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Put a sock in it, Mr Sullivan


Filed: Monday, 11th December 2017
By: Paul Walker


Privately, David Sullivan surely realises what a lucky, lucky boy he is after that remarkable, far-reaching interview he gave to the Guardian’s Jacob Steinberg ahead of the magnificent victory over Chelsea.

Had it not been for that fine performance from David Moyes and a rejuvenated team, to stop the champions in their tracks and all but end any hope they had of retaining the title, you can bet your life that our owner’s pronouncements would have attracted far more attention.

Not that Sully got away with it. It’s just that we all had better things to do and celebrate over the weekend - and in this house there was a three-line whip on anybody loafing about watching football on the box when Christmas trees and decorations needed so much attention!

But the article was one that needed reading, re-reading and then reading again just to make sure Sullivan had actually said what we all thought he had said. And he had.

You must know when you come away from an interview with a packed tape recorder, that you have gold dust in your hands. Jacob, a West Ham fan as we all know and a top writer too, knew he had so much material he would be discarding some of it.

So much so that he was soon on twitter pushing out even more of the interview that hadn’t made the paper. It was, I must say, a excellent job. He was suitable respectful, grateful to Sully and even-handed. And as a fan at heart he asked all the right questions, he will have spent time reading forums and social media to know exactly what upsets the West Ham faithful.

And Steinberg wrote in all dead straight, no opinion, just the facts and the quotes, to let us make up our minds about Sullivan. I reckon that maybe in ten years time, folk will still take about ‘the Steinberg interview’ as the most revealing piece of journalism about the Sullivan-Gold years.

I don’t know Steinberg, but have asked a few old hacks of my acquaintance about him, and the reaction is always favourable. West Ham at heart.

Where do you start? How often did Sullivan’s motor-mouth expose himself to ridicule? Just how many current players could be upset in one piece? Robert Snodgrass, Jose Fonte, Pablo Zabaleta. And as you would expect, other journalists went to all three to ask for their responses.

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Snodgrass was sneering on twitter, Fonte called Sully ’ignorant’ and Zabaleta was clearly insulted by any suggestion that he was too old and not up to the job. And when Moyes was told at his pre-match press conference what Sullivan had said about signing older players, the put down was instant.

Sylvain Distin’s six good seasons at Everton, when he was in his thirties, was used as an example of experience over youth.

Sullivan just can’t help himself, can he? He always seems to be trying to prove himself right, and he constantly shifted the blame for the last 18 months or so onto Slaven Bilic, who probably under the terms of his departure agreement is not allowed to discuss things. Maybe there will be a book in a few years when the dust has settled.

And we hear from Sullivan that his family begged him to sack Bilic last summer, and begged him again not to sign Fonte and Snodgrass. They are entitled to an opinion, but what do kids really know about footballers that isn’t picked up off the internet? And why on earth does Sullivan want to tell the world what is discussed over breakfast? Sometimes you can’t make it up, and certainly Jacob hasn’t!

Now those boys are working at the club, ’learning their trade’, when really such lads who have had an expensive private education should be off at uni by now learning about shagging and boozing and stuff. It must be so gratifying for our club backroom staff to know that young Jack ‘has an opinion about everyone’ down at the LS. The mind boggles.

And the intriguing insight into Sullivan’s empire of nepotism just kept coming. He thinks David Gold has ’nothing in his life except West Ham.‘ Give or take a daughter and grand-daughter that is!

Steinberg, amidst all this verbal carnage, was quick and careful to be unbiased. He said people who work for Sullivan admire his intelligence, but also there was the mention of a ’former executive’ who reckons Sullivan is a dictator and the club the most ’dysfunctional’ in the Premier League.

That person, obviously will never be known but there are not many top execs who have left the club of late. I can think of Paul Cox, the corporate communications chief who lasted about two months while Angus Kinnear, the ex-marketing director , has jumped ship to become Leeds United‘s CEO. And there have been a few in the medical and ticketing departments who have also escaped from the time-share stadium. Any one want to own up? Thought not.

All this, though, digging out players, bruising some egos, is nothing really compared to the couple of sections of the article that did upset me.

Firstly, there was the admission that we were only about £10m a year better off after leaving the Boleyn. So why bother, I hear many say. It seems Sully doesn’t want us to look like a tin-pot club, and wants prospective players to be impressed by the majesty of the LS. Oh, and he’s still bleating on about those 10,000 extra seats the ground owners won’t let him have. It’s always all about money, isn’t it?

But what is far worse is the reference to the next level and how he ‘did not realise how hard the task of reaching the Champions League was.’ I wonder, really, if he was serious about that remark, as if the whole thing was a bit of a shock.

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When they planned this move, the reasons for it and the objectives they had, did they not produce a seriously-planned dossier on what it would take, how much, how long, what standard of players you need? It’s not as if plenty of people did not warn him that it was all about much more than money.

The CL is a closed shop, there are six clubs chasing four spots in the Premier League. And they are all vastly more wealthy that us. That’s the ’hard task’ we were facing. Just why was it such a shock, or has he found that throwing money at it (we have the 17th biggest wage bill in the world, don’t forget) does not achieve automatic entry to the next level. You have to earn it, on and off the field.

Maybe Sully should consult David Moyes. He took Everton to fourth place, and they did not even get past the qualifying round. The task is that hard.

And then there was the fear of relegation. Sully thinks ‘we always come straight back’, and that they ’will do what it takes to keep the club afloat.’ This from a club in the top 20 of turnover and finances in the world. Keep us afloat? Good grief, exactly where has the money all gone?

Thankfully we had a tremendous victory to lighten our lives, and did not have to dwell too much on the thoughts of chairman Dave. You wonder why he felt the need to do such an interview at this stage, and maybe he has been spooked a little by the array of fans’ groups springing up and wanting answers from on high.

There seems to be a sort of charm offensive going on in the wake of the newly former Real West Ham Fans Action Group flexing their muscles for a fight. Amazing what a bit of rebellion in the air can achieve.

I am all for fans engaging with the club and board, good luck to them all. The WHUISA have done very well to present a professional approach to the subject, and now the RWHFAG boys - 10,000 members on their Fcebook group already - want a word!

I found it faintly amusing that a club official started all this off by making contact with some of the good old boys from the ICF days. They may be a bit fatter and balder than in their heyday, but with their straightforward approach to things, you really wouldn’t want to cross them. And they still want a word with Sully. Best of luck lads.

And last but not least, we have finally heard from someone in the Bilic group after their sacking. Julian Dicks, no less. He insisted at a legends' evening that there were too many lazy players around under Slav, and that some even feigned injury. Are any of you lot out there surprised? Thought not.


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.







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