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James Tomkins and the ginger Harry Secombe

Filed: Monday, 23rd January 2012
By: Staff Writer

On Saturday afternoon, prior to West Ham United's 2-1 nPower Championship win over Nottingham Forest that took Sam Allardyce's side to the top of the table for the first time this season, it was confirmed that James Tomkins had signed a lucrative four-year contract with an option for a further year.

The young centre half, a home-grown player who graduated from Tony Carr's world-famous Academy before becoming one of the club's most valuable assets, was the beneficiary of a new deal estimated to be worth around £7million over the course of those four years. Good news all round, it seems.

However the circumstances surrounding Tomkins' new deal - and a contract that catapults the former England under-21 from being one of the first team squad's lowest-paid members to one of its highest - raises questions over the increasing influence of one particular football agent at the club.

Until recently Tomkins was represented by a local football agent called Tony Giess who, along with Kevin Giess runs Skillequal Ltd, a Gidea Park-based agency. Their client list includes players such as Lee Bowyer, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and current Hammers favourite Mark Noble.

However KUMB.com has learned that prior to the start of the January transfer window and the award of his new contract, Tomkins dropped Giess and Skillequal in favour of alternative representation - an agent called Mark Curtis.

Curtis, a FIFA-accredited agent has been a business associate of Sam Allardyce, the current manager of West Ham United, for a number of years.

He is also the agent of current West Ham captain Kevin Nolan, who signed an even more lucrative (five-year) contract at the Boleyn Ground last summer when moving from Newcastle United - one of the clubs strongly linked with Tomkins prior to him penning his new deal last week.

However Curtis' past is one that is steeped in controversy - a past that involves FA fines, FIFA investigations and charges of improper behaviour.

Curtis' charge sheet extends back to 1999, when he was the subject of a Premier League enquiry that investigated the sale of Jermaine Pennant to Arsenal from Notts County. Pennant, who was on the books of Sky Andrew at the time was sold to the north London club on the recommendation of Curtis - who denied knowing that Andrew was the player's representative. Curtis was subsequently fined £7,500 by the FA for improper conduct.

In 2004 he was under investigation - this time by FIFA - for his role in the transfer of Robert Earnshaw from Cardiff City to West Bromwich Albion. Then, in 2007, he was one of six agents charged by the FA for breaching rules on the disclosure of payments in relation to transfers arranged for Luton Town.

Later, in 2010, he was accused by fellow agent Peter Harrison of unlawfully brokering Andy Carroll's final contract at Newcastle - another highly-lucrative five-year deal. Harrison claimed that Carroll, a close friend of Kevin Nolan's who Harrison had represented since the age of 16 was contracted to him until March 2011, although an FA Tribunal failed to uphold his complaint in February of last year.

Harrison was therefore not involved in Carroll's record-breaking £35million move to Liverpool a year ago this month. The English international was instead represented by a solicitor, whilst Liverpool - whose Sporting Director Damien Comolli usually dealt with transfers - were also represented by a third party.

That third party was David Bromley, another FIFA-accredited and FA-authorised football agent who is listed at fifa.com as the owner of a company called Centurion Sports Management Limited, who are based in Sevenoaks. Bromley and Curtis are long term business associates; both were previously named as directors of the now defunct companies Property Hunter and Sports Player Management.

According to mannyroad.com, a website run by Bolton Wanderers supporters who have extensively investigated the agent's dealings in the past, "Curtis and controversy are never far apart. Suffice to say that he has the uncanny knack of being on hand when a player on the move dumps his agent, leaving him or one of his associates to act on behalf of the buying club, thus obtaining a hefty commission."

This is exactly what happened, according to the website, when Jlloyd Samuel - who was on trial at West Ham earlier this season - moved to Bolton from Aston Villa on a free transfer in 2007. Samuel's representatives prior to the move were a company called Base Soccer who number Tottenham players Tom Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon - plus former Hammer Bobby Zamora - amongst their clientele.

"A couple of days before Bolton did his [the agentís] deal, he got a call from Mark Curtis to say, "let me do the deal" Ė because heíll get more commission from Bolton," fellow football agent, Tony McGill, told mannyroad.com. "So this other agency allowed Mark Curtis to do the deal on behalf of Bolton Wanderers for Jlloyd Samuel because [Phil] Gartside [the chairman of Bolton Wanderers] was paying him a bigger commission - and thatís fact."

The website claims that Curtis - who they refer to as 'the Ginger Harry Secombe' - was also involved in the transfer that took Radhi Jaidi from Birmingham to Bolton when Jesse Learoyd-Hill, Jaidi's agent at the time found himself similarly cut out of the deal. Curtis later protested his innocence, stating that, "he [Jaidi] said he didnít want to take him [Learoyd-Hill] along. If he had wanted to be represented by him he would have brought him along."

According to Peter Harrison - who, for the reasons previously mentioned has a fairly large axe to grind (and has been at odds with Curtis since a 2006 Panorama documentary secretly filmed Harrison alleging that he made secret payments to Craig Allardyce, then an employee of Curtis' firm Sports Player Management) - Curtis was, "more or less chairman" at Bolton during Sam Allardyce's reign as manager: the inference being that Curtis had control of the club's transfer policy.

Curtis, highlighted, at a Bolton match (image from mannyroad.com)

Curtis' stealth-like arrival at West Ham - he is mentioned nowhere on the club's website at whufc.com - is therefore likely to be of great interest to supporters concerned about the influence of preferred football agents at the club.

Co-chairman David Sullivan was extensively criticised last season for his insistence on dealing regularly with the greyhound-loving Barry Silkman, who played a key role in bringing players such as Thomas Hitzlsperger and Demba Ba to the Boleyn Ground.

With James Tomkins already on board and sorted out with a new, lucrative contract, the question is this: could some of West Ham's fellow young stars be tempted to follow suit and sign up with Curtis? And could Tomkins' former representatives, the Gidea Park-based Skillequal now look to cash in on Mark Noble, to avoid the possibility of losing him to Curtis' clutches too?

Sadly, nobody from Skillequal was willing to talk with KUMB.com about the Tomkins situation on either occasion that we contacted them. However we would still very much like to hear what they have to say about the situation, should they change their minds.

Further Reading

mannyroad.com: 'The Ginger Harry Secombe Who Runs Bolton Wanderers'

Mail Online: 'Top agent lifts the lid on football's murky secrets'

Confusion Over Agent In Carroll Transfer Deal

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Ricky Galer
02:16PM 23rd Jan 2012
''Brilliant journalistic work. It's always good to have an insight into the shadier goings-on at our club, even if they do leave a bitter taste.

These are the questions that need to be asked and situations that need exposing. I'll keep a very close eye on developments due to this eye-opening piece. Here's hoping an Icelandic style debt-mounting summer isn't around the corner. ''

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