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Keep calm and think of Everton


Filed: Tuesday, 17th July 2018
By: Paul Walker


It’s been some week, eh? Finishing on World Cup Final day by breaking our transfer record for the third time in a year and second time in weeks.

“Mamma said there’d be days like this‘ (apologises to the Shirelles) but frankly I never really believed that, we‘re West Ham for heaven’s sake. I am approaching 60 years supporting and watching this club, and I can’t recall a few weeks of such excitement... and now expectation.

Ah yes, expectation. Some of the more excitable fans’ sites have even started talking about winning the league. Come on lads, pull yourselves together. These seven new players are all more than decent, but they all have something of a gamble about them. It’s not like signing Neymar, is it?

But I don’t want to start dousing everyone’s fun, this has been a great summer, England have done better than anyone expected, the World Cup has gone off without a hitch and we have constantly hogged the headlines for all the right reasons, signing players that certainly excite us all.

However, after so many years of disappointments, maybe we could hold fire on booking hotels for Champions League away games just yet!

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This time last year we were all watching Everton with some jealousy. They were tearing up the window, spending £135.18m on eight players, including Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane and Gylfi Sigurdsson. In fact, they shelled out £239m in the full year.

Didn’t go well, though. They ended up having to employ big Sam to dig them out of the relegation mire, and a manager and director of football got the boot. So let’s just stay calm, and think of how Everton fouled it up.

Now I’m not saying we are going down the same road, but this amount of incoming transfers takes time to gel, for the new manager to find a settled side. It may not come straight away.

But you can’t avoid the growing excitement for a change as we contemplate seeing Felipe Anderson’s debut rather than any one of David Sullivan’s painfully inept ’punts’ in the loan market for a striker. Mido anyone?

Two seasons of dire results and much off -field anger has seen the atmosphere change. Bottom line is we have spent £85m, without the obligatory ‘add ons’…they may not even happen… so that’s for a different budget in the future. And I can’t get worried about agents’ fees either, even if quite a lot of it seems to be heading towards one agent, Will Salthouse, who has become something of a Sullivan family house pet.

Salthouse represents four of our players - Aaron Cresswell, Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang and Michail Antonio - and added Ryan Fredericks just days before the free transfer from Fulham went through.

And we have been linked with three other of his players: Jamaal Lascelles, Tom Cairney and Alfie Mawson, as well as ‘facilitating’ the Marko Arnautovic move last summer, when after our first bid of around £10m, the fee escalated to over £20m.

So although Sullivan may have taken a back seat on transfer dealings this summer, he still has his favourite agent working away. I have never been keen on agents, after some 40 years when I was working for a living having to deal with them.

And I like even less the idea of one agent having so much sway at a club; didn’t we go down that route with Sam Allardyce’s mate Mark Curtis?

But that’s the way it goes in modern football. Last year we spent around £9m on agents fees, so if you double that because of the extra traffic and quality coming in, that’s still not going to top £20m, pretty much par for the course if we want to compete in the higher level.

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So we are looking at maybe £110m overall maybe to pay for this lot, and I doubt that will cause us the sort of problems that have frightened Sullivan over previous seasons. And then there’s Financial Fair Play, and I don‘t see us being troubled with that now either….not like Leicester, Bournemouth, Aston Villa and maybe even Wolves.

I tried to work out our FFP earlier in the summer, bit rule of thumb here, but I reckoned that we could get away with spending around £90m, even more. You get to add £7m to the previous season’s budget plus anything you make ‘in house’ from tickets, sponsorships and the corporate side.

And that is the benefit, I suppose, of sitting in the next county to watch games (anyone who understands where the old boundary between Middlesex and Essex is will understand that one). Mind you, I have Manchester United friends who can see Snowdonia from their seats at Old Trafford.

Money being generated from the move to a bigger stadium is starting to filter into our bank balance, which was the reason we were all persuaded to endorse the move to Stratford. It’s the only way to compete at the higher level, bigger stadium, bigger crowds, more revenue. Shame about all that tarpaulin.

As to the wages for these seven new players, I reckon around £120m over the next five years. All this sounds worrying, but we are slowly beginning to operate in a different market, not one that came easily to Sullivan from the start of the move to the LS, where he was unable to persuade players in the Champions League/Europa bracket to drop down from that level. But that’s where Manuel Pellegrini’s status and respect comes in.

There is no doubt the pressure on the board from various fans groups has concentrated a few minds. They could not afford more unrest next season on the Burnley scale. We are a political football now, the stadium is in effect owned by the Government and after you strip away the quangos and the London authority, it comes under the Culture Secretary and the Home Office in the end. The Home secretary.

Nobody wants government at that level being stung by bad publicity over their ’wonderful’ Olympic legacy. Nobody wants to see doors being shut and stadiums closed down. And believe me, that is the end product of continued unrest in Stratford.

Now I also reckon that Sullivan was talking to Pellegrini way back in October, around the time Slaven Bilic was sacked and before David Moyes was appointed. That has been virtually admitted by various parties by now.

So if Sullivan was realising he needed a ‘trophy ’ manager then, he will have already accepted that there would be substantially increased expenditure. Like him or not, he is a seriously good business man and would have costed such a move.

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Managers of Pellegrini’s position in the game would not have contemplated taking a job with financial restrictions that could in effect damage their CV and standing. Few of his ilk get out of bed for less than a £100m budget.

And while all this was in its embryo state, the board were getting a verbal kicking by many fans’ group, big and small, and they kept up the pressure to make sure that Sullivan changed his approach and gave the fans the promises that had been made. And we are all grateful for that, and the fact that that level of pressure is still being more gently exerted.

So don’t bother yourselves about FFP, Sullivan will have that sussed. Mind you, FFP has become something of a joke, with Leicester and Bournemouth both being found guilty of breaches but walking away with paltry fines.

Leicester, in winning the Championship in 2013-14, were hauled before the authorities. Four seasons later they had salted away around £500m of Premier League money and Champions League revenue. It wasn’t until February this year , after appeals, that they were found guilty and fined £3.1m.

Bournemouth did something similar. They broke regulations on their way to promotion to the Premier League, and have had a couple of seasons there picking upwards of £200m. They were eventually fined £7.6m in May, this year.

Aston Villa and QPR have not been so lucky. They have failed to get back into the Premier League, and have suffered, or are about to suffer, under FFP rules. Wolves have had a controversial relationship with top agent Jorge Mendes, who has parked several players there to help them win promotion. It looks like they have got away with it after investigation and plenty of moaning from their previous Championship rivals, because Mendes holds no official position at the club.

It smells, doesn’t it? Clubs take the risk of breaking rules, bringing in better players on higher wages, and then accepting pitiful fines at a later date when they have already reached the land of milk and honey. Don‘t know about you, but I call that cheating.

Big clubs like PSG and Inter Milan are also being scrutinised. As were Manchester City at one stage. It has always seemed that we have stuck by the rules and frequently used them to explain away why we have not spent big in the market.

But now we can step into that level of expenditure, and I doubt that Sullivan will not have carefully planned all this spending, and within the rules.

And, of course, what we are doing is just ’keeping up’ with the rest. Liverpool have already spent £112.23m this window, Manchester City £63.27m, Manchester United £74.43m,Arsenal £71.10m, Chelsea £57m and even Leicester £51m.

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So to change the path of this club for the future, to achieve the demands of the fans’ action groups, this is where we are.

Clearly we will have to sell a couple of players, while they seem to be doing all they can to get rid of Andy Carroll, seemingly offered to two Turkish clubs on loan despite his injury just to get his £80,000 wages off the budget.

But Carroll is in a strong position, I will be amazed if he goes anywhere now. He is out for about three months, can talk to foreign clubs in January and then walk away on a free transfer next summer. And there is not much we can do about it.

Pellegrini still needs another centre back, a striker and maybe a goalkeeper. So hang onto your seats folks, this ride is not over yet. And then we must just pray we do not ’ do an Everton’ and fail to make the whole project gel into a good, attacking side.

What would I be happy with this season? Well, top ten, a good cup run and no hint of the relegation battles of recent seasons. My old ticker can’t take any more of that!


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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