notice but the Brown strategy was to trade David James and Ian Pearce to fund the purchase of some raw prospects from desperate Wimbledon, while Jermain was held in reserve to cash in after these purchases. The timing in that regard was perfect once again. Hats off to Brown, he is certainly a dab hand at it.

Of course, because we were dealing with a second-tier club in the shape of Spurs, we were not going to get a nice simple chunk of cash. Brown also needed to keep Pardew onside. Hence the arrival of Bobby Zamora and that favourite mantra of Brown: "This boy is a West Ham fan." More claptrap in my view, and patronising claptrap as well. He really does think that we are so thick that we will forgive almost anything if it involves a fellow West Ham fan.

Because Brown is risk averse and puts self-preservation at the top of his list, I always believed that the Defoe deal was likely to be done. You may disagree with me, but an entrepreneur would have looked at the situation and decided that there was more logic in holding on to our most potent striker to see if we could still claim the ultimate prize of promotion.

For me, I think that the downside on holding onto Jermain, until the summer was probably no more than ?2 million. The prize was ?25 to ?30 million. Brown's bottle went some time ago. The club's creditors know that the only way they are going to get paid is through player trading. I believe he has already calculated that we are going to stay down and simply wasn't prepared to take the risk. He also faced pressure from creditors. His contingency planning is now in place for us to stay down, and with him still at the helm.

If all of my thoughts on this are both depressing and negative, it is important to consider what might be the alternative. That alternative can only be based on the arrival of a new chairman with a completely different approach. Either someone has to invest personal wealth in the club or there needs to be a move to widen ownership through the offer of shares. At the moment, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have a chairman with neither the inclination nor means to invest in the club. We also have a chairman that will not countenance new investors as this would undermine his stranglehold on the club.

The footballing arguments

This is where we had the most lively, and sometimes vitriolic argument. The case of the sellers, was that here was a petulant, young man, who had done the dirty the very day after we had been relegated by requesting a transfer. The point was that he simply did not want to play for the club and therefore we should get shot.

Further than that, here was a player with a severe temperament problem leading to three sendings off and meaning that he had missed a number of important games. The risk was that he would get red carded again -- either by design or bad play -- and then he would not be available for selection yet again.

All fair points. I begged to differ. You might disagree violently with me here, but the days of expecting loyalty to one football club are gone. I am not sure that there will now ever be a player amongst the top clubs that will play man and boy for his club. We are living in cynical, dog eat dog times where agents circle around like vultures whispering in the ears of often inexperienced and impressionable players.

My main argument, which I still hold, is that Jermain the Defoe is a special footballing talent and the only player of true international class we had left at our disposal. I wanted to see him on the pitch, adding the extra crucial element in the latter part of this season. I hope to see us in the play offs and I still maintain that the difference between success and failure could well hinge on the extra quality of a player like Jermain.

I want to be clear that in saying so, I am not placing all my hopes and reliance on one player as some have suggested. I am talking about the added value to the team.

By the look of Alan Pardew's face at the press conference, dealing with Jermain's sale, I happen to believe that he felt strongly that way as well. I do not really want to get into the relative merits of our strikers, which are at the manager's disposal. However, I think that everybody who is not prejudiced against Jermain has agreed that he was and is somewhat superior as a footballing talent.

I genuinely believe that Pardew would have been able to have got the best out of Jermain, as we moved towards the end of the season. In any event, I did not detect -- as some did -- that Jermain was not putting in sufficient effort. The motivation would have been clear: the chance to be a hero and at the same time do no harm to his prospects of securing a move to a top club in the summer.

I rarely agree with anything that David Pleat says, but there was one thing at the press conference on Tuesday, which I thought was absolutely right. This was when Pleat described the stealth, speed and goal poaching abilities of Jermain. If there is one thing that we have learnt this season it is that the margin between defeat and victory is small. We have, much to our detriment, given away the player that could have given us the best chance of gaining an advantage in tight situations.

As much as some may now be full of glee that Jermain, has joined a sinking ship, I happen to feel a degree of pity for him. He has ended up at a club, which does not look like it can go anywhere. I did enjoy very much that little FA cup game the other night, and you like me probably had a bit of a wry smile about Jermain sitting in the stands at White Hart Lane. Maybe he knows that he will only stick it out for a couple of seasons before making the move that he probably deserves. I fully expect to see him featuring in England games scoring goals for his country alongside some of the other talent that has been frittered away by the top echelons of our club.

All in all, I am afraid that the whole episode has left quite a bitter taste in my mouth. It is yet another example of what is wrong with the club and I love. This is why, in some respects this is not really about Defoe. Jermain is a symptom of the illness of our club. This is all about the philosophy, management and direction of West Ham United. If nothing else, at least, what has happened has helped us all understand that if we didn't already.

* You can read ESM's marathon KUMB Forum thread right here.

* Like to share your thoughts on this article? Please visit the KUMB Forum to leave a comment.

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