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Times they are a’changing


Filed: Friday, 14th September 2012
By: Paul Walker


The Olympics are gone, consigned to a vivid memory of a triumph, a London one and in particular an east London triumph, as we all knew they would be.

Now as a proud east London football club, we await the decision next month that will change us forever, whether we get the Olympic stadium or not.

Anybody who believes that we can just continue as we are is living in a dream world. Some of us may not want to move to Stratford, and I have swayed from one side to other over the years, now I am exhausted really with the debate.

We all know the arguments inside out by now. For and against. Nobody, surely is sitting on the fence and doesn‘t understand the issues any longer.

But our owners have their master plan. Everything, from moving out of the Boleyn to signing Andy Carroll is part of that great scheme.

We must progress. To stay as we are leaves us, in effect, slipping backwards with every passing season. The only way to compete at the highest level and to take and maintain West Ham into the top half of the Premier League, is increased revenues.

And the only way that is achieved is to have a bigger stadium. If it is not Stratford then Upton Park has to be enlarged, or we have to find a new home to build a stadium with a 60,000 capacity and all the commercial capacity that comes with it.

To be honest, rebuilding the East Stand and adding 10,000 more seats is not enough, even if we could overcome the difficult planning logistics--and get Newham Council’s approval--that would be needed.

Our owners have a plan, clearly, and they have never hidden the fact that they would want to sell the club at one stage. Selling the Boleyn to pay off the club debts and to recoup their own outlay is their aim, whether we like it or not.

The smart money is already on us getting the Olympic stadium. Too many reports and expert observers in recent months have made reference to us winning the bid for it not to be nailed on, or so it seems.

If for some reason we don’t get Stratford, there will be a major re-think of the owners’ plans and a messy debriefing of what went wrong and where they go from here.

But the status quo is not an option. We will be left with the revenue only to mount a regular fight to avoid the drop. And that is not progress.

Nobody really wants to leave the Boleyn. Four generations of my family have lived their lives in our lovely old stadium. I know every step of the old Chicken Run and where they all watched the Irons from way back into the last century.

That does not mean that we cannot move home. And let’s face it, so many clubs have done it. Manchester City moved to the now Etihad from Maine Road, to my mind a similar sort of ground and club to ourselves in the good old days. Nobody talks much of Maine Road now.

Sunderland, Derby, Leicester, Middlesbrough, Bolton, Southampton, Reading, Coventry, Swansea, Stoke, Cardiff, Hull, Brighton have all changed homes to give themselves a better future. Even ourselves from the Memorial ground to Upton Park. The list goes on. Nothing is forever, and we should realise we have to embrace that.

If you stand still, you die. And financing a refit for the Boleyn or building something bigger and better elsewhere - God knows where in such a crowded, over-populated part of Essex and east London - would be horrendously expensive.

The Davids probably could not afford to fund that level of transformation and would no doubt re-evaluate their commitment. And that leaves us wide open to dodgy bidders with ulterior motives. Yes, I mean you, Liverpool and Portsmouth. Better the devil you know!

So get used to it all of you, our club is going to change dramatically over the next few years, giving the Davids the chance to fatten it up and flog it off to some rich Arabs, no doubt. A West Ham club established in the top flight and using a re-designed, iconic stadium close to the City skyline would be an attractive proposition.



Do not forget, billions around the world have been watching the Olympics and seen the stunning backdrop and unique position close to the centre of the greatest city in the world. That is what will be it’s selling point for the Davids.

They keep telling us they are dipping into their own pockets to ensure we do stay in the top flight, and we have all experienced a summer of transfer activity, Big Sam style, that has started to address the quality of our squad.

For some it has been an education. Seeing Sam and his agent mate Mark Curtis in full flow, and that has needed financing. Although anyone who believes we have spent over £20m on players is deluding themselves.

The deals never involve full outlay upfront. Only Manchester City can do that, and they’ve started trimming back on that front.

Punters tend to believe the hype, with Sky at the forefront. They love a big round figure, the bigger the better because it looks good on TV. But we have probably only paid half of that figure, maybe even less with the deals depending on add-ons, appearances and success.

The owners have put in money, and keep saying how hard it is for them and how many family conferences they have had.. And then there’s £12m still to pay to Sheffield United.

But until we see the end of ridiculous red limos in the car park. Until the bottom drops out of the lingerie business(yes, I like that one too). Until mansions are sold, private golf courses shut down and oyster cards replacing private helicopters, I will not be crying too much about austerity in the Davids’ households.

They know just what they are doing, how to get and maintain funding and how they will get their money back in the long run.

And yes, I do believe they are doing this because they are fans and they care about this club. But don’t expect me to repeat such a thing again, the cynic that I am, people will think I‘ve gone soft in my old age!

They have backed Sam and Curtis in the market, and it costs to buy players who can compete at the top level. What does annoy me a little is that every time a player comes onto our radar, the message boards are awash with people slagging them off, insulting them and branding them donkeys, traitors or turncoats. Come on everyone, grow up, this is a tough industry in which players want the very best for themselves.

I was not a bit surprised that Carroll left it so late. He had acquired a move to one of the world’s great clubs(although two sets of daft American owners have done their best to destroy that legend.)

Carroll wanted to play for England and it Europe, and with a club who could afford £80,000 a week wages. If you worked in a bank, and someone offered you vast sums to move elsewhere, you would go and you would want to hang onto that new status, so why are footballers considered any different?

But Carroll has arrived, and I believe Liverpool’s rookie new boss Brendan Rodgers is at best being disingenuous about the terms of his loan.

Nobody at Liverpool has gone on the record to confirm that Carroll can be recalled in January, and our own owners have been distinctly unhelpful with their own utterances on the subject.

But a mate of mine, a football league chief executive, suggested that the January thing is a red herring, with Liverpool--having accepted money for a season long loan--could only recall Carroll if they wanted to sell him.

Now as we have first refusal and a clause that we can buy him for £17m, Rodgers looks like he was desperately searching for some ammunition to get himself out of the shambolic transfer deadline day abuse he found himself facing when the Boston mob refused to spend £7m on Clint Dempsey.

Now I wouldn’t spend that amount on him either, and Fulham--who had previously reported Liverpool for an illegal approach--were going to get their pound of flesh and to make things very tough for the Anfield boss.

Rodgers, facing such uncertainty, should have been the master of his own destiny and not allowed Carroll to go until his replacement was signed.

So Rodgers was done up like a kipper, as they say, and made to look foolish. It didn’t help that his managing director Ian Ayre, I believe, went home two hours before the end of the transfer window when the Dempsey deal collapsed! So no Plan B then, Brendan?

It allowed Big Sam to emerge with a real coup. It’s a long time since we signed a player of such magnitude and stature, a current England international, the best in the country by far at his specific job, and not a player on the way down, too old or injury prone. And still some of our fans were slagging off Carroll.

I believe the reaction at Chadwell Heath amongst our players was one of delight, the signing lifted their spirits, the club’s and ours. His performance underlined that, he was playing and wanted. And I do not believe he will be out for six weeks.

No one from our club went on the record with a return date after his unfortunate hamstring injury. There was nothing on the club website, either. Hamstrings usually take three weeks to recover from, four if it’s bad, so I expect to see Carroll on the bench against Sunderland, having a run-out against Wigan in the League Cup and playing at Loftus Road against QPR on October 1.

Which brings me back to the great master plan. New stadium, old one sold, debts gone and top players being attracted--as well as potential rich buyers. I’d like to think that Carroll will be the first of several more top level players to arrive as long as we stay in the top flight and get out hands on the vastly increased TV money from next season.

And yes, I want to believe the times they are a’changing whether the Mail on Sunday’s Patrick Collins thinks our owners are despicable porn barons or not, and whether he likes Sam and Curtis’ methods or not--which he outlined in a sneering, sarcastic piece a couple of weeks ago.

So stand-by everyone, it’s going to be a rocky time ahead, with us moving somewhere, somehow. Otherwise we will just stagnate and die.


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 Matthew Wright
09:38AM 16th Sep 2012
''A very well written piece this! I know a lot of Hammers fans will desperately be clinging on to the dream that the move won't happen, but I think that it is already done.

Boris Johnson's move to head the decision making commitee are going to speed things up, and I think the winner will probably be named well before Christmas. I remember when Arsenal went to the Emirates, many Gooners didn't want to leave because of the tradition too, but the truth is that the Premier league is about big success or non stop toil.

In order to be successful, you must have the revenue to buy the quality players to win. It's that simple! So there really isn't a choice. And I for one am looking forward to this future, and will definately be buying a ticket to see the mighty Hammers at the Olympic Stadium come 2014/15 season! ''

by paul osborn
09:30AM 15th Sep 2012
''I'm with you on most of that. We will mix up our style of play and not like some of it but as long as they show some pride in the shirt. I am fed up counting to see how we going to get to 40 points year in, year out so I'm for it. I think Westfield will be a big part of our future.''

by g portugal
08:25AM 15th Sep 2012
''Agree regarding stadium. Much as it pains me to abandon 100 odd years of history at Upton Park,the long term financial survival of the club is at stake, so Stratford needs to happen.''

by Charles Flores
07:33AM 15th Sep 2012
''In Malta a few days ago we have had the pleasure of greeting former Hammers boss Alan Curbishley and his broadcasting mate John Dyke. They were here to attend and address the local media in connection with the launch of the new Premier League HD bonanza and other packages on offer by Maltese TV operator GO.

West Ham fans amongst the Media representatives were quick to home in on Alan Curbishley who was his old accessible and affable self, discussing past and present issues with them. He looked relaxed and certainly enjoying his new and well-sought-after role of television pundit. He also did not mind and indeed did not seem uncomfortable signing old matchday programmes from his West Ham days.

During the official proceedings I asked him for his views on the proposed move from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium. Curbs was unperturbed, explaining that the advantages of the small and compact characteristics of the Bolyen Ground needed to be emphasised before any such move took place. He said the prime movers of the project were, undoubtedly, David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady. What the fans thought was another matter. Upton Park served as a very effective weapon for the Hammers to maintain their Premier League status when the going was tough.

After the launching, I brought up the subject again, saying I begged to disagree regarding the move to the OS. In reply, he said his main two problems with the new venue were: the athletics track and the distance to the pitch from certain angles of the stadium. To this I retorted:

1. Retracting terracing could solve the problem with the athletics track
2. The most distant sectors of the stadium we could always allocate to the away fans!

Curbishley, whose tone of talk was sympathetic and down-to-earth all the time, thinks that when the big teams visit the new stadium, they would be able to carry some 10,000 fans with them and who would be able to match, if not out shout and out sing, the Hammers fans, thus threatening the home advantage.

Then of course, he said, there was always the problem of having to play the “lesser” teams in the Premier League. They did not bring enough fans with them, and not too many West Ham fans would bother turning up to watch their favourite team against them, enough, anyway, to fill the gigantic stadium.

I remain convinced still that the move to the OS would be beneficial in many ways. West Ham United needs to grow to survive at the highest level. Look at Manchester City. Look at Swansea. Look at Arsenal. Look at the other clubs planning to have their own, big stadia. But Curbs gave me some food for thought. My hope is that the people piloting this project are fully aware of all these justified doubts.''

by jak1935
07:18AM 15th Sep 2012
''Very intereresting and thought provoking article. If it comes true we're in a win win situation. If it doesn't we're back into the realms of Championship soccer (at best), with nowhere to go. Upton Park would have been sold and the rent on the Olympic stadium will be too great for club with no assetts. That scenario and it's ramifications doesn't bear thinking about.''

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