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Window into a very worrying culture at West Ham


Filed: Thursday, 1st February 2018
By: Paul Walker


After a wretched transfer window, you probably thought it couldn’t get any worse… step up Tony Henry.

When the ‘racism’ story broke on Wednesday night, around half-an-hour after the transfer window shut with us being virtual non-competitors, I must admit to feeling sick to the pit of my stomach.

Our club had become immersed in a story that defied believe, allegations in the Daily Mail that Henry, our head of player recruitment, had been telling agents that we didn’t want to sign African players.

They caused mayhem, he claimed, they seemingly sat together and were a problem, too many of them was too much to contend with. Frankly it was hard to make up anything more damaging.

West Ham did the only thing possible within hours by rightly suspending Henry and mounting a full investigation. To do anything less would have been an insult to the intelligence of our fan base, multi-racial, ethnically diverse.

The reaction has been mixed, some horrified, some even agreeing with him (sometimes you really can’t make it up) and some stunned but believing in some complex conspiracy theory that it was all a plant by David Sullivan and Co to create a diversion from the mess of the window.

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We had sold our two best goals-per-game ratio strikers for upwards of £25m the pair, while bringing in an untried 25-year-old from Preston. A novice at Premier League level and for just £9m (twice, it seems what his value was rated in respected player transfer websites).

Let’s get the conspiracy nonsense out of the way. I fully appreciate the anger and contempt felt by many towards our owners, but they need a racism story like a hole in the head. We have a Tory peer and an owner with Jewish heritage on our board, why on earth would they sanction a planted leak of this incendiary nature?

My guess is that the leaked e-mail has come from a disgruntled agent, via Kick It Out, and into the hands of the Daily Mail. We had clearly known about it for a couple of days, because the Mail gave us time to come up with a club statement and then dropped the story on us minutes after the window shut, a perfect time (for the paper) for maximum effect.

I really cannot believe Sullivan and Co would be the source of this leak just to save themselves from abuse over the window. Think about it folks, it doesn’t make sense. They will get plenty of stick anyway after the worst window disaster on record.

There’s plenty more on that. It seems Leicester refused to do business with our owners over Islam Slimani. How bad is that? Anderlecht are angry at being messed about over Leander Dendoncker. The Russian club, Krasnodar over their captain, Fynodur Smolov.

Sounds like a re-run of the Carvalho story when our leaders managed to upset Sporting Lisbon and got landed with the Dildo Brothers nickname. How to win friends and influence people, everyone.

Now we know what Sullivan meant post-Wigan with that “we can’t buy anyone” remark to angry fans. He means our FFP wage bill was already at breaking point and we would not be able to spend vast sums because we would fall foul of the financial regulations.

It would be nice to know how well Swansea, West Brom, Palace, Stoke, Newcastle and Brighton manage their finances to allow themselves to out buy and out-manoeuvre us at every turn. Believe it folks, we did not have the money to do the deals, that’s why we were floundering around in the loan and buy later market.

Now I wouldn’t let the Mail into my house for political reasons, but their sports department is top notch. Martin Samuel and the rest are the best in the business.

There are fans who are angry this sort of stuff gets in the mainstream media, but don’t we deserve to know if one of our senior directors has done something like this? And when he starts implying that it was management policy, we need to know who was aware of this higher up the food chain. And there’s only SGB in that category, Henry reports directly to Sullivan.

We should be grateful the Mail has exposed all this. The writer of this piece, Matt Lawton is one of the best investigative journalists in the country, and as an aside, a former colleague and friend for over 20 years.

We have to say ‘ alleged’ e-mail comments, but the Mail will have chapter and verse recordings of all this, it will have been carefully legalled and Henry was given the right of reply. The fact that his responses just made matters worse, as he dug himself a hole he may never be able to climb out of.

To start talking about the “African race” and “these people” is too appalling for words. It took me back to the 1970s when people knew no better. It even sounded like the institutional racism that the Met were accused of, when you say things that are just ingrained in an out-of-date culture.

What does “African race” mean? Does it include Moroccans, Tunisians, Egyptians and white South Africans? Henry needs to explain because it sounds like he’s talking about black Africans.

How does this all look for the parents of youngsters in our Academy, where we have a big ethnic, racial mix. How does it look to players we may like to sign?

How does it look to our current black players? I notice Cheikhou Kouyate already has a smiling picture of himself with a ’African and proud’ caption on his Instagram account. There is even suggestions that Diafra Sakho has been on twitter, but having seen that I would want proof that it’s not a spoof account.

Sakho’s behaviour has clearly been behind Henry’s reactions and I would not be surprised if some French journos are, as we speak, trying to pin him down for an interview. I think we would all like to read that, regardless of the fact that the general attitude to him is that he has been a serious pain in the backside.

Not painful enough, it seems, to go from being too injured to play at Wigan to then passing a medical with Rennes the following day and scoring against PSG 24 hours later. I leave you all to work that one out.

Having suspended Henry, West Ham now need to move fast and efficiently. I would not be surprised if the Mail have something else to hit us with, a follow-up, because that’s how it works.


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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