Here we are again - the same place, same time of year, same issues, same blame game. The same fans in blind panic again.It’s not that we were not expecting it, the annual (bi-annual actually) West Ham United transfer extravaganza. Mark Noble may have sadly left the building, but the circus is still very much in town.
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This club isn't run like a...
This club isn't run like a...
Now I’ve been away, you may have noted the lack of my usual drivel, and it is at this point that I must thank my reader for the multiple voting - that should have alerted the Electoral Commission - which meant I somehow won a KUMB award for this nonsense. Most kind, everyone, and I’ll try to keep it brief in the future.
So basking in the glory of the first thing I have won since an egg and spoon race at primary school, I managed to find a flight to Portugal (no mean feat that) with the family, spent time playing with the grandkids, drinking wine, Springsteen on the ‘phones - not all at once obviously - and putting West Ham and football away for a while. It had been a wonderful, but draining season.
I allowed myself a glance at the BBC website’s transfer gossip once a day, by far the best around with every snippet from around the world, all translated for you and you really don’t have to bother with the client blogging ‘industry’ that surrounds our club daily. A joy, and we were not mentioned much.
But all good things must end and I have returned to these shores to find the fat controller has departed Downing Street and loopy Liz could be our next Prime Minister. Forgive me, have I stepped into a parallel universe?
Oh and we have managed to sign two new players and turned Alphonse Areola’s loan into a permanent, five-year deal. Flynn Downes, one of our own, and Nayef Aguerd are just the sort of promising young players we should be investing in. Of course our new player injury curse has struck Aguerd; nothing changes there then.
And nothing changes, it seems, on the transfer arrivals front. I mean we need at last six new players, we are told there’s £150m to spend (I know, go with me) and our fan base is in uproar because the arrivals lounge is empty. Unlike Manchester airport, but let’s not go there. Let’s not.
It’s got so bad that David Moyes, who gets plenty of stick usually for such situations, is having to launch a desperate plea to ‘get some in’, we ‘need new players quickly’. If that’s not a veiled kicking for the board I don’t know what is.
Moyes can be irritatingly ponderous over deals, conducting due diligence on new players to within an inch of their lives, but this is not really what we are seeing now. There’s obviously plenty of options, Rob Newman has done all the heavy lifting and the board have a list of targets to occupy their time between holidays with their latest squeeze and trips to Royal Ascot in silly hats.
We are even told Karren Brady is overseeing transfer negotiations. Whoever it is Moyes is clearly not happy, and rightly so.
I’ve always wonder what happens when the football department, Newman and Moyes, sort out targets, availability, suitability, cost and wages and pass the deal upstairs for financial people to sort things out. It always seems to be at his point that things get messy, the wheels start coming off and the whole thing gets bogged down.
Is it our board, the way they do business? Are there ‘other’ agents, intermediaries wheeled in to ‘facilitate’ deals at the last minute? Do we squabble over the fine details? The thing is, it’s the same every window, twice a year and seemingly ever year under GSB's ownership.
Moyes, the manager who has just given us the best back-to-back league seasons in the club's history and a European semi final carries the can in the eyes of some fans for our seeming failures in the transfer market. Too slow off the mark - and sources do say that we have missed some very signable players in the past couple of windows.
But this year seems a little different. No signings in January, which could have easily cost us a Champions League spot. Now only a handful in this summer window. Moyes said he would use the January money now, to make a big statement. It’s not going the way he wanted.
But for that dreadful last half hour in our final match at Brighton, when we were leading and in the Europa League at Manchester United’s expense, Moyes’ job may have been a little easier.
Attracting players when you are in the Europa League is attainable, more so than in the European Conference. And as a side issue, that is what Moyes is wrestling with, underlined by Christiano Ronaldo’s decision to leave Manchester United because they are not playing in the Champions League, regardless that his new manager wants to keep him. (Ronaldo will go to Atletico Madrid.)
This attitude pervades all of Europe’s top players. They won’t come to us because we are not in the Champions League, there’s a ‘second division’ of players who will join a Europa League side and the rest happy with the Conference.
Moyes tried for Darwin Nunez, Kalvin Phillips and Raphina in January, he reiterated that only last week, having been made aware that all three would be on their way in the summer. They have all joined Champions League sides, two for less than we offered, but all ensured of top level football and wages that we cannot, or will not, match.
We so nearly signed Nunez for £47m, the player sacked his agent after that deal collapsed at the last minute. Liverpool paid £85m five months later in a deal West Ham, wages and contract wise, could not match in a million years.
I mention all this only because a fan on twitter was asking why we didn’t bid for Raheem Sterling, whose fee to Chelsea is within our price range. But we can’t offer top European football or pay the £250,000 a week plus wages that an England star gets these days. And that’s what Declan Rice will get there when they come back - and they will - for another crack at our skipper.
It’s been talked up again and once more I would dismiss from your minds all the stuff about gentlemen’s agreements and wanting to give us one more year to see if we can finally achieve Champions League qualification. If they do meet the £150m price tag, then he’s history, you do realise that, surely?
So now we have just had a week that sums up West Ham. It started on Monday when four deals were leaked to Sky Sports and Talk Sport, the favoured placement of transfer speculation from someone at the top end of our organisation, as the Yanks would say.
Moyes and Newman would never dream of leaking such material, in fact they seem to have shut down a lot of the avenues (not all, obviously) that client bloggers and fans' groups use to feed their social media outlets.
I must admit I did not notice much speculation about Mark Warburton and Flynn Downes' arrivals. But out club leaks like a sieve, be it from someone who puts out the cones for Rush Green or Chadwell Heath training or the friends, relatives or associates of board members. Or compliant agents or TV and radio pundits.
With all that going on, Moyes does not have a hope of keeping stuff silent.
So by the end of the week Jesse Lingard is on his way to Nottingham Forest, there’s interest in Burnley’s Dwight McNeil at £15m, the bid for Amadou Onana from Lille seems no nearer fruition and there’s now a new £40m bid to Sassuolo for Gianlucca Scamacca. And as for Armando Broja, Chelsea seem to be playing silly buggers.
He wants to come, we want him permanently. Chelsea upped the asking price to £30m and were stunned when we instantly met that price. Now Thomas Tuchel is trying to scupper the deal. Just exactly who is running the show at Chelsea?
And as for midfield improvements, German media say we are willing to pay £17m for Stuttgart’s Belgian star Orel Mangala. Issa Diop’s not going anywhere with Aguerd’s injury, there’s worrying claims we are asking Liverpool about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. And this is just a few days, and still the arrival lounge is empty.
Which brings me back to Lingard, who is getting a battering on social media after turning us down following months of prevarication.
Am I the only one who does not see anything wrong with him wanting the best deal and the best wages? We wouldn’t bust our pay scale by offering the purported £200,000 a week he wanted, but Forest did.
This has gone on long enough and he strung us along, so to speak. But he has only been a free agent for about three weeks following his departure from Old Trafford and he wants the best for his family, whether his father has an influence or not.
There was a suggestion some while ago that the Lingard family, his agents, were upset about their treatment in previous negotiations with us, true or not. But maybe what goes around comes around.
But even while he was talking to Forest, it seems someone was leaking the financial deal they were offering. Not very classy, that.
It was similar with the way Sonny Perkins left. He wanted a better deal, and more first team football and would not sign a new contract.
It did not take long for the smears to start. He was a Spurs fan, he went to matches there last season, his dad’s a Spurs fan. The implication was that he had been tapped up. But he’s now at Leeds United. Believe what you like on that one.
So there’s three weeks to go until the season opener, somehow we need reinforcements, Moyes states “and quickly.” Where have we heard all that before? Which window, which season, which manager? I’d hoped that all this would have been sorted while I was on holiday, fat chance.
It could only be West Ham.
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