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West Ham 1-4 Manchester City (And Other Ramblings) - A Letter to David Sullivan


Filed: Wednesday, 2nd May 2018
By: HeadHammerShark


Dear David,

This is one of those open letters. God, how tedious of me. I've become one of "those" people.

"I don't want to spend night after night with you
While you figure it out"
- She and Him, "I've Got Your Number, Son"


I know, I know - I should be better than this. But then again, so should our team after eight years of your ownership and instead we're going to either go down or survive with fewer than forty points. Neither of us have much to shout about.


First question - where on earth do you get your jackets?


I should be writing about this game, but to be honest, I've got nothing left to say about West Ham capitulating at home. I've seen this game a dozen times already at the London Stadium since you moved us there. I don't know how many more times I can say that Cheikhou Kouyate is no longer in control of his own legs, or describe Javier Hernandez nearly breaking out into a walk.

So let's just talk, you and I. Two seriously pissed off West Ham fans with an eye on the future.

I'm guessing that this weekend was tough for you. Perhaps I'm naive but I still believe that you are a genuine supporter, albeit one with a remarkably high tolerance for the team you support being abysmal. I suspect it must be galling for you to sit in Director's Boxes with the officials of clubs like Burnley, Swansea and Brighton and have to offer up polite chit chat while the team you have assembled at such great cost gets destroyed in front of you. I can't believe that at least a couple of them haven't at least leaned over and whispered something along the lines of "David, old chap, not to pry but exactly how incriminating are the photographs that Patrice Evra has of you?".

You're not a quitter, you say. You're not walking away from a job half done. Fair enough, I suppose, although I think you might be pushing the limits of the word "half" there. It's the standard rhetoric of people in jobs that are beyond them, but which remunerate them handsomely. And rest assured, I think we are all aware that the several million pounds of interest that the club pays you each year probably helps to while away the hours on those long drives back down the M1 after yet another Northern shellacking.

I happen to think that people who refuse to quit when they aren't up to the task are selfish. People mocked Kevin Keegan mercilessly but by resigning as England manager in 2001 he helped England to reach a World Cup, by admitting he wasn't up to it. I find that infinitely more courageous and honourable than sticking around despite all the evidence being that you don't possess the ability to do your job. I'm. Just. Saying. David.

***

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. For our story begins some time ago. 2010, to be precise, and West Ham was a club on the precipice. We were, according to the BBC, "in 16th, in a season plagued by injuries and off field distractions". Seems a little outlandish, I know, but that's what they said.

You described the situation thusly - "We have a short term goal to stay in the Premier League, and in the long term we'd like to be challenging for the top four and the Champions League....the club has such an unbalanced squad. We will be honest with the fans about the books and the crazy wages the Icelandic owners paid out that has brought the club to its knees".

I won't lie, David, that last one is my favourite.

You finished up by saying "We're taking on a huge task at a club with enormous problems. It will take time for us to turn it around". Remember what we were saying about a job half done? Time travellers from 2010 might wonder if you've even started at all.

I should also add that there was also some stuff about how you always supported your managers, right before you fired Gianfranco Zola and replaced him with Avram Grant. For a bet, possibly. Anyway, we're five managers in now so I always figured that one was probably a joke.

Plus ca change and all that, but I wonder if you ever sit at home, looking at those life-size waxwork butlers of yours and wonder whether you are in some mythical Greek hell?

I know I do.

In the same way that Tantalus is forever doomed to stand in a pool of water that recedes whenever he bends down to try and drink it, you seem destined to sit in the bottom half of the Premier League and watch poorer, smaller, but smarter, clubs breeze past you.

It puzzles you, I'm sure, that fans aren't more grateful to you for saving us. I suppose that can be put down to the fact that a lot of fans don't really think you did. They saw a very wealthy individual swooping in and picking up a distressed asset that was always likely to produce a return with even a modicum of investment. Harsh, I suppose, but there you go.

There can be no denying that the clubs finances look an awful lot healthier now than they did in 2010, but of course this is largely due to the explosion in television rights. While Karren Brady might like to brag about turning around a failing business, most of us are a bit nonplussed by all that. The single best decision you made was to employ Sam Allardyce, at obscene expense, to ensure the club was back in the Premier League when the gravy train rolled into town. And if ever there was a man unlikely to miss a gravy train...



And a pint of fucking wine

***

I have no doubt that you are perplexed as to why exactly a home defeat to Manchester City would inspire all this angst among supporters. After all, City beat everybody, have unlimited funds and scored a couple of flukey goals. Their dominance says an awful lot more about the job being done by the men who run the Premier League and UEFA than it does about you. And, in isolation I'd agree with you.

I don't understand why so many fans are upset about a supposed lack of effort when it seems clear to me that David Moyes had instructed the team to sit off and hold their shape to try and deny City space behind our defence. We did this at the Etihad to great effect, and I suppose you could say it sort of worked here for about ten minutes. City scored through a deflection and an own goal, both of which were unfortunate but exactly the kinds of goals that you let in when you are shit. And David, before you protest, we are absolutely fucking shit.

But I'm not sure it's this particular defeat that's really the point here. It's the fact that every single one of us knew it was coming. I knew it was coming. You knew it was coming too. I know you did.

Since moving to the London Stadium we have played the current Big Six on thirteen occasions. We have won three (God bless London derbies), drawn once, and lost nine. In those games we have scored ten goals and conceded thirty four. Holy Shit, Dave! THIRTY FOUR. It's not just that we're terrible, it's that we're reliably terrible.

We've never once scored four goals in a game at our home ground, and yet Manchester City have done it three times. Once upon a time you could judge a teams title credentials by how they fared at Upton Park, but under your watch, we now get to see how they would play in testimonials. I honestly thought Kevin de Bruyne was going to fall asleep yesterday.



I am incredibly bored!


Whether you accept it or not, the fact that we don't even remotely compete in games against one third of the division is a pretty good reason for the widespread apathy that is surging through your core support like poison through a bloodstream.

***

But I'm sure, you're sitting there fed up at having your efforts ripped to shreds. What of Dimitri Payet? What about that season of finishing seventh? And you'd be right. That was a great season. You should have bought a decent striker in January, of course, but instead did it on the cheap and missed out on a Champions League spot that was begging to be taken. I often wonder about that, and I'm sure you do too. Some better refereeing and Charlie Austin instead of Emmanuel Emenike and who knows where we would all be right now.

But if wishes were horses, I'd be dragging Nigel Farage through the streets of Calais behind my carriage. We blew it and then returned immediately to the stagnant mediocrity that has been the hallmark of your ownership. Barring that one marvellous season when the Premier League went crazy, big teams fell and little teams rose and bloody Leicester won the league, we have been unrelentingly boring to support. I can describe it in no other way. West Ham on the pitch are generally one of the most tedious sides in the land.



We've got a live one


We just... exist. Drifting aimlessly through seasons, lurking in the bottom half of the table leaving nary a footprint in the sand. All of our impact is on the back pages, as we lurch from crisis to crisis, amusing the world as we go. We are irrelevant on the pitch and shambolic off it, and there is nobody to be blamed for that other than you. I resent being asked to give you my season ticket money before the end of the season because I feel like I will just be endorsing you to go out and waste it once more.

Let me ask you a question, David, if I may. Is there any challenge in your role? By which I mean, does anyone ever tell you that what you're doing is wrong? If not, perhaps you ought to ask yourself why.

Once, many years ago, I worked for a brief time at a place that had a "hands on" owner. The company had two security guards, one of whom worked from 5am until 1pm, and the other from 12pm until 8pm. They had a handover period of one hour in the middle. One day the owner turned up for an operations meeting and noticed them both at reception. Troubled by such an unnecessary display of manpower, he told his operational team to fire one of them because it was ludicrous to waste money like that. Given how long ago it was, this might have saved the company around £25,000 per year.

The problem with this was that it meant we had one security guard to cover fifteen hours. In the end, he did the early shift and the company paid the landlord of the building to have someone come and lock up. The cost of this service? £40,000 per year.

Whether that is apocryphal or not, I don't know, but it was told around the corridors as being true. And nobody was surprised because the distinguishing characteristic of that business was that anybody close to the owner just mumbled in agreement and told him what he was saying was great. It led to a very well-paid senior management and a very poorly run company.

Challenge is a good thing, David. People disagreeing with you is healthy, because it introduces some rigour to your decision-making process. Getting people into positions of seniority who have a backbone and some vision is a really healthy thing for a company to do. I understand that long-term strategic thinking wasn't a huge part of your success in porn or property, but it couldn't be more vital to the industry in which you currently operate. You keep telling us that the manager must have the final say on transfers despite employing five in eight years. Any player signing on anything longer than a two year deal is likely to outlast the manager he signs for. Can you not see that this is a nonsense?

If nothing else, please look around. Examine what is working for those other smaller clubs who have gone skating past you so easily. You need some help. You've done your best, no doubt, but there is so much more intellectual horsepower in those clubs it's not even a fair fight. They have long term business plans that allow them to think further ahead than the next transfer window, and they don't lurch alarmingly from one crisis to another. It's pretty tough to admit, but when your business is failing and you've changed the staff, the place you do business and the management then perhaps it might be time to admit that the only thing left to change is...you.

***

But before you get too excited about making lots of changes, David, I'd like to ask one more thing of you. When you come to make those decisions - please don't do anything for public approval. I know it's been your preferred method to road test ideas by disseminating them through various social media outlets and then gauging public response, but this highlights everything that is wrong with your leadership. Your job isn't to satisfy fans before the season, it's to do it at the end.

I know fans are a nightmare. How can you appease people who scream that they want a high energy pressing game and then scream even louder for Hernandez to be on the pitch? What hope do you have of reasoning with people who insist on playing 4-4-2 without acknowledging that we don't actually have anyone who can play wide in midfield? Where do you go with supporters who criticise Moyes for not instilling a sense of organisation and professionalism into his team and then side with professional waster Andy Carroll because he didn't walk straight back into the team after being out for months? What is up with people who plaster pictures of themselves in the San Siro all over their social media accounts and then tell you they're giving up their season tickets because they're sick of the number of tourists in the stadium?

But that's the point, really - fans are emotional and illogical and moody, but the simple thing we all want is success. Produce a better team and we will fall in line. You need to stop taking short cuts and start working to some semblance of a plan. Or better yet, employ some people to design and implement that plan, because this current squad you have assembled is one of the worst I've ever seen and fans have every right to be pissed off about it.



Not that logical, shockingly


None of which is to say that fans aren't important. We're crucial. But we need you to listen to us on other things, because you've currently got it the wrong way round. And so you stay silent when our fans are threatened, when the stewarding is unsafe, when we are campaigning for safe standing and when that godforsaken fucking stadium turns out to be a total disaster, but find the time to canvas opinion about whether we should sign El Hadji Diouf. This is madness.

Any business making strategic decisions to gain short term approval from their customers is doomed to fail. If you had any belief in your own vision, you wouldn't care remotely for public opinion. Instead we have this strange briefing against Moyes now to prepare the ground for letting him go in the summer. I happen to think Moyes would be a poor appointment, but still the best you could realistically manage, although either way that's not terribly important.

What's important is your long term plan. How do you want to play? What type of team are you trying to build? What profile of player are you targeting and how do you plan to attract them? If Moyes is your ideal candidate then back him and commit to the plan. The problem is that you and I both know that no such template exists. Instead, everything is geared to short term survival and kicking problems down the road until you eventually sell the club and can leave them for the next guy to resolve.

And there's the rub. When you took us from Upton Park you ripped the soul out of the club. But crucially you didn't replace it with anything. I would suggest that the only thing that could really have worked is to have replaced it with a brain. A razor sharp, young, progressive, cutting edge managerial set up that could have bridged the gap between us and the elite. I can't tell you how often I daydream of West Ham Red Bull, David, because it would be no further removed from the West Ham of my youth than your version, and a damn sight more successful.

Instead...nothing. Just the same unimaginative approach that you have always employed, and in the end it has led us to where you have always ended up. At the bottom.

I should add that none of this is personal. I think you're a businessman who saw an opportunity to profit and you took it. But the issue is that you haven't given us anything. Absolutely nothing. Not the stadium, not the team, not the managers, not the Academy, not even any glimmer of hope for the future. And if your plan is to just hang on to the club until the restrictive covenants are lifted and then sell for the biggest profit possible, then you need to be aware of what that will mean for your legacy. And perhaps you won't care, and perhaps your sons won't care, but you'll be forever known as the guy who destroyed West Ham.

I hope it doesn't come to that, David, I really don't. It doesn't need to. We have attributes that other clubs would kill for. Stand aside and let people who know what they are doing utilise them. Look to Kevin Keegan - admit you're not up to it. There really is no shame in it.

Yours sincerely,

HeadHammerShark
Disgruntled of Block 256


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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